Happiness and depression should be opposite ends of the spectrum. After all, if you’re happy, then you shouldn’t be depressed, right?
Not so fast. It’s not uncommon for people to appear happy on the outside but still be depressed on the inside. There’s a term that describes this condition: “smiling depression.”
So why would someone be this way? The answers are not as simple as you would expect. Plus, if left unchecked, this type of depression can impact you as much as traditional depression.
Being Happy to Meet Expectations
In our society, we expect people to be happy for the most part. When they’re not, we wonder what could be wrong. Those who are happy on the outside often do so because that’s what society expects of them, even if they might be having depressing thoughts on the inside.
This image makes sense when you think about it. Someone who has smiling depression will put on an air of happiness because they don’t want any unwanted attention. They would much rather not talk about their depression, let alone express to others that something is wrong. So, they hide behind a false image of happiness to hide the fact that they’re actually depressed.
The Link Between Shame and Depression
Another reason why a person would hide their true feelings is that they’re ashamed of them. They think something is wrong with them, and they frequently feel shame about their depression symptoms.
Of course, we know people ought not to feel ashamed because they’re depressed. Depression is, after all, very well researched. We know a lot about it and how to treat it. Plus, we as a society have a better understanding of why someone would be depressed, including:
- Experiencing a loss
- Struggling with a life crisis issue
- Feeling alone or disconnected
However, shame is a compelling emotion. So, someone who is depressed might put on a front that everything is okay when the opposite is true.
Understanding Why Some Hide Emotions
Although society influences how people share or don’t share emotions, individual experiences are also influential. In particular, we learn about emotions and expressing our feelings from our parents.
Many parents, either directly or indirectly, teach their children that expressing particular feelings is wrong. This approach also includes mental states such as depression. Take it a step further, and this approach can even define how people sort children into particular and unhelpful gender roles, including:
- Girls are supposed to be happy, positive, and cheerful all of the time.
- Boys are taught to be stoic and not to share their feelings at all.
The result is that when these children grow up, they don’t know how to handle issues, such as depression or even anger. They lack the tools to express themselves in healthy ways and allow them to identify what they’re feeling.
Facing the Fear of Being Weak
If someone is depressed but tries to put on an outward façade that they’re happy, there could be another issue at play — fear of appearing weak. Weakness is typically related to powerlessness, and if people perceive you as weak, that implies you’re not competent, either.
Or worse yet, weakness implies you can be taken advantage of. Nobody wants others to perceive them this way. Therefore, they go along with expressing happiness to hide what they’re really feeling.
How Depression Therapy Can Help
It makes sense that people would not want to let others know what they’re experiencing. Having boundaries regarding what to share with others is healthy and critical.
However, that shouldn’t come at the expense of sacrificing your emotional needs. Therapy can help with this puzzle. In depression treatment, you can drop the façade and be genuine with a mental health therapist, especially one who specializes in treating depression symptoms.
Despite their best intentions, friends or relatives might inadvertently pass judgment over you — a therapist won’t do that. In therapy, you’ll be accepted and have a safe space to express what you’re experiencing. You’ll be able to make sense of your depression and work on a treatment plan with your therapist to get better.
Depression Therapy Columbus Ohio
If you’re finding yourself pretending to be happy when you’re really not, it’s okay. Reach out to Blue Boat Counseling today to learn more about how depression treatment and counseling can help. We’re a private practice with skilled depression counselors in Columbus Ohio. You don’t have to hide behind a happy face anymore. We’re here to help.