We often think of depression as a mental illness that’s blatantly obvious. For example, when your normally cheerful friend suddenly becomes withdrawn and emotionally unavailable. But in reality, depression can take many forms and have some pretty subtle signs that you probably haven’t considered. It’s important to know what to look for in a mental illness that can seem so invisible.
Depression is a mental illness that’s actually quite common. Around 19 million Americans today suffer from depression, and even children can have it - roughly two out of every 100 kids has severe depression. Although it is extremely common, those who have depression often feel like they have to suffer in secret.
If you’ve never suffered from depression, then you might be getting it mixed up with the general feeling of sadness. Sadness is a temporary emotion, while depression is a persistent feeling of emptiness and hopelessness. It’s normal to feel these things every so often, but when they start to consume your life, then it may be time to seek professional help. The following signs can help you determine if you or a friend might be suffering from concealed depression.
People with concealed depression may try to hide their depression by overcompensating for their emotions and acting way happier and more upbeat than normal. This is often because they don’t want to burden or worry others. Often times people with depression can seem like the “happiest” people you know.
People who are depressed often times lose interest in things they normally love doing. Perhaps someone used to paint every day and now they have no motivation to keep doing it. They may feel like there’s “no point” to any of these things anymore, and that they just don’t feel the same joy they once did.
Now, this might seem like a scary thought, but just know that not every depressed person is or has been suicidal. Depression often makes people think existentially about the concepts of life and death differently than others. However, this certainly doesn’t mean that every depressed person has the motivation or intention to go out and harm themselves. Obviously, if you do have reason to suspect that you or a friend is suicidal, do not hesitate to seek immediate help.
You’ve probably heard the stereotype that people with mental illnesses often produce brilliant works of art, and there’s a reason for this: it’s because having a mental illness like depression can lead to an incredible understanding of the depths of one’s emotions. They may express this understanding through art, music or writing.
It’s not uncommon that people with depression will take one of two paths when it comes to food: they’ll completely lose their appetite, or overeat as a way to cope. The former group may completely lose interest in foods they once loved and even feel sick if they eat. The latter may experience an endorphin high after eating.
Again, people with concealed depression often don’t want to be seen as a burden to others, so they’ll have well-rehearsed stories to cover things up. This might include why they skipped a meal, or why they have self-harm scars. These stories might be as much to fool themselves as others into thinking that there’s nothing wrong.
Either insomnia or hypersomnia (oversleeping) can be a symptom of depression. Sleeping can be a way to temporarily escape one’s problems, or they may just be too drained to do anything else. On the other hand, someone who has insomnia may stay up all night feeling anxious.
Those with concealed depression may have their own coping mechanisms and remedies instead of seeking out professional help. This can include things they know that can lift them out of their depression temporarily, like exercise, cooking or talking to a friend. It’s important to pay attention to these little things so you can help your friend if they’re subtly calling on you for help.
People with concealed depression may have many subconscious reasons for not wanting their struggles to be out in the open. They may not want to make themselves appear vulnerable to others, or they may not want to "burden" anyone. They may also feel apprehensive about the negative stigmas of mental illness.
If you know someone who may be suffering from concealed depression, it’s important to gently reach out to them and offer help. Be sure to let them know that they aren’t alone and that there’s no shame in asking for help from a professional. Having a mental illness isn’t something to be ashamed of, and in most cases it is completely treatable.
You may not believe it, but many celebrities have come out about their own struggles with depression. Demi Lovato has been very open about her experiences with bipolar disorder. She told People Magazine after leaving treatment, “I feel like I am in control now, where for my whole life, I wasn’t in control.”
Other celebrities have also been upfront about their depression, including Kerry Washington, Owen Wilson and Lady Gaga.
If you think you might be struggling with concealed depression, just know that you aren’t alone. Furthermore, if you notice any of these signs in your friends or family, don’t hesitate to talk to them about it. Who knows, you could be the catalyst for a major positive change in someone’s life!