‘Tum Itna Jo Muskura Rahay Ho’, Hiding Behind Smiling Depression

Even though sadness and unexplained crying spells are frequent features of depression, not everyone who is depressed looks unhappy

By Wasim Kakroo

“Kya Ghum hai Jisko Chupa Rahay Ho?”.

IN our valley, thousands of people are struggling with depression. Depression is a common occurrence for many people, regardless of whether genetics, external factors, or a combination of both is to blame. While some look for support from a mental health professional when they suspect they could have depression, it is more difficult for others to seek any such help. In fact, a lot of people find themselves acting as though they don’t have it. They make an effort to hide their emotional pain from people around them by wearing a smile on their face. “Smiling depression”is the name for it.

What is Smiling Depression?

Most people associate depression with someone who appears really unhappy or who frequently cries. Therefore, smiling depression frequently goes unnoticed. Even though sadness and unexplained crying spells are frequent features of depression, not everyone who is depressed looks unhappy.

Though it is not included in the diagnostic manual of mental illnesses including DSM and ICD, smiling depression is nevertheless a form of clinical depression that many people struggle with. A person with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) who hides their symptoms is said to have ‘smiling depression’. ‘Hiding behind a smile’ is a common phrase used to describe it. If someone is attempting to convince people that they are fine even when they are not, they may be struggling with this.

Even though they can continue with the majority of daily activities, people with smiling depression secretly struggle with a serious mood condition. Thus it is a high functioning form of depression.

Who is Most Vulnerable to Smiling Depression?

As mentioned earlier, smiling depression seems to be a high functioning form of depression. If you tend to be a perfectionist or are ambitious, you may be more likely to experience smiling depression. You care about being presentable. You might be good at faking. You might laugh too much and continue to work too hard.
On the inside, though, you might truly feel deceitful and fraudulent. At the same time, you could feel ashamed for being depressed. Additionally, the stigma could make it difficult for you to divulge in others or seek medical attention.

Reading the Signs

People with smiling depression find themselves experiencing classical symptoms of major Depression Disorder. This encompasses emotions like sadness, hopelessness, anger, or irritability. It could also involve loss of interest, exhaustion, irregular sleep patterns, decreased appetite, binge eating, anxiety, and much more.
If you have these symptoms but are otherwise functioning well, managing things like your job and social schedule that people with more severe depression would be unable to manage, you may be suffering from smiling depression. High-functioning MDD sufferers may also come off as upbeat or optimistic. They frequently feel as though they must conceal their depression symptoms.

Why Do Some People Hide Their Depression?

People frequently choose to keep their depression private and hidden. Many people conceal their depressive symptoms for both personal and professional reasons, ranging from wanting to maintain their privacy to being concerned about others’ opinions. Here’s a closer look at the reasons why people hide their depression.

1. Apprehension of burdening others

It’s common for depression and guilt to coexist. As a result, a lot of people don’t want to have other people feel bothered by their problems. People who are accustomed to taking care of others rather than having others take care of them may find this to be especially true. They keep their troubles to themselves because they just do not know how to ask for help.

2. Embarrassment

Some individuals think depression is a sign of weakness or a deficiency in character. The myth that they ought to be able to “snap out of it” may even be accepted by them. When they are unable to, they believe they are flawed. As a result, individuals could feel ashamed of their sadness because they believe they should be able to handle it on their own.

3. Denial

A person’s denial of their depression may be the cause of smiling depression. They might believe that as long as they’re smiling, they can’t be depressed. Many people find it difficult to accept the possibility that they may have a problem. They find it simpler to put on a happy face than to be honest about how they really feel.

4. Fear of Retaliation

Having depression can sometimes cause people to worry about its effects on their personal and professional lives.
A comedian or lawyer, for instance, might be concerned that their employer won’t trust them for doing their jobs. Or, someone can be concerned that if they admit to having depression, their partner will break up with them. So they hide behind a grin rather than expose themselves to criticism or punishment for having depression.

5. Fear of Coming Off As Weak

People with smiling depression frequently worry that if they admit to having depression, others would take advantage of them. They are scared that people may use their depression against them in addition to the fact that they fear being perceived as weak and vulnerable. Hence they would rather present a strong front than acknowledge that they require assistance.

6. Guilt

Some people believe they shouldn’t be depressed because guilt frequently accompanies depression. They may believe they lead a happy life and hence shouldn’t be depressed.
Additionally, they believe that something must be wrong with them or that they are somehow to blame for their depression. As a result, people feel bad about being depressed and occasionally even ashamed of it. Therefore, they conceal it beneath a smile.

7. Idealistic Perspectives on Happiness

Positive emotions such as happiness are unrealistically portrayed in social media. Social media users frequently see cheerful people in the images they scroll through. They consequently start to think they’re the only ones dealing with mental health problems. Hence they might hide their difficulties as a result of feeling lonelier than ever.

8. Perfectionism

Many perfectionists are experts at appearing perfect. And for many people, that entails hiding any discomfort or issues they may be having. Because of this, they simply cannot admit that they are depressed because doing so would imply that their lives are anything but flawless.

Chance of Suicide

Suicidal and thoughts about death are common in those who are depressed. However, people who are suffering from serious depression sometimes lack the motivation to plan and carry out a suicide. Even though everybody who has depression has the danger of taking their own life, people who have smiling depression may be particularly vulnerable because they are high-functioning.

People with smiling depression frequently have enough energy to act on their suicidal ideas. Additionally, people who suffer from smiling depression frequently do not receive treatment. Furthermore, untreated depression may worsen over time and raise the risk of suicide.

There’s Treatment

Atypical depression may be the official diagnosis for someone with smiling depression because a clinically depressed person wouldn’t typically appear happy.

Thus, smiling depression may be treated, just like other forms of depression.

If you suspect you may have it, consult a clinical psychologist and/or psychiatrist. When speaking to a clinical psychologist, many patients with smiling depression maintain a fake front. This makes it more challenging for you to receive the assistance you require. It’s critical to be open and sincere while expressing your emotions. You can decide if antidepressant medicines could be beneficial for you with the assistance of your psychiatrist or clinical psychologist.

In summary, the term “smiling depression” refers to those who hide their depressive symptoms behind a smile rather than it being a medical diagnosis.

Depression is a common and curable mood disorder that can affect people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds, but it can occasionally be difficult to recognise. A person should get in touch with a mental health professional if they think they might be suffering from smiling depression.

The best way to identify and handle smiling depression is to ask for assistance at the earliest.


  • The author is a licensed clinical psychologist (alumni of Govt. Medical College Srinagar) and works as a consultant clinical psychologist at Centre for Mental Health Services (CMHS) at Rambagh Srinagar. He can be reached at 8825067196

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