What is Smiling Depression? All you need to know

Smiling depression refers to a mood disorder where a person might be masking feelings of depression by smiling and putting up a happy appearance
Smiling depression is when a person puts up a happy front, but is depressed internally. Image courtesy: Pexels
Anjuri Nayar Singh Published: 29 May 2024, 02:36 pm IST

One can only imagine depression to be characterised by extreme sadness, which can be felt by a person, and reflects on his or her mood as well. However, there are many times when a person looks happy, but is depressed. This is what smiling depression is all about. A person with smiling depression looks perfectly happy, and one would say even content, with the way life has turned out. However, this person would be experiencing deep anguish and sadness. Read on to learn more about this condition, its symptoms and treatment

What is smiling depression?

While smiling depression is not listed in the diagnostic manual for mental disorders, it is quite a real condition. It refers to a kind of depression where a patient looks happy but is suffering internally. The patient might also tell others that he is fine, and since he looks happy, it would be challenging for close ones to even guess that he is depressed. Family and friends of patients with smiling depression might not even realise that they need help.

Symptoms of smiling depression

If you are suffering from smiling depression, you may be putting up an outward appearance of being extremely happy and content. So, while smiling depression is tough to observe, there are some symptoms that one can look out for.

1. Weight change and altered sleeping schedules: A study published in Molecular Psychiatry reveals that changes in appetite as well as weight are the most discriminating symptoms of depression. In the study, depressed patients experience a decrease in appetite.

2. Lethargy:  A very typical symptom of depression is that one experiences extreme fatigue and finds it tough to get out of bed. However, smiling depression can often be experienced when a person is alone.

3. Lack of focus: Focus issue is also one of the smiling depression symptom, where one can’t focus on work, studies or anything in general and also have mood swings like being over sensitive or anger outbursts, irritability etc.

3. Lack of self-esteem and self-worth

4. Not wanting to do the things you once loved to do

The only way of discovering this in a patient with smiling depression would be to engage them in a meaningful conversation, where they let down the walls that they surround themselves with. The above-mentioned symptoms would not appear when the person is in a public setting.

Patients with smiling depression might feel that they need to put up a facade to avoid treatment, or they might not want to share their feelings with others. They may feel others might not understand their emotions.

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Who is most at risk for smiling depression?

While smiling depression can happen to anyone, those who are most at risk would be the ones who want to be perfectionists or are very ambitious. They might feel that keeping up a good appearance is very important, and might mask their depressive symptoms with a smile on their face. So, they might appear to be very happy. A fear of judgement can also trigger smiling depression.

According to a study conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, states that when a person is thinking about how their actions would affect their external environment, they often try to ignore how they are feeling inside.

Addiction also leads to smiling depression. Addiction helps to numb one’s emotions and is also another way of suppressing emotions and problems. Since they can’t feel it, they show the world as if nothing has happened.

Another risk factor would be a sudden change in life. A bad breakup or a personal loss can often trigger a situation of smiling depression.

A big change in life, bad break up, loss of a job, can often trigger smiling depression. Image courtesy: Pexels

Looking at someone else being happy, put together and content with their lives, can also trigger smiling depression. Social media plays a big role in this. A study, published in Cyberpsychology, behavior, and Social Networking, suggests that social networking sites can lead to depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. It also states that increased time on social media can lead to loneliness.

How to diagnose smiling depression?

Diagnosis of smiling depression can be tricky as people mask their feelings and appear happy. A study published in the Indian Journal of Community Health, states that this atypical form of depression is rising, and affects the middle-aged working population. This depression should be assessed at an early stage to improve quality of life and reduce the chances of self-harm.

People with smiling depression might not even know that they are depressed. For diagnosis, a medical professional would assess your situation by asking you questions. They will also inquire about any big life change. If the symptoms have lasted for more than a month, it may be a case of depression.

Talk therapy as well as other assessments would help doctors figure out your situation. It would depend on how well you have been sleeping if your daily activities have been affected by your condition.

Suicide is a big consequence of smiling depression. Image courtesy: Pexels

The attitude of the person regarding talks of depression or mental health. Besides this, a family history of neuropsychiatric problems might also help in diagnosis. Also, a sense of happiness while undergoing serious health problems can be a giveaway as well, suggests the study mentioned above.

Treatment for smiling depression

Smiling depression, just like typical depression, can be treated. The first step would involve recognising your symptoms and going to get checked by a therapist. Honest communication with your therapist can help the doctor also diagnose your condition. Once your doctor is aware of your situation, they will start with therapy like Cognitive behavioral therapy or Rebt or if its worse then put you on medications such as antidepressants but that’s optional.

Other activities such as listening to music and exercising can also help you feel better. Activities such as going for a walk or a jog, yoga and even strength training can work well for you, states a study, published in the BMJ. Also socializing and sharing your problems with close friends and families can help to a great extend.


While smiling depression has not been clinically recognised, it is a very real mood disorder that can affect anyone. If you are weary of how people judge you or have recently experienced a personal loss or a big life change, you might be more at risk. Suicide is a big consequence of smiling depression as patients often mask their feelings with a portrayal of happiness, which leads to not seeking treatment for their condition.






Anjuri Nayar Singh

Anjuri Nayar Singh has over 12 years of experience in writing for various topics including lifestyle, films, television and OTT. She also writes on art and culture, education and human interest stories. ...Read More

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