The Pitfalls of Hidden Depression

What comes to your mind when you think about a clown? Someone who keeps the appearance of joy, happiness, laisser-faire, contentment with life but inside, their heart is crying. Imagine a person who keeps this appearance of normality or happiness towards himself too, day and night, day by day, no matter what he has been through during his life.

We all have some masks that we wear in society. This makes the idea of society possible because we adapt to each other and to expected norms.

However, some people have, underneath the outside mask, an inner mask that they created to deceive or protect themselves. If they were able to see themselves truly without any mask, they would see a sad, crying, or desperate face.

People imagine depression as a state when one just lies in bed and lacks the energy to get up, does not eat, cries, looks sad. But depression is mainly about intense sadness, feelings of hopelessness, feelings of worthlessness that one has and not only about the physical signs of depression.

Individuals with Hidden Depression would still have the energy to get out of bed, but it is not that positive energy that comes from a peaceful heart, it is a black and impoverishing energy that is generated by the anger that covers their sadness.

Underneath most of their emotions lies Sadness. Their anger comes from Sadness, their fear comes from Sadness, their anxiety, boredom, restlessness, they all have their roots in Sadness.

Even enthusiasm is overinflated sometimes because it is not genuine, it is just a compensation for their deep Sadness from which they try to run away.

This is Hidden Depression, a condition in which an individual is hiding his suffering not only from others but from himself first and foremost. They are not doing it voluntarily or consciously. They built their inner mask as a coping mechanism to survive very early in life. He is by excellence “the Survivor”. He learned very early that expressing sadness would not help, or even worse, he may be punished or blamed for it, so he tried to cover it at all costs.

Maybe they were hit, bitten when crying, others would ridicule them when crying, would take advantage of them. Or they saw their own parents avoiding expressing emotions. Or they were simply ignored when sad and only received attention when happy or joyful.

But the sadness of the first years of their life will not just disappear. Later in life, they learn that expressing their sadness would just make things worse and the safest mechanism was to control their emotions.

As an adolescent or adult, they may be those super-sociable people that are the life of the party, always surrounded by people or they may be hyper-active, always involved in an activity that keeps their mind busy. Sometimes we meet these people as the adrenaline-seekers, engaging in activities whose ultimate purpose is not living the life, but avoidance of it.

Some other individuals with Hidden Depression may evolve towards overeating, binge-eating, alcohol, or drug abuse or workaholism.

But they do not get to the stage of an addiction or eating disorder, so not the substance use or overeating is the problem, but the way or the purpose for which they use them. They function within acceptable social limits or sometimes above the norms, like workaholics. They do not work long hours because they are passionate about their job or find a meaning in their job, but because they want to avoid having free time for their mind, they want to avoid their mind wandering in “wrong” direction.

Another possible development for these individuals is towards the expression of anger or irritation when something unfortunate happens or they just foresee it happening. They would try to find the guilty ones if somebody dear died or left them, they will fight for justice, they will scream, hit, shout, anything else but crying or simply accepting they are sad.

On the other hand, these people will very easily cry at movies, plays, songs, books because there it is acceptable to cry, it is not about them. But underneath their mask, it is them for whom they are crying.

“Big boys don’t cry” could be an expression of Hidden Depression too, but Hidden Depression goes beyond that. It is not just avoiding crying in public as an adolescent or adult because of the social norms, it is hiding the inner cry from themselves. This is one of the risks of Hidden Depression: they do believe they function well, they have no reasons to be sad, so they go on like this for years until they collapse.

They will not ask for help. Why would they ask for help when they seem to have such a good life, when everybody around them tells them how great their life is?

Another risk is related to their destructive ways of coping with difficult situations. Their anger would damage themselves, others or relationships with them. The use of alcohol or drugs could affect their health. Workaholism would prevent them spending time in other more meaningful ways, would affect their relationships or even health. The hyperactive types may engage in dangerous activities when they go to extreme, but even the moderate types would be affected by their way of living because they exhaust themselves and others.

But the highest risk is the avoidance of their own feelings, so they become their biggest enemy. They avoid at all costs being alone or having time to reflect on themselves. They grow apart from their inner self over time, they will fail to meet their own needs and they will not live a happy life.

So, if you feel at risk of having hidden depression, please take some time to reflect and maybe ask for help. It is never too late!