We have all seen the images of a person who is obviously depressed. You know the one: morose, emotional, dark and curled up in a corner with piles of used tissues lying about. Yea, that’s the one – classic depression right out of TV land.
But what about the young man who is always smiling and tells jokes that leaves people crying with tears of laughter? Or the teenager laying on her bed daily with headphones on, alone, listening to endless songs on her iPod? Or the mother who has it ALL together: carpool pickup, soccer practice, PTA meetings, volunteering, church socials and oh, works an online business to boot?
Do they fit your stereotypical image of a depressed person? No? They should. Researchers from the University of Rochester conducted a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and found that most people whose depression was successfully hidden from others were people who had an agreeable, outgoing and extroverted personality.
In fact, there are more people who fall into the category of “hidden” depression than those who exhibit symptoms of depression for all the world to see.
And you might just be one of those people.
Not sure? Let’s take a look at some of the subtle signs of hidden depression.
10 Signs of Hidden Depression
- Difficulties with sleep – depressed people often sleep for long periods of time and tend to oversleep, yet complain they never feel rested. Or, conversely, never get a “good night’s sleep” because they wake up in the middle of the night with their mind racing and go for days feeling fatigued. If your sleep habits have changed considerably, you might be exhibiting signs of hidden depression.
- Unusual eating or drinking habits – unexplained weight gain from frequent overeating or weight loss from lack of appetite can point to depression. So can reckless and excessive use of alcohol and drugs, often used to mask feelings of emotional emptiness.
- Agitation and irritability – people with depression can experience feelings of anger and irritability along with an inability to relax. If you are constantly irritated and tend to have random outbursts of anger, you may want to consider investigating the cause more deeply.
- Aches and pains – mental health issues often manifest into physical problems. Fatigue, backaches, headaches, chronic pain and digestive disorders can all be signs that hidden depression is present.
- Forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating – struggling to stay focused, feeling like you are in a fog, or forgetting frequently and often misplacing items are signs of hidden depression.
- Feelings of guilt or helplessness – feeling of guilt or unnecessary blame for life events may be a sign of depression. So is feeling that everything you are doing is wrong or that there is no possibility of ever succeeding.
- Constant search for a purpose – depressed people are often never satisfied with what they have and are may seek feeling worthwhile. If you are never satisfied and try to overcompensate by excelling at work or school, then you may have hidden depression.
- Intentional efforts to appear well – feeling that one always has to put on a mask to appear super happy around friends and family can be an indicator of hidden depression.
- Not enjoying activities once loved – if you used to go to the gym regularly or rarely missed shooting hoops or playing golf with friends, but now feel like you have to force yourself to go, or just want to give up altogether, it could be a warning sign that hidden depression is in your life.
- A carefully constructed, super-busy life – one way that people stay away from unwanted emotions is to keep their lives on autopilot. If you use activity to stay away from feelings, then you might have hidden depression.
Overcoming Hidden Depression
Depression is a mood disorder that can be easily hidden. While much has changed in today’s world regarding people’s view of depression, there is still a stigma associated with the disorder. Many would rather wear a forced smile or overcompensate with extraordinary behavior than reveal their true feelings to others, or even to themselves. And this includes their depression. They would rather hide it than deal with it openly.
So what about you? Are you at peace, free from anxiety, most of the time? Or have you been able to check off one or more of the signs of hidden depression from the above list?
If you are able to check off a few of the signs above, you just might be suffering from hidden depression. Be sure to bring your concerns to a trained therapist.
In the mean time, recognize that:
- You are not the only one – there are thousands upon thousands of people with hidden depression – they are just unaware
- You are not weak – having hidden depression is not a flaw or a weakness but a disorder that must be treated
- You are not helpless – you can make changes in your life through patience, understanding and acceptance