A Cup of Coffee – Smiling Depression

Welcome back! Last week, we talked about Addictive Personalities. If you missed that blog and would like to catch up, click HERE.

I’m sure you’ve seen the memes on social media about people who appear happy but have debilitating depression and at times may even attempt to take their own lives. Maybe you even know someone who was the happiest person you know, and then they completed suicide, shocking everyone who knew and loved them.

Smiling Depression

While it’s not a technical diagnosis, “smiling depression” is really a thing. Many mental health professionals use the term when you’re depressed or anxious but look and act happy.

Are you at risk?

You are more at risk of smiling depression if you are a people pleaser, also known as “fawning”.

You may be a perfectionist or are ambitious. Keeping up the appearance of being “ok” is important to you. You may be a very good actor. You might overdo the laughter and stay highly productive at work.

Are you also happy on the inside?

Inside, you may feel very sad and feel like you are letting everyone down if you admit you don’t feel well. This feeling may also be accompanied by feelings of shame and that shame may prevent you from asking for help, either personally or professionally.

Smiling depression isn’t like your average run-of-the-mill presentation one would expect from someone who is depressed. Not only will others not realize you are depressed, but you may not realize it either. It’s a form of silent mental unwellness.

Why is it more dangerous than “regular” depression?

This can make smiling depression more dangerous than the classic form of depression. The danger of completing suicide is a bigger risk with this form of the disorder. Normally, your friends and loved ones get clues about your mental health when they see you withdraw, demonstrate low energy, or have a complete lack of excitement or pleasure from things you used to enjoy. With smiling depression, these signs are invisible and therefore your support system cannot detect there is a problem and intervene in time to get you to safety.

Will I have more or less energy than normal?

Because this disorder often accompanies mania, you will also have the energy to plan and follow through with a suicide. A divorce or loss of a job can be the tipping point for you, and send you down a very slippery slope into a hole you cannot easily climb out of.

Classic Symptoms of Depression vs Smiling Depression

According to Healthline,

Depression affects everyone differently and has a variety of symptoms, the most distinguished being deep, prolonged sadness. Other classic symptoms include:

  • changes in appetite, weight, and sleeping
  • fatigue or lethargy
  • feelings of hopelessness, lack of self-esteem, and low self-worth
  • loss of interest or pleasure in doing things that were once enjoyed

Someone with smiling depression may experience some or all of the above, but in public, these symptoms would be mostly — if not completely — absent. To someone looking from the outside, a person with smiling depression might look like:

  • an active, high-functioning individual
  • someone holding down a steady job, with a healthy family and social life
  • a person appearing to be cheerful, optimistic, and generally happy

If you’re experiencing depression yet continue to smile and put on a façade, you may feel:

  • like showing signs of depression would be a sign of weakness
  • like you would burden anyone by expressing your true feelings
  • that you don’t have depression at all, because you’re “fine”
  • that others have it worse, so what do you have to complain about?
  • that the world would be better off without you

A typical depressive symptom is having incredibly low energy and finding it hard to even make it out of bed in the morning. In smiling depression, energy levels may not be affected (except when a person is alone).

I think I know someone…

If you, or someone you know, is always overly happy, even when they have good reason to be sad or down, you might try asking the hard questions. Keep the conversation normal for your relationship, and don’t stress the semantics. Some easy questions and statements to use are,

  • Gosh, I’ve noticed you’ve been very cheerful since your wife left you. Are you truly relieved, or are you just faking it until you make it?
  • I can’t believe how happy you are that your wife left you. If I were you, I don’t think I’d be able to get out of bed. How are you really doing?
  • If my wife left me, I know I’d need to talk it out with a friend. Do you have someone you feel safe pouring your heart out to? If not, I would like to be that friend for you if you’ll allow me.

If in questioning someone, you determine they are at risk of suicide, you need to act.

This is an emergency.

What to do

Suicide prevention:

If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:

• Call 911 or your local emergency number.

• Stay with the person until help arrives.

• Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.

• Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.


As always, this blog is not a replacement for sound medical advice. I am not a doctor. Please make an appointment to see your healthcare provider and put a good plan in place that works for you and the needs of your body.

That’s all I have for you this week, dear reader. I’ll see you back here next Wednesday to share another cup of coffee. Until then, be good to yourself and each other.

Mind, Body, Spirit…Osteopathic Doctors treat the whole person, not just the ailment. Is your PCP a DO? Would you like to learn more about Osteopathic Physicians? Click HERE!

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