What Does Depression “look like”?

I have struggled with depression most of my life. The first time I remember really being depressed and staying depressed was probably when I was around 10 years old.
No one ever really knew it though. Why? Because depression can take many different forms – when we are depressed, we can hide it very well or we can display it very obviously. It really can depend on many factors.

So what can depression look like?

It can look like someone laughing and smiling and having a great time.
It can look like someone crying and sobbing.
It can look like someone sleeping non stop.
It can look like someone with horrible insomnia.
It can look like someone who has absolutely no appetite at all.
It can look like someone who cannot stop eating even though they just ate 5 minutes ago.
It can look like someone who has lots of friends.
It can look like someone who has no friends.
It can look like someone who does well in school.
It can look like someone who does poorly in school.
It can look like someone who has a great job.
It can look like someone who has no job.
It can look like someone who is well off (“rich”).
It can look like someone who is not well off or poor.
It can look like someone who is white, black, brown, pink, purple, striped, or polka dotted.
It can look like someone who is in the USA, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Africa, Australia, Russia, Brazil, or any other random place they might be.

Depression takes many forms. It does not discriminate to a certain type of person. And even if a certain person looks “fine” they might not be. Someone does not have to be lying around all day, crying all the time, to be in horrible depression.

For many years in middle school and high school I kept high grades, was in all AP classes, but was severely depressed with strong suicidal ideations. Secretly I would cry at night, but in front of everyone else, I kept myself strong. No one had any idea that something was wrong with me. A few teachers had an idea as I slowly began to not do well in their classes and slept throughout the class, but would bring my grades up by the end of the semester so they never addressed it. On the outside, for the most part, my life looked great. If friends came over, they only saw the good parts of my life. On facebook they only see positive status updates and happy pictures (which can many times be forced smiles).

Many times people call this “wearing a mask.” Similar to in theatre, when people would wear masks to represent the happy or sad faces — a depressed person would simply put on a mask to display the emotion of happiness. We feel vulnerable taking off the mask. We feel as though it will make us weak. And society has somewhat put this thought into our heads, especially for the male population. Many children have also been taught this by their families – they should not express their emotions.

So, do not assume that just because someone seems happy that they do not struggle with depression. Just because someone constantly posts positive facebook pictures and statuses that they have an amazing life. Or that whenever you go to their house that they have a peaceful house so they must be happy. No one knows the situations behind closed doors, behind the masks that people wear.

1 in 5 adults (over the age of 18) had a mental illness within the last year. That is 45.6 million people (according to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration – SAMHSA). This includes diagnosable mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders BUT excludes developmental and substance abuse disorders.

Mental illness is much more common than we think. However, with the stigma behind it, not many people are open to talking about it. Not many people are willing to be honest with others about their feelings about how bad they are really feeling. This prevents many people from getting the help that they need and causes many to struggle on their own for a long time.

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5 thoughts on “What Does Depression “look like”?”

  1. AMEN to all of that! Thank you so much for this wonderful post……I’m still hiding mental illness from almost everyone in my life. It’s exhausting but feels absolutely necessary for all the reasons that you have spoken about….thank you again for writing.

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  2. You’re welcome. I had to hide it for a long time too. I try my hardest to just be open now because it was just too tiring, but sometimes I still have to put a mask on for various reasons. I hope you will be able to be more open with those around you in the future though, because as you said it is exhausting!!!

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  3. I had to hide my depression for a long time. Actually I had no idea I had depression. I just knew inside that things felt terribly painful. What was wrong with me I always thought. Thanks for the reminder that it can have many different looks.

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