What Is Walking Depression?

Updated February 27, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

When many of us think of depression, we think of a mental health disorder that causes major disruptions to a person’s life. The presence of a depressive episode or major depressive disorder is commonly associated with symptoms like extreme fatigue or the inability to get out of bed, difficulty completing or attending working, trouble maintaining personal health and hygiene, along with a number of other highly disruptive side effects. 

While symptoms like this may be present, many people living with depression find they are able to maintain their day to day lives. Due to the fact that the ability to keep up with responsibilities such as work, family and personal obligations is not often associated with being depressed, many people experiencing depression while maintaining their day to day routines may feel their symptoms are invalid or “not that bad”. 

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The reality is, depression can exist even when a person appears to be thriving outwardly. In this article, we will explore the concept of walking depression, as well as the symptoms and what you can do if you think you are living with them. 

What Is Walking Depression?

According to the Project Helping organization, “walking depression” is a nickname for the experience of those who are able to go on walking, talking, and even smiling while feeling depressed and profoundly unhappy. 

Similar to walking pneumonia, walking depression exhibits symptoms that may appear to be minor, but tend to persist or worsen overtime without treatment. Someone experiencing walking depression may tell themselves repeatedly that “tomorrow will be better” or “next week will be better” then see no improvement.

People with walking depression will typically appear to have no trouble maintaining a job, relationship or career. They may keep up with an active lifestyle, or fulfilling hobbies. For example, where typical depression may interfere with a person’s ability to keep up with a volunteering commitment, someone with walking depression will continue to show up, all while suffering quietly. 

Because of this, walking depression is often considered more dangerous than typical depression due to the exhaustive nature of masking symptoms daily. Additionally, prolonged sadness or depression can lead to even greater physical and mental health risks. 

Symptoms of walking depression may include: 

  • Avoidance of social interaction including phone calls, gatherings, or celebrations

  • Increased irritability

  • Excessive fatigue or constant tiredness

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substances, over eating, or intentionally isolating

  • Anxiety about the past and future

  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that were previously enjoyed such as art or fitness

  • Insomnia

Walking Depression Vs. Major Depressive Disorder

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When it comes to clinical diagnosis, “walking depression” serves as a nickname for what would typically be referred to as major depressive disorder with atypical symptoms. While the most noticeable difference between what is considered walking depression and typical depression is the ability to keep up with daily life, prolonged walking depression will likely interfere with this ability down the line. 

Additionally, as walking depression is a form of major depressive disorder, many of the symptoms will overlap. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of major depressive order may include:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness

  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports

  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much

  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort

  • Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain

  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness

  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements

  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame

  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things

  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide

  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

If you or a loved one are currently experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 988, and is available 24/7.

Coping With Walking Depression

Due to the quiet and internalized nature of walking depression, there is a certain level of self-assessing that must be done to identify the existence of symptoms. In many cases, people with walking depression tend to feel guilt or shame surrounding their symptoms, likely due to the stigmas that continue to surround mental health issues. 

If you feel you are experiencing symptoms of walking depression, it can be important to remember that what you are feeling is valid. There is no requirement for how “bad” depression symptoms must be in order to seek help. Even if you are currently able to maintain your day to day life, it can be extremely important to open up about what you are feeling before symptoms worsen. 

Oftentimes, opening up about your challenges to a trusted friend or family can be a good place to start. Additionally, there are online resources such as Mental Health America and nonprofit organizations such as Depressed Anonymous where you can connect with people experiencing similar feelings. 

While friends, family, and community are important tools, if you are experiencing symptoms of depression, it is best to consult a therapist or mental health professional as soon as you are able. 

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The Benefits Of Online Therapy

If you are living with persistent symptoms and side effects of depression, it may be helpful to speak with an online therapist. Due to the quiet nature of walking depression, the act of seeking help may seem extremely challenging. Thankfully, the recent expansion of online therapy offers a more comfortable option, allowing patients to receive treatment virtually. 

Effectiveness Of Online Therapy

According to research, online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or “talk therapy” is proven to be equally as effective as in-person therapy at reducing the symptoms of certain mental illnesses including depression.


The nature of walking depression can make symptoms difficult to identify due to one’s ability to maintain responsibilities while experiencing deep depression. If you feel you are experiencing walking depression, it can be important to be honest with yourself or your loved ones about what you are feeling. If you are living with walking depression, remember, you are not alone and there is help available. 

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The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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