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Smiling Depression: E No Dey Show For Face 

Let’s talk about depression. I know you may probably be tired of the topic but there are some myths attached to the term.

One of them is that people think depression always shows in the facial expression and body language of affected people.

This is wrong because there is something called smiling depression.

Smiling depression 

As the name sounds, it’s the kind of depression that is usually masked. 

Typically, smiling depression occurs when individuals who are experiencing depression mask their symptoms. They hide behind a smile to convince other people that they are happy.

Although “smiling depression” isn’t a clinical diagnosis, for many people, it’s a real problem.

Of course, this type of depression often goes undetected and undiagnosed because, as said above, when most people imagine a depressed individual, they picture someone with a gloomy face, sad expression, and low energy. 

And while it’s true that sadness and unexplained bouts of crying are common characteristics of depression, not everyone looks sad when they’re depressed.

RELATED: Depression in Nigeria

Signs and symptoms

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 264 million people have depression worldwide.

With smiling depression, it is harder to know what the signs are. This is because it may not be physically seen or detected. But there are subtle signs to know of someone’s problem. 

If you work hard and constantly have to pretend you’re happy when you’re not, or you have a loved one that you suspect might be hiding their pain, understanding smiling depression can help you take positive action.

Individuals with smiling depression may experience classic symptoms of depression, including sadness, low self-esteem, and changes in their daily lives. There are general feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness.

Some of these symptoms may be observable to others, while others may be kept private.

Here’s a list of possible signs to look for:

  • Appetite change: Most times, depressed people will either stop eating their favorite food because they feel like they don’t deserve it or don’t even have time for it.
  • They struggle to get out of bed when they’re depressed because they want to sleep all the time. Others can’t sleep and they may report insomnia or exhibit major changes in their sleep habits, such as staying awake at night and sleeping during the day.
  • Loss of interest in activities is probably one of the greatest signs you should check for. Individuals with smiling depression may not be interested in the activities they usually enjoy.
  • They may have an over-positivity kind of approach to life. If they dismiss their sadness or change the subject, it could mean that they’re uncomfortable expressing how they truly feel or they’re in denial about their experience.

SEE: Mental Illness: Causes and Perception in Nigeria

Why people hide their depression

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It’s common for people to keep their problems private. They either want to have that sense of privacy or are scared of judgment, especially if they’re in a toxic environment. Sometimes, they may not want to bother you with their problems so they hide them from you.

This fact is true for people who are used to taking care of others rather than having others take care of them. 

Another very important reason is embarrassment. Many people don’t want to be termed weak, and of course, society has taken depression to be some kind of thing to be embarrassed about. They fear backlash for their feelings, which is very sad.

Smiling depression may also stem from a person’s denial that they feel depressed. They may think that as long as they’re smiling, they must not have depression. This is a tactic to just pretend like they are fine so that they don’t have to explore how they truly feel and open up.

Finally, they feel like they must be doing something wrong or that they’re somehow to blame for being depressed. Consequently, they feel guilty and sometimes even ashamed of their depression. So they keep it hidden behind a smile.

SEE: Child Abuse: Types and How to Avoid It

Culture and smiling depression 

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With all the signs listed, it can still be difficult to know if someone is depressed. Many people are experts in masking their feelings and you should not blame them. Some were raised in a strict environment where exploring their feelings is a no-no. 

We also live in a world of social media where every post or story can be deliberately used to hide that there might be problems. I’ll give you an example:

Sarah is a slay queen and loves clubbing. Not many know that Sarah’s frequent visit to the club is not only to have fun but also to drink so hard that she tries to forget her feelings for a while. That brings us to understand that most people who have addictions such as drug usage, alcohol, and sex may have depression but mask it using all of these. 

One could say that they are perfectionists and have mastered the art of looking perfect. Admitting to depression would mean that their lives are less than perfect and they just cannot bring themselves to do that.

SEE: Social media: Is it social enough?

It all comes down to the society we live in. It’s not helpful to people with depression. We judge and often castigate people for their decisions and actions. Social media also affects it as thousands of people feel they have the “right” to speak about a person’s life. They evaluate their lives regarding the kind of content they put out. 

Treatment for Smiling Depression

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Like other types of depression, smiling depression is treatable. Treatment may include medication, talk therapy, and lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise.

You can talk to your doctor and let him know that you haven’t been feeling yourself lately and describe some of the symptoms that you’re experiencing.

If you know someone who may have smiling depression, share your concerns. 

Normalize mental health issues and talk to them about how they can get help and how you can also help them. Offer emotional support as well as practical support. Practical support in such a way that you can take them to their doctor’s appointment. 


People with smiling depression often mask their sadness with a smile and an external facade, which are designed to hide their inner battles and suffering. 

This should prompt you to always watch your words and actions around anyone. Just because you are friends with such a person or follow them on social media doesn’t mean you have the right to judge them. We should all live in a great and embracing environment that prioritizes mental health.

Oluwatoyin Odunuyi
Oluwatoyin Odunuyi
Oluwatoyin Eria-Ajua Odunuyi resides in the bustling city of Lagos, Nigeria. In 2020, she received a BSc in Mass communication from Caleb University and specialized in print journalism. Toyin loves to write romance novels because she is obsessed with living in a never-ever-land and often lives through her books. She presently owns a 5-year blog called "An Inclusive Kind world" where she speaks on Autism and society's role in pushing for awareness and inclusion.