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Hidden Depression: Common Cold of Mental Illness

National statistics show that depression affects one out of every 10 U.S. adults, however those numbers are argued to be way off the real mark. Besides the adults who do not admit to being depressed, will not report their depression or seek help, there are large segments of the U.S. population that do not even realize they are going through life suffering from depression. These people have hidden depression or concealed depression. In fact, depression affects so many adults that it has been coined the common cold of mental illness.

Hidden Depression May be Different for Everyone

Depression is something that everyone may experience at one or several points in their life. Depression is part of a normal process when dealing with a loss, changes in life, sadness, loneliness, or any number of stressful situations or events. Hidden depression for one is not the same depression for another. Hidden depression may have different levels of severity and may be exhibited in a variety of ways – often subtle changes that may not be recognized as depression.

Signs and Symptoms of Hidden Depression

Becoming aware of hidden depression is as important as becoming aware of your individual signs and symptoms that signal the occurrence or recurrence of depression. Seeking out help once you understand how hidden depression is affecting not only your life, but how it impacts on your relationships, social groups, job performance, and plans for the future. Untreated depression does not “just go away” with time. The signs and symptoms may decrease, but may come back with even more life disruption at any time.

Hidden Depression’s Small Signs Very Individual

Hidden depression symptoms or signs do not have to include crying episodes, feelings of extreme sadness, lethargy, or the inability to get up and go to work every day. Very often adults with hidden depression may just feel they are having an “off” or “bad” day that may last for weeks or longer.

Examples of some small signs could include not getting your hair cut for months, no longer bothering to color the gray hair, no longer caring to make your bed, eating foods you normally avoid, wearing old sweat pants out to dinner and other “small personal signs” that are a change from what you would normally do or never do.

More Noticeable Signs of Hidden Depression

While many hidden depression signs and symptoms are easy to miss, with small changes in behavior from what was “normal,” the following signs may be more recognizable as a symptom of depression:

  • Unusual sleep, eating or drinking habits from what would be considered normal for you: not sleeping enough, over-sleeping, overeating, avoiding foods with loss of weight, drinking too much, no longer drinking, or loss of interest in social activities and hobbies may all signal a depressed mood.
  • Living life behind a constant smile or “mask” of happiness. Hidden depression signs may include avoiding spending time with family and friends, making excuses for not meeting friends out, or not participating in previously loved pursuits. Avoidance is related to the amount of effort it takes to appear happy – spending time with those that know you makes “wearing the mask of happiness” harder and harder to do.
  • Admitting they are depressed, making an appointment for help, or sharing their sometimes dark thoughts, only to have the feelings taken back, appointments cancelled, and telling others it was all a joke or was not real. Those with hidden depression struggle with these “lapses” in letting other see their “weakness” so they close up again.
  • Exhibit their emotions strongly when they normally do not behave in that manner. This could include uncharacteristic behaviors such as road rage, crying over commercials or emotional parts of a movie, or freely expressing their love or caring for others when this would be considered “strange” behavior by those who know you.

There are numerous other examples of hidden depression and its effect on your life. Working with an experienced depression psychiatrist is the best first step to take to make the change in your life that will leave you feeling more fulfilled, hopeful for the future, and truly happy for maybe the first time in your life.

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If you or someone you care about has suspected depression, call the office for a confidential appointment.