If there is one thing that needs to be more recognized about the condition of depression, it is that the experience and symptoms vary between everyone who has or is currently grappling with it. In this article, I will explore with you the prevalent issue of smiling depression, particularly in teens, and ways that one can bring themselves up. As you grow up, expectations heighten and experiences grow, and especially in the midst of a global pandemic, taking care of your mental health is of great importance. Smiling depression is a disorder that not many people know of, yet creates extreme affects on many lives around the world.
For starters, the main signs include lethargy and prolonged feelings of sadness or despair. These are the three major symptoms known by people across the globe, but many health professionals highlight that some other common symptoms include:
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Sleep pattern changes or struggles with sleep
- Low self-esteem and self-worth
- Lack of interest in topics or activities that one used to enjoy
“Smiling depression” is not recognized as its own condition, however, according to Healthline, as it could be diagnosed as a depressive disorder with irregular symptoms. Healthline describes Smiling Depression as:
“'Smiling depression' is a term for someone living with depression on the inside while appearing perfectly happy or content on the outside.”
What's the Difference Between the Stereotypical and Smiling Depression Disorders?
Typically, the difference resides in the display of each individual with this mental illness. Perhaps you have a friend who is always tired, low on energy, and is constantly unenthusiastic about a sport or hobby that they were once obsessed with. These are not the only signs of depression, nor should you make a diagnosis without a health professional.
Those with smiling depression often show a facade that suggests their life is “put together” or that they are relatively happy, normal, and mentally well. This makes it much harder to spot and take notice, especially if you are not incredibly close to somebody. Friends who may watch the changes in appetite, eating, and sleeping habits and general interest levels may have a better grasp with the disorder simply because they have seen the change take place despite the happiness this person continues to show.
If the person is you, however, you are not alone. As many of those suffering from smiling depression elect to hide their symptoms and struggles from others, it's very hard to tell how common it is.
Why Might People Choose to Put on This Facade?
For many, there are a variety of reasons as to the reason for covering up their depression. Here is a list of the most common reasons according to health professionals and psychologists:
- Showing signs of depression may seem like a weakness
- Feeling as if you would be a burden if you opened up to others
- Pretending that you don't have depression at all, acting as if you're “fine”
- Justifying it by saying that others have it worse, questioning: What do I have to complain about?
- Thinking that the world would be better off without your problems
For many teenagers going through tough high school years in particular, pushing aside depression and feelings of despair because others have it worse is one of the most familiar and seemingly justifiable arguments about why they hide their depression. But, comparing your journeys and emotions to completely different human beings is not a way to decide whether to seek help.
Your mental health is yours and only yours, and depression does not stem only from difficult situations in the home or at school. Sometimes, the pressures of work alone can risk your mental health. Even the weather can take a role in this; having too much sun, rain, or cold weather adds to the risk of mental illnesses such as depression.
Invalidating these feelings with thoughts such as those included above are further signs of decreased self-worth, and taking the step to ask for help from a professional or even a friend can go a long way.
How Can You Bring Yourself Up?
Everybody's comfort methods are very different, but if there is something you love to do—even something as simple as playing albums on repeat—I recommend trying it. The first, most important thing to do is to seek help, whether that be by talking to a family member or a mental health professional. Seeking therapy can be extremely helpful.
Still, there are smaller, day-to-day activities that can help provide relief. If you're stuck on ideas, here are a few!
Listen To Weightless By Marconi Union
This song has proven to decrease levels of anxiety, and after listening to it myself, you can feel this incredible change from the butterflies in your chest at the beginning, to the serenity at the end. It doesn't eliminate everything, but if you're panicking or feeling despair, it helps bring awareness back to the moment.
Read (Or Watch) a Pick-Me-Up
While this is not a permanent solution or much more than a distraction and, obviously, a pick-me-up, for those with smiling depression, passing by the time with a snack and film/novel can bring up their mood or spark other motivations and ideas. Many pick-me-up stories involve the growth of somebody experiencing struggle, and can also alleviate feelings of being alone in a situation.
Take a Bath Featuring Salts or Bath Bombs
A lovely smelling soap, bath bomb, or equivalent to Epsom Salts can help one relax. At the same time, a bath is encouraging taking care of oneself, which of often recognized as something those with a depression disorder lose track of, and find difficulty completing daily. Watching a bath bomb slowly melt into the bath, exploding with color is also relaxing and mesmerizing. There is a beauty about it, along with the scent that fills the air. Additionally, a hot bath or ice bath are extremely useful for recovery for their own reasons.
Play A Board Game with Loved Ones
You know those few people you reach out to? Hang out with them as much as you can, show them your appreciation. Even if maybe you feel as if you have none, or that none of them notice. That is a major struggle with smiling depression, the idea that no one has noticed your struggle because of the mask you wear each day. It is not necessary to tell everyone your feelings openly, and seeking help from a professional is of higher importance. However, challenging yourself to go out (or stay in!) with your friends for a casual game or two will be indefinitely beneficial.
Headspace is a free app you can download from the App Store or Google Play! It does require a simple sign up with an email and password, but this is for you to create your user for using the app and all its benefits. Headspace compiles the most useful, relaxing, and mindfulness activities including music and meditation— which it provides for you on the app! There are meditations to aid with sleep, anxiety and more.
Some other ways to bring yourself up include dancing, exercising in all forms, eating a new healthy meal, or trying a new hobby! You never know what might capture you and your attention, and what might bring joy to your life. My final suggestion is to find help, no matter where that may be. The count of phone numbers and sites providing advice and assistance are too broad and exclusive to countries around the world. So, that best tactic is to research for resources near you, or visit government sites which may provide useful links for you!
You are not alone, and reaching out is worth it. You are cared for— always remember that.