The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that approximately 280 million people around the world are suffering the Depression. However, experts believe these figures could be even higher given the number of undiagnosed cases of depression.
Among them occupies an important place the ‘smiling depression’which “can go unnoticed even by our loved ones”, according to Vanessa Rodríguez Pousada, collaborating professor of the Master in Psychopedagogy of the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), and Ferran Marsà Sambola, collaborating professor of Psychology and Science Education Studies at the UOC.
What is “smiling depression”?
“The term ‘smiling depression’ refers to depressive symptoms that occur with the typical symptoms associated with these disorders, but in which the diagnosed subject shows a desire to concealment. And this desire translates into an active position so that the people around him do not perceive the discomfort he is facing, ”explains Rodríguez Pousada.
The fact that people who suffer from it make an effort to hide their discomfort results in a greater difficulty in detecting. Therefore, the diagnosed cases could represent a very small part of all existing cases.
However, those who suffer from it experience the same discomfort as a typical depression sufferer. And, in fact, they are aware of what is happening to them. Or at least something is wrong. But there are several reasons that may lead them to try to hide it. One of them is to believe that their obligation is to be happy and that they cannot show negative emotions.
Happiness imposed as an obligation
“We live in a society where being happy is imperative,” explains the expert. He also explains that in addition to this “dictatorship of happiness individualism has developed from the point of view of which there is a tendency to underestimate personal, social and structural circumstances”.
“The system is determined to convince us that health and disease are linked almost exclusively to personal psychological deficiencies; where self-determination and our own abilities are the backbone of our well-being. Thus, it is assumed that being whether or not to be well depends exclusively on oneself,” explains the expert.
Guilt and shame for feeling bad
As the UOC collaborating professor explains, this message has permeated society so much that there are people who feel guilty of experiencing discomfort. “To the fact of suffering from depression, the guilt of suffering would be added, assuming that we are responsible for it, and, in a double twist, it would go from depression to guilt, and from guilt to shame”, indicates .
Consequently, he considers that depression would represent for these patients “the whole inability to cope with something that one must know how to handle and reveals itself as a signifier weakness“. The result that this can have is precisely not to show true emotions and to appear happy in front of others.
Despite trying to conceal the discomfort, outward signs may appear that can alert the closest environment. As Ferran Marsà Sambola, collaborating professor in the Department of Psychology and Educational Sciences at the UOC, explains, “some studies say that people who experience a atypical depression or smiling they used to have more appetite, sleep too much and have a greater sense of heaviness in the arms and legs, as well as rejection of criticism people around them.” “They may even show a loss of interest in activities that were previously satisfying to them,” adds Rodríguez Pousada.
Who can suffer from “smiling depression”?
As for the type of people who can suffer from “smiling depression”, there is no established profile, since a complex reality of factors comes into play. However, people perfectionistsoften less tolerant of failure, may be among those who suffer from it if they perceive depression as a personal weakness and lack.
As to whether it is more common in men or in women, there are no specific data. “If we take into account the fact that we live in a heteropatriarchal society, where the manifestation of the affective world and of one’s own weaknesses is more stigmatized in men, masculine stereotypes could intervene as a factor of vulnerability in the event of ‘ smiling depression’ for this population”, explains the professor.
Social networks, the ideal travel companion for “smiling depression”
What the panel of experts agrees on is that social networks do not help to show real emotions. “We live in a society where we constantly have to To display to the others that we have one perfect life. In my opinion, this is reinforced by social networks”, explains Marsà Sambola.
This is also the opinion of Vanessa Rodríguez Pousada, who recalls that on social networks we tend to show the successful game of itself, magnifying and exalting it considerably. “At the same time, the comparison between one’s own life and the supposed lives of others appears like a delicate game of mirrors, in which reality is blurred. They could appear as the ideal traveling companion of the ‘smiling depression'”, judges he.