Man with smiling depression.

“Depression” Overused and (mis)Understood

Depression – it’s a term that started as a diagnosis in the medical and mental health field. Now it’s used as a synonym for sad, upset, or even just having a bad day. “Im depressed” or “you look depressed” are phrases that are used too loosely to describe only parts of a clinical depression diagnosis.

“You’re Smiling, You Can’t be Depressed.”

With the overuse of the term “depression”, more confusion can be created for people who don’t present with all the externally recognizable symptoms. Even those who do present themselves with recognizable symptoms can seem the opposite. Smiling Depression can be a result of many different situations and circumstances. Continue reading to see some reasons this seemingly opposite reaction could not be what it seems:

  1. It’s a cover-up. Smiling or seeming happy could be a cover-up for internal feelings of sadness, loneliness or hopelessness. Someone could be struggling on the inside but feel the need to wear a mask in public, at work, with friends/family or on social media. 
  2. It’s Temporary. The smile could be due to a recent pleasant interaction with a friend, or a text back from the person they are dating. Having a depression diagnosis does not mean that people are sad or struggling 24/7. They can still find and feel pleasure from time to time. 
  3. It could be an “atypical” form of depression. There is room, even in the clinical diagnosis of depression, for an “atypical” presentation of depression. For example, a person with smiling depression could be experiencing extreme worry, guilt or shame – while seemingly having it all together, and smiling on the outside. 

Different Degrees of Depression

It’s important to remember that depression does not affect everyone the same way- on the inside or outside. The presentation of the symptoms can be very different depending on the person’s current life circumstances, their history combined with their individual temperament, environment, and relationships. Even someone who has a fulfilling job, a family, friends, and interests can feel empty, dull, or unsettled on the inside. There are degrees on the spectrum of depression – with all of them being real, valid and worthy of help.