Depression comes in different “shapes” and “colours”. Oftentimes we think depressed people are someone who appears sad all the time, do not want to socialize or they lie on their bed the whole day. However, depression can also appear in the form of a straight A’s student, a social butterfly, on-top-of-everything individuals. In other words, they wear a mask to shield the external world from knowing that they are actually battling their own inner demons.
Psych2goers, let’s delve into 6 signs someone fakes being “OK”, shall we?
- Smile when going through hell
Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through
There are multiple different versions of smiles.
There are those sarcastic smiles – more like smirks.
And then there are those beaming smiles that can even be seen in the eyes.
Also…there are those smiles and grins…but there are something in the eyes that seem sad and hide a lot of pain.
Psych2goers, do you know about smiling depression?
People who have smiling depression can be smiling and appear bubbly, but those can be an external facade, an effort to bury their real feelings and brush them aside (Labeaune, 2014). They might be living a life that seems perfectly normal and fine, with a healthy family and social life, however the truth is, they are experiencing distressful symptoms of depression on the inside. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) does not contain the diagnosis of smiling depression, however people with this type of depression most likely be diagnosed as major depressive disorder with atypical features (Elmer & Legg, 2018).
2. Say “I’m busy” when having a depressive episode
“Hey, Vivian, let’s go out and spend some time near the beach this weekend,” your friend texted you one day.
“No, I’m busy,” you replied to her text, while trying hard to hide the fact that you were actually struggling to even wake up from your bed.
There are multiple reasons as to why depressed people do not want to disclose that they are struggling and in need of help. Perhaps they don’t want to burden their loved ones with their struggles and they think they are capable of managing their emotions alone. Maybe they are afraid of being stigmatized and seen as weak.
3. Joke and make others laugh because they know what it’s like to feel numb / empty inside
Do you know a friend who always makes the most hilarious remark in each conversation? People make jokes for various reasons, sometimes it can be an effort to tone down interpersonal anxiety during social interactions. Maybe it is a way to gain favour from the person they are interacting with. Or perhaps they want to make other people laugh because they know what it’s like to feel empty inside. Rod Martin and his group of students had developed the Humour Styles Questionnaire as a humour assessment, which consists of different humour styles (Martin et al., 2003):
- Affiliative humour: One is inclined to share humour with other people, tell jokes and funny stories, make others laugh with the aim to promote relationships and make others feel at ease.
- Self-enhancing humour: One uses humour to cheer oneself up and as a coping mechanism against stress. Even if they are alone, they still maintain a humorous outlook on life.
- Aggressive humour: One uses humour to put other people down, to manipulate, ridicule, and offend them.
- Self-defeating humour: One has the inclination to put oneself down to make other people laugh, one laughs along with others when one is being teased, and tends to use humour to hide one’s true feelings from self and others.
According to a study done by Kfrerer et al. (2019), there were positive correlations between the depression scale and both aggressive and self-defeating humour, whereas there were negative correlations between the depressed affect and both affiliative and self-enhancing humour.
4. Work hard and uphold all their responsibilities only to collapse when they get home
You are that intern who is always able to fulfill the tasks given to you at your workplace with precision and efficiency. However, when you come back home, you collapse and feel so tired. Sometimes you break down into inconsolable tears while replaying the harsh words said by your co-workers to you.
People who are depressed rarely want to disclose their struggles to other people, especially to their colleagues or acquaintances. They want to uphold an image of professionalism and want to be viewed in a positive light by their co-workers and other people in their lives.
5. Empower others in their low moments because they know what it’s like to feel worthless
Your sister has confessed to you one day that she is having a really difficult time after her divorce with her ex-husband. She feels so distressed, however she decides to start a podcast and a YouTube channel to empower other women who are going through the same experience as her. She thinks by doing so, she can find a community of people that she can find comfort in and hopefully she can also be a source of comfort to other people.
People who go through difficult times in their lives know what it feels like to feel powerless and worthless. They know the pain and struggles that they have to endure during the darkest moment of their lives. They realize what they truly need during their low moments, are supportive people and people who they can relate with their struggles, to know that they are not alone in this battle. Due to this understanding, they perhaps have the epiphany that they can help others who are struggling through the same thing. They want to empower people so that they can voyage through the difficult journey instead of sinking into the deep dark ocean of despair. However, it is important to differentiate empowering and enabling. When someone whom you love is going through a certain crisis in their lives, it’s only human to jump on the bandwagon and try to remove the obstacles and fix the things as soon as possible. However, this kind of behaviour is known as enabling, as you are doing all the work to make healing possible for your loved one, instead of letting them take charge of their own recovery and problem.
6. If something appears wrong, they just say “I’m tired” to not arouse too much suspicion
“You look different today. Are you okay?” your colleague asks you one day.
“I’m fine. I’m just tired, that’s all,” you reply to him with a weak smile, trying hard to conceal the pain that is eating you up from inside.
Psych2goers, it is actually normal to feel tired, especially after having a long day at work, or after doing a physically demanding activity. However, sometimes the proclamation of “I’m tired” can take a deeper meaning. When a person is struggling with mental health issues, it is as if they are carrying a huge burden which is likened to a battery that never completely recharges. It was reported that approximately 90% of depressed people would experience fatigue or exhaustion (Ghanean, Ceniti & Kennedy, 2018).
Psych2goers, therefore it is important for us to be kind and mindful of our behaviours each time we interact with people. Everyone is suffering in their own way and we have to be careful not to make the wound bleed even deeper.
Elmer, J., &; Legg, T. J. (2018, November 14). Smiling depression: Symptoms, risk factors, test, treatments, and more. Healthline. Retrieved November 2, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/smiling-depression.
Ghanean, H., Ceniti, A. K., &; Kennedy, S. H. (2018, January 30). Fatigue in patients with major depressive disorder: Prevalence, burden and pharmacological approaches to management. CNS Drugs. Retrieved November 3, 2021, from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40263-018-0490-z.
Kfrerer, Marisa L., Martin, Nicholas G. and Schermer, Julie Aitken (2019). “A behavior genetic analysis of the relationship between humor styles and depression ” HUMOR, vol. 32, no. 3, p. 417-431. https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2017-0098
Labeaune, R. (2014, November 12). The secret pain of “smiling” Depression. Psychology Today. Retrieved November 2, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-guest-room/201411/the-secret-pain-smiling-depression.
Martin, R. A., Puhlik-Doris, P., Larsen, G., Gray, J., &; Weir, K. (2003, January 23). Individual differences in uses of humor and their relation to psychological well-being: Development of the humor styles questionnaire. Journal of Research in Personality. Retrieved November 3, 2021, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0092656602005342.