People who feel depressed are usually easy enough to spot: they may be gloomy, sad, and listless. But what about those who have hidden depression? They may an be extrovert and good company! This is the problem with concealed depression as these sufferers are experts in disguising the real situation. How can we spot them, and how can we help? Here are 10 typical things that people with hidden depression do to help us understand that something is not quite right.
1. They may be outgoing and cheerful
Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center found that depression was hard to spot when people had a cheerful disposition, especially if they were elderly. The research team had thought that the introverts would be the ones who would have difficulty in coming out about their depression but it seems that the opposite may be true. We should not take it for granted that a cheerful and sociable person may be immune from depression. We should be on the look out for some indicative signs and above all, we should always be empathic listeners.
2. They may hide their depression
There is some interesting research on the attitude that Europeans and Australians have towards depression. There is so much stigma attached to depression in Australia that many sufferers are determined not to reveal it at all. They may feel embarrassed or simply fear that they may lose their job – reflected in the number of sick days taken because of mental health problems. The figures show that Australians were taking off 14 days for a bout of depression compared to an average of 36 days for Europeans.
3. They may need healing or closure from some past trauma
Imagine the perfect hostess: she has great kids, a rewarding career and a stable marriage. It still may be that there is a painful episode in that person’s life which has never been properly healed. Psychologists have an acronym for this type of person which is the PHDP (Perfectly-Hidden-Depressed Person). The outward display of confidence and happiness is in sharp contrast to what is going on inside. The problem is often ignored, especially by the sufferer who may end up committing suicide. The tragedy is that nobody was ever able to spot the signs, or that the sufferer never had the courage to talk to someone. We should always listen carefully when a friend or loved one talks to us about exhaustion and anxiety.
4. They may have abnormal eating habits
Most experts now believe that there may be a strong link between eating disorders and depression. These are two separate illnesses; though one may lead to the other, or they may arise simultaneously. More and more men are suffering from eating disorders. There may be many causes such as media pressures, body image/exercise, and depression. If you notice that a loved one has appetite changes, try to talk to her/him about them and urge them to get treatment. Hidden depression may well be the trigger here.
5. They may be non-committal about their happiness
Very often, people with hidden depression display a lack of enthusiasm for things they used to love doing. If the person claims that they are certainly not depressed but they just don’t care anymore, this may well be a sign that something is amiss. If you read Eve Wood’s book, 10 Steps to Take Charge of Your Emotional Life, you will find more examples of how discovering self-empowerment can be the answer to coming to terms with depression and anxiety. There are also useful chapters on how counseling, medication, or alternative treatments are possible treatment options. Getting the person to talk about their problems is usually the first step in seeking treatment.
6. They may display irritation and anger
We usually associate depression with apathy, helplessness, melancholic thoughts and crying. But there are other symptoms of depression which often go undetected because they are simply dismissed as temporary outbursts. They are assumed to be just blips on a person’s radar and can be safely ignored – the truth is that angry outbursts and being irritable are often manifestations of depression. Many men choose this way of expressing their depression.
7. They may not be getting enough sleep
If your loved one is complaining about not getting enough sleep (or even oversleeping), it could be a warning sign that there is something wrong. These sleep problems may be just the outward sign of a deeper and more troubling cause which could be anxiety, lethargy or depression. Sleep problems and depression are very often closely connected. It is always worth probing gently to find out what the cause might be, if the person is prepared to open up.
Many cases of depression go undetected and untreated, often with tragic results. Between 10% to 15% of people with severe, untreated depression commit suicide. As we have seen above, people may hide it or fake it. Sometimes, they just keep it a dark secret which they never want to reveal. In addition, there are those who have a different public image from their own private and tormented selves. The challenge is to look out for possible signs and help the person to get treatment.