Hidden Depression

Here’s a test. Which of the following persons is most likely to be suffering from depression?

  1. A single mother who recently received a healthy pay raise and promotion
  2. The funny guy in the office who loves sharing laughter and corny jokes
  3. The teenager who sits alone in her room every day and listens to music
  4. The teacher who likes to give extra homework and makes you miss recess
  5. Any of the above

The answer is 5, any of the above. Some individuals with depression cannot mask their mood swings, loss of energy, or feelings of hopelessness and melancholy. Others are a Master of Disguise, having learned to smile when they feel like crying and bottling the tears and frustration for times when no one is around.

Individuals with depression can hide it, fake it, and keep it to themselves. This makes it difficult for loved ones to recognize the symptoms and get the individual the professional help that they need.

He Acts Too Happy to Be Depressed

In a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center found that most people whose depression was successfully hidden from others were people who had an outgoing, agreeable, and extraverted personality. Most people stereotype a depressed person as someone who seldom laughs or smiles, wants to be alone, is grouchy, and who mopes around with a melancholy posture.

Paul R. Duberstein, Ph.D. led the research team that studied 191 primary care patients who were aged 60 and older. Duberstein said that the family and friends of those with depression most often missed signs when their loved one had an agreeable and outgoing personality. These patients would spend exhausting days working up the energy to smile and laugh, while inside they were in mental pain and anguish.

Anger, Isolation, and Addiction

Depression can be masked by forced smiles, anger, isolation, or addiction. Depression causes some to be irritated, moody, and short-tempered, which may make people think they are just mean. Others literally hide, become anti-social, and make just enough "appearances" to keep people from suspecting they are having any mental health problems.

Family, friends, and doctors must also consider whether depression may be concealed behind an addiction. Depression can be a cause of addiction and addiction can be a cause of depression. Individuals may use the addiction as something to look forward to, something to lift them up out of their melancholy. But when the effects of the addiction wear off, the depression returns and causes a tumultuous cycle of mental pain.

Help Through Awareness

It’s difficult to help someone who doesn’t admit they are hurting. Mental health experts suggest that a few of the most helpful ways to help someone with depression is being a supportive and empathetic listener and being educated on the causes and symptoms of depression.

Family and friends should look beyond the exterior smiles and silly jokes to really make sure their loved ones are mentally healthy, and physicians should not dismiss the signs of depression in patients who are agreeable and appear in good spirits during a short office visit.

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