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Published:January 8, 2024

Smiling depression

First, what is depression? The APA defines depression as a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you think, act, and feel. It is also crucial to acknowledge that a combination of circumstances and events causes depression. Although there are many types of depression, I will be focusing on smiling depression or high-functioning depression.

Things I need to know first:

What is dysthymia? Dysthymia is a mild and persistent form of depression, affecting the body, mood, and thoughts, and may also lead to significant episodes of depression.

What is smiling depression? "Smiling depression" refers to high-functioning depression, a non-clinical term that encompasses the functional aspects of dysthymia.

"Smiling depression" is an individual's attempt to hide their emotional distress from others, fearing they may become worried. This concealment can be done to avoid being a burden, appearing weak, avoiding attention, or maintaining a positive outlook.

What are some signs and/or symptoms of smiling depression? Smiling depression in adults involves feeling sad or low-energy but persisting, believing in one's ability to push through the day, and maintaining a sense of self-sufficiency. In addition, you may have one or more of the following symptoms: 

  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt 
  • Persistent negative thoughts 
  • Difficulty focusing on work, school, or home 
  • Feeling irritable or easily annoyed by others 
  • Feeling agitated or restless (e.g., agitated depression) 
  • Loss of interest in social activities Increased hours of sleep 
  • Tiredness and lethargy, despite adequate sleep 
  • Thoughts of death or suicide 
  • Unintentional weight loss or gain 
  • Frequent tearfulness or crying

However, the signs in children and teens can be:

  • Physical aches and pains
  • Restless or agitated behavior
  • Distress when separated from parents/guardians
  • Loss of interest in activities they usually enjoy
  • Decline in school performance
  • Comments about running away
  • Comments about death/dying

How can I help a loved one with smiling depression? There are several things you may do to assist a loved one who is exhibiting symptoms of depression if you become aware of them. One of the most beneficial things you can do as a friend or partner is listen to what they say. Furthermore, consider the following ways to help a loved one with depression: 

  • Offer your emotional support, empathy, and encouragement 
  • Take time to be involved with them in activities they enjoy 
  • Offer hopeful thoughts and suggest optimistic or neutral outcomes to their problems 
  • Take any statements about death or suicidal ideation seriously 
  • Promote the benefits of professional help and help them find an acceptable provider 
  • Offer to accompany them to the appointment or remind them to go to the appointment 
  • For older teens and adults, share the national hotline number for suicide prevention - call or text 988 
  • Call 9-1-1 if you feel that the situation is urgent and unsafe for your loved one

Finally, understand that you are not alone; your situation can be unique, but you are never alone. If you are dealing with high-functioning depression, ask for help. Talk to a close friend or family member and seek professional help.

Rosa Schuff- ACSW

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