Can you tell if any of these people have depression? Some people hide their depression by looking happy and masking symptoms because they do not want to burden others, are ashamed of it, think others will not understand or they hope that it will just go away if they ignore it. Most of the time what happens is it just drags out the feelings of sadness and loneliness.
The loneliness becomes worst because they just want someone to notice and listen to them. And at the same time, they are preventing it from happening because they are experts at hiding. Here are the signs to help you recognize concealed depression.
Changes to sleep or eating patterns from their normal ones.
We all have friends who go on diets and change their eating and exercise patterns. This is not the type of change that signifies something is wrong. It is when, without any apparent reason they have had a significant change to their sleep or eating habits. Sleep is important to maintaining balanced emotions and healthy mental health. When a person can’t sleep or is sleeping too long every day, for at least 2 weeks, this may be a sign that they are hiding their mental illness.
Food and alcohol are common self-soothing mechanisms. Overeating can help a person feel physically full to mask the emotional emptiness inside. Drinking has the same effect of masking the unpleasant feelings of loneliness, guilt or sadness which often accompanies depression. At the same time, the opposite could happen where the person loses all interest in food because they do not see the point in eating because it does not bring them joy anymore.
Always making excuses.
Another change in behaviour is the person who was open to activities but now when you invite them to hang out or go to dinner they always have a quick excuse of why they can not make it. When it continues for awhile, this is often accompanied by an increase in complaining that no one wants to hang out with them or they do not have any friends. When they are directly asked they will say that they are fine. The mask will sometimes slip during a moment of honesty or when there is a conversation lull.
Philosophical conversation increases.
When you do end up making plans with the person you find that their conversation has changed from the normal life conversations to a more philosophical one. They talk about the meaning of life, how to find happiness in life or if their own life has value. They might even talk about how it would be better if they were not alive anymore. These topics often indicate that the person is struggling with internal dark thoughts which they can not share.
Please remember if someone talks about self-harm immediately help them connect with a mental health care professional or their family doctor.
Emotions are more intense.
The intensity of the sadness can be overwhelming and leak out in some moments. When you’ve been around this person before they might become sad at a poignant scene on TV or a movie but now there is a break out of tears. Another way this appears is if they are suddenly telling you they love you more than usual or they are fire-hot angry at little things that would have been brushed off in the past. The reason this is happening is because they spend their energy trying to hide their depression, so you do not know and eventually it leaks out around the mask in moments they feel are acceptable.
There is hope for your friend to genuinely smile again and overcome their depression. You can help them by letting them know you care and encourage them to find help. Offer them support in finding a local mental health provider and even offer to drive them to their first appointment so that they do not have to go alone.
We are available at HELPPS Psychotherapy Services to book an appointment or provide a referral list of other mental health providers in the community.
Trish Pauls, MA RP