Why the “smiling depression” is dangerous and widespread


Depression is a common mental illness and more and more people are reluctant to talk about their problems. However, there is a particularly problematic type of mental disorder in which those affected appear completely normal to the outside and suppress or hide their internal conflicts.

This form of the disease is known as “smiling depression”. However, those affected do not feel like laughing, instead the sufferers suffer from chronic hopelessness and are more susceptible to suicide without the relatives or those affected being aware of the problem.

Smiling depression

The term “smiling depression” is increasingly used to refer to mental illnesses, although it is not a psychological term. “Articles on the subject have sneaked into the literature and the number of Google searches for the disease has increased dramatically this year. However, some are wondering whether this is actually a real, pathological condition, ”says Olivia Remes, a doctoral student at Cambridge University, in a guest post for“ The Conversation ”.

Probably the most obvious term from psychology is “atypical depression”. But even if the name is not uniform, the experts agree that it is a dangerous mental disorder in which internal depressive symptoms are outplayed with a smile.

“Those affected may look like they have no reason to be sad – they have a job, an apartment and maybe even children or a partner. They smile when greeted and can have pleasant conversations. In short, they put on a mask for the outside world and lead an apparently normal and active life, ”explains Remes.

More dangerous than a classic form of severe depression

However, both the smile and the external appearance are only attempts to hide the real feelings. The strength to maintain this facade is particularly dangerous because it makes people with mental disorders vulnerable to suicide.

“Typically, people with classic severe depression may have suicidal thoughts, but not the energy to respond to their feelings. However, those who suffer from Smiling Depression have the energy to plan and implement their thoughts, ”explains clinical psychologist Rita Labeaune to“ Psychology today ”. “That’s why a smiling depression can be more dangerous than a classic form of severe depression.”

The symptoms of smiling depression can be very different and show both feelings and behaviors. For example, emotions such as fear, anger, irritability, hopelessness and despair create problems for the person concerned, but physical sensations such as heaviness in the arms and legs or fatigue are also possible.

Those affected react quickly when they are criticized or rejected

In addition, sleep problems often occur in connection with the mental disorder. Some feel particularly depressed in the evening and therefore feel the need to sleep longer than usual, while others suffer from their low point in the morning and therefore shorten their sleep duration.

Although smiling depressed people can easily disguise themselves in everyday life, as Olivia Remes explains, there are moments in social interactions when you can recognize symptoms of the disease. For example, sufferers are quickly injured due to criticism or rejection, have problems with difficult and embarrassing situations, and tend to think excessively about such negative moments.

It is possible that only one or more symptoms occur, which is why there is no uniform clinical picture for “smiling depression”. Likewise, the causes that can affect the disease vary. Problems at work as well as conflicts in private relationships are possible triggers. In addition, the sick often report the feeling that life has no meaning.

Help for smiling depressed people

It is particularly difficult to help those affected because the sick often do not ask for help and are not aware of their problem. “This is especially the case if they continue their tasks and daily processes as before. They can also feel guilty and rationalize that they have nothing to be sad about. So they don’t tell anyone about their problems and ultimately feel ashamed of their feelings, ”explains Remes.

The expert sees a solution to this type of depression in the transfer of knowledge. The more people are aware of this type of depression, the more likely they are to recognize their psychological problems and take them seriously. The scientist also points out that meditation and physical activity have a great positive impact on mental health.

Also read: These are the 10 jobs that most often cause depression

Most importantly, according to Remes, we see meaning in our lives. “The feeling that our life is important ultimately gives us meaning and purpose – and that can make a significant difference to our mental health and well-being,” she explains. This meaning of life can be with us or with looking after someone else. For example, through volunteering, family or a pet, we start to think about the needs and wishes of others. As a result, we feel that our own lives are important.

Psychiatrist Rita Labeaune has good news for loved ones and those affected by smiling depression: “It is one of the best treatable mental health problems. Whether through counseling or psychotherapy, it is possible to successfully get out of this state and be freed from the sadness ”.

If you want to speak to someone, you can reach the pastoral service on 0800/111 0 111 or 0800/111 0 222, free of charge and around the clock. Worries weigh heavily and do not depend on the time of day or opening hours. It is good if someone is listening in the middle of the night. The employees are aware of their responsible task and take your call seriously – whether at eight in the morning or at midnight.

This article was published by in February 2019. It has now been checked and updated again.


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