By Julie Hambleton
In America today, roughly 19 million people suffer from depression. It is estimated that at any given time, three to five percent of adults are experiencing a major depressive episode, and 2 of every 100 kids and 8 of every 100 teenagers have severe depression. All of these statistics exist despite depression being a very treatable mental illness. Why? Because many people’s struggle is invisible, even to the people who are closest to them. This is known as concealed depression. (3, 4, 5, 6)
What is Concealed Depression?
Just as it sounds, concealed depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness, emptiness, and loss of interest. It is a medical condition that changes the way you think, feel, and act. Concealed depression is not necessarily a diagnosis, rather it is expertly hidden depression and goes unnoticed, even to those closest to that person. (1, 2, 3, 4, 6)
People who have concealed depression may not even appear unhappy, in fact they can frequently be the person in the room with the biggest, brightest smile. There are many reasons why people will hide their depression from others, including: (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
- Fear of sharing their darkest secrets and fears with others, making themselves more vulnerable
- Not wanting to “burden” others with their problems
- Afraid to be labeled as “depressed” or “mentally ill”
- They think that no one will understand or even want to help
- They don’t think that they can be helped
In a society that encourages us to only ever show people our highlight reels and never display some of the harsh realities of our daily lives, it becomes easy for people with depression to feel alone and like no one wants to hear about their problems. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
Those with depression can often easily go unnoticed by others who are distracted by their own lives and problems, and many friends and family members have a hard time accepting that someone they love and have known for years might be experiencing depression. As much as it is important for anyone with depression to reach out and talk to someone, it is equally as important for the rest of us to keep an eye open for the signs of depression and step in before it is too late. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
Surprisingly, many people living in the limelight are high functioning, but are living with depression. Thankfully, many are stepping forward to share their experiences and providing hope and encouragement to everyone who’s dealing with the condition. People like:
- Kirsten Bell, who said in an interview, “Understand that there’s no shame in seeking help, including medication, for mental health conditions.”
- Lady Gaga is passionate about helping the younger generation, telling Billboardmagazine, ““I’ve suffered through depression and anxiety my entire life… I just want these kids to know that … this modern thing, where everyone is feeling shallow and less connected? That’s not human.”
- Owen Wilson survived an alleged suicide attempt in 2007. At the time, he asked the press and media to respect his privacy instead of sensationalizing speculations about his health. Since then, Owen has continued to thrive in his acting career and is raising 2 young sons. He is a testimony to the fact that everyone handles mental health differently, and that there’s nothing entertaining about depression.
- Dwayne Johnson, who said in an Oprah show, “You’re not the first to go through it; you’re not going to be the last to go through it … I wish I had someone at that time who could just pull me aside and [say], ‘Hey, it’s gonna be okay. It’ll be okay.”
- Demi Lovato, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, told People magazine after coming out of treatment, “I feel like I am in control now, where for my whole life, I wasn’t in control.”
- Kerry Washington opened up about her depression with Glamour magazine: “I think it’s really important to take the stigma away from mental health.”
Habits of those with Concealed Depression
Many of the signs of concealed depression are subtle and difficult to spot. Due to the stigma that still exists around depression and mental illness, it can be uncomfortable for people to openly ask someone if they are struggling, if they notice it at all. If you notice any of your friends or family members exhibiting any of these habits, don’t be afraid to talk to them about it. Knowing they have your support will allow them to “un-conceal” their depression.