DISCLAIMER: This article is purely for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for any medical diagnosis or treatment nor does it constitute medical advice or any form of medical consultation.
Depression is known as a silent killer because it causes so much pain to the individual but it’s invisible to people on the outside, especially if the individual hides it well. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that worldwide, 264 million people suffer from it. Since as a society we still have a certain view about how depression looks or should be about, it’s not that hard for the people who suffer from it to hide it so well.
An example of what aides depression in being hidden more easily is the lesser known atypical symptoms of it. The symptoms are fatigue, a change in weight and appetite, inexplicable physical pain and issues with concentration, memory and brain fatigue. With the atypical symptoms being less mainstream than the classic ones of persistent sadness, losing interest in things you care about and frequent crying, they can be seen as physical illnesses rather than mental illnesses.
There are various reasons for people hiding their depression. They can feel ashamed and fearful of the negative consequences that come with disclosing their disorders. There is a lack of trust in medical profession and people don’t want to take antidepressants for whatever reason. Sometimes, their disorder is treated as non-existent because they have basic needs therefore they “have nothing to be depressed about.” These sentiments are also discouraging to those suffering.
So here are 7 ways that people hide their depression from the outside world.
- Using Laughter and Humour
Laughter when you are depressed is medicinal and healing. You feel lighter, happier and detached from your usual feelings of emptiness because when you’re depressed, you usually feel nothing or even feel everything at the same time, but laughter makes you feel better.
Depressed people use humour as a defense mechanism and pretend to be happy to outsiders. Making jokes and making people laugh distracts the people around them from seeing that they aren’t laughing along with them or that they are falling apart. You can’t be depressed if you’re laughing, right?
- Isolation and Excuses
“I can’t come.” *fake coughs twice* “I’m sick.” If you find your friend consistently giving weak excuses to not come over like Karen Smith in Mean Girls, they may be hiding their depression. But don’t take it personally. The disorder takes away your desire to do the things you love and to be around people so they hide away.
Depressed people are hard on themselves and sometimes getting out of bed is impossible and basic hygiene practices are neglected. We judge and compare ourselves to others harshly and we come up with elaborate excuses sometimes so that we don’t have to socialize because then we would have no place to hide our difficult and taxing emotions if we were around people.
- Alcohol and Substance Abuse
People suffering from depression have to think harder about how to feel good then people without it. That might mean turning to alcohol and other mood-altering substances on a daily basis. It definitely has the potential to escalate into addiction and ruin their own lives and those around them as these patterns become more frequent. A journal article by Wilsnack, Wilsnack and Kantor stated that alcohol use disorder can occur alongside depression, especially in women.
They partake in alcohol and substance abuse to numb their pain and reality of what goes in their minds. Being in their own being can feel like being in prison and these “helpful” coping mechanisms eases their pain, raises their mood and removes them temporarily from their anguish.
- Being Cheerful Around Others
In contrast to the point about isolation, some depressed people are actually socially active, whether it’s online with their social media presence or in real life with their strangers, family and friends. They are a ray of sunshine and seem quite bubbly and outgoing. They compliment people and are fun to be around.
This is mostly insincere, although I believe that those who do this might be genuinely outgoing and enjoy being around people, it’s just that they have got The Bug and it’s forcing them to be more cheery and bright to offset and hide any darkness and hopelessness. They get to momentarily hide from it themselves. Can’t be depressed if you’re always smiling, right?
An interesting fact in how depression manifests in people, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, is that men are usually more aggressive and have misplaced anger whilst depressed whilst women are more prone to display sadness and withdrawn. This however is not set in stone as people are more complex than that and can obviously hide many things, including mental illness.
Anger is another defense mechanism that depressed people use to close themselves off from other people. It creates a distance between them and others so that they don’t see that underneath the anger is sadness. By acting angry, people leave you alone because no one wants to deal with a human volcano that erupts often.
- Hiding Their Distress By Focusing On Other People and Other Things
A depressed person’s inner world sucks. It’s truly horrible. There is a lot of misery and you feel trapped. So they might hide by turning all of their attention away from the pain by distracting themselves with the outside world and focusing outwards.
They will be readily available to help those around them or even complete strangers. They will focus on anything but themselves because the inner pain and turmoil is too much to bear. They will create never ending To-Do lists and emerse themselves in other’s lives to not have to face their own negative thoughts and feelings. This is another way to detach themselves from their depression because in a way by being so generous with their time, energy and even finances, they get to be someone and somewhere else.
- Minimizing Pain and Deflecting From It
We often say “I’m okay” or “I’m fine” as social pleasantries during small talk. It’s not always true but we don’t really have the bandwidth to know more, especially with how busy we are and how we feel the compulsion to be somewhere and doing something.
People who hide their depression keep a lot of things to themselves so saying “I’m okay” when they aren’t, is a usual practice to deflect from their pain and to stop people from asking any more questions. This actually makes their state of mind worse because they are lying to themselves more than the other person.
This article is a bit-sized list of ways that people hide their depression and it’s not the only ways. Human beings are naturally creative, even when we don’t think we are in a traditional way and because of this complexity, they are more than capable of hiding their mental illnesses, sometimes for years. Struggling with depression is exhausting and emotionally draining and because of the current stigma that comes with it, people will hide it to protect themselves. If you notice any changes similar to these in loved ones, please don’t force them to disclose anything or even assume anything. They might not be depressed but just going through a rough path. Please just let them know that you can be there for them, however you are able to if they decide to tell you.
See you soon!
*Crisman, B., & Sinclair , G. (2019, July 22). 15 real habits of people with concealed depression. Columbia Wellness. Retrieved November 30, 2021, from https://www.columbiawell.org/blog/2019/7/22/15-real-habits-of-people-with-concealed-depression.
*Kantor, L. W. (2013). Focus on: Women and the costs of alcohol use. Alcohol research : current reviews. Retrieved November 30, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3908713/.
*Lebow, H. I. (2021, May 29). 8 hidden signs of depression and how to spot them . Psych Central. Retrieved November 30, 2021, from https://psychcentral.com/depression/hidden-signs-of-depression.
*Quinn, H. (2021, November 30). 16 ways people hide the fact that they’re depressed. The Mighty. Retrieved November 30, 2021, from https://themighty.com/2018/04/how-to-hide-depression/.
*Stanborough, R. J. (2021, May 13). Hidden depression: What it is and how to help. Healthline. Retrieved November 30, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/hidden-depression.
*Unknown , U. (2017, January). Men and depression . National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved November 30, 2021, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/men-and-depression.