What Is Smiling Depression?

What Is Smiling Depression?

What Is Smiling Depression?

Millions of individuals in the United States are battling depression. Whether genetics, circumstances, or a bit of both are the root cause, depression is a normal part of life for many. While some can say that they sought out help from a support system or professional when they thought they might have depression, it is not that easy for others. In fact, many find themselves pretending that they do not have it. They smile through the pain and force themselves to hide it from those around them. This phenomenon is known by the name “smiling depression.” 

What is Smiling Depression?

While you will not find smiling depression in the DSM, it is still a branch of clinical depression that many find themselves battling. “Smiling depression” refers to someone struggling with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) who masks their symptoms. It is often referred to with the phrase “hiding behind a smile.” An individual might be dealing with this if they are trying to convince others that they are OK even though they are not.

Signs and Symptoms:

Individuals struggling with smiling depression (also known as High-functioning Major Depressive Disorder) will find themselves dealing with the classic signs of major depressive disorder. This includes feelings of sadness, hopelessness, anger, or irritability. It could also include loss of interest, tiredness, poor sleep patterns, reduced appetite, overeating, anxiety, and much more.

You may be dealing with smiling depression if you are experiencing these symptoms but are still high-functioning – keeping up with certain demands of life like your job and social calendar, which individuals more debilitated by their depression could not. Individuals with high-functioning MDD might also come across a cheerful or positive. They tend to feel the need to hide their depressive symptoms.

Why Do They Hide It?

There are a number of reasons someone with high-functioning MDD might hide their symptoms. Some common reasons are included below. 

Feeling Like a Burden

Many individuals who struggle with depression often feel as though they are a burden to those around them. In order to lessen that feeling, individuals might try to hide their symptoms.


While a lot of work has been done to break down the stigma of mental illness, it still exists. Some might try to hide their symptoms if they feel embarrassed or shameful about it.


Accepting that you might need help with your mental health is a huge step for many individuals. Individuals might hide their symptoms if they are in denial that they exist or do not want them to be real instead of reaching out to get help for depression.

Keeping Up Appearances

If someone is used to having a certain role in their life, they might hide their symptoms to keep up appearances. This can be a form of denial or trying to gain control over yourself and your situation.

The Major Risk of Smiling Depression

Those suffering from severe depression can often be at risk of suicide. The symptoms of depression can cause an individual to think about death. Those suffering from smiling depression are often at a higher risk of suicide because they are not getting the help they need. Due to their ability to function at a high-level, fewer people notice what they are experiencing. Those with smiling depression are more likely to commit suicide than those with low-functioning MDD.

Getting Help

If you think you think you may be struggling with high-functioning depressive disorder, it is vital that you seek the attention of a mental health professional. Working with a therapist near you can help you navigate your depression and find the help you need to feel better.

How to Help Others

If you think someone you know is struggling with smiling depression, share your concerns with them. It’s important to open up that discussion so they know they have someone they can trust in their corner. Listen to them and try to connect them with a mental health professional. Use the fact that you’re worried about a friend’s mental health as a springboard for action – move toward them, not away. You noticing that something is wrong and speaking up might be the encouragement they need to seek help.

To learn more about mental health professionals near you, click here.

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  • Leave a Comment
  • bookworm0771

    March 22nd, 2021 at 9:18 AM

    I matched so many of these symptoms and i don’t know what to do, I already was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and i don’t want to seem like a burden to anyone with my feelings and problems, what should I do? I just want to be normal and to just be happy and not have to fake it and hide how im really feeling.

  • SeeingClearlyNow

    June 10th, 2021 at 6:46 AM

    Bookworm, tell your doctor. I did and she gave me a prescription that helps anxiety and depression. I wish I had talked to her sooner. I feel truly happy now and can cope with personal struggles. You’re not alone and there is hope.

    Thank you for this article. Very helpful!

  • That darkcloud above me

    January 24th, 2022 at 11:03 AM

    I feel like sometimes I have depression but others i times I feel like I don’t. And I don’t know if this is another simtom of smiling depression but when I cry I always smile and say everything is fine and if I keep smiling my problems will be solved. Can anyone relate?

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