It can be common to pretend to be happy at times, but those who put on a façade of happiness when they’re feeling sad, hopeless, or empty inside can harm their mental health by continually repressing their true emotions. If you experience symptoms of depression but can keep up with daily responsibilities and appear happy, you may be living with a form of atypical depression sometimes referred to as “smiling depression” or dysthymia. It can be helpful to reach out to a licensed therapist online or in person to get the professional help you deserve.
Are You Pretending To Be Happy?
Pretending to be happy can come as second nature to some. You might be someone who wakes up, goes to work, and takes care of your responsibilities on a day-to-day basis, all while harboring persistent feelings of sadness, disinterest, or hopelessness. It may not be outwardly apparent to others, or even yourself, that you could be experiencing depression.
A person who can maintain a certain quality of life or a generally pleasant demeanor while experiencing symptoms of depression may be living with atypical symptoms of major depressive disorder. This can include dysthymia, or smiling depression.
Symptoms of dysthymia 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, overeating, 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.
Although these symptoms frequently affect a person’s life quality, someone with smiling depression typically goes to great lengths to mask or hide what they are experiencing from others.
What Is Smiling Depression?
Typical depression tends to cause disruptions in a person’s day-to-day life. For example, where typical depression may interfere with a person’s ability to cook, clean, or perform at work as they normally would, smiling depression may not.
Someone with smiling depression typically appears to have no trouble maintaining a job, relationship, or career. They may keep up with an active lifestyle and fulfilling hobbies. Still, they may be experiencing the symptoms of dysthymia internally, or when they are alone.
Because of this, smiling depression is often considered more dangerous than typical depression due to the wearing and exhaustive nature of masking symptoms every day. Prolonged internalization of sadness or depression can potentially lead to greater risks in both mental and physical health.
Living With Smiling Depression
Someone living with smiling depression may not open up to their loved ones about their symptoms due to either not being aware of the symptoms themselves, or because of the potential shame and stigma that can surround mental illness. It may be a matter of not wanting to “ruin” the facade of seeming to be perfectly fine, so as not to worry or burden others.
This detrimental act of bottling up feelings tends to be the most notable reason that pretending to be happy might work in reverse. Keeping feelings of sadness or hopelessness to yourself tends to cause them to weigh even more heavily on the mind as time goes on. In severe cases, this type of hidden depression can lead to suicidal ideation.
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.
If you have been living with mild yet pervasive symptoms of depression over an extended period of time, it may be helpful to open up to a trusted friend or relative. Oftentimes, you will find you are not alone in how you are feeling.
If feelings of shame or guilt are keeping you from opening up about symptoms of depression, it may be helpful to speak with a therapist or another licensed mental health professional.
The Benefits Of Online Therapy
If you are having trouble opening up about long-term symptoms of depression, it may be helpful to speak with an online therapist. The nature of dysthymia or smiling depression may cause an individual to feel shame or guilt around opening up. Online therapy can offer the option to express difficult thoughts or feelings to a professional within the comfort of your own home at a time that fits into your schedule.
Effectiveness Of Online Therapy
According to research, online cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is normally equally as effective as in-person therapy at reducing the symptoms of certain mental illnesses, including depression. If you’re considering seeking professional help for depression or another mental health challenge, please know that both in-person and online therapy can be valid and effective options.
What is pretending to be happy called?
While not a true clinical diagnosis, pretending to be happy while actually depressed can be called “smiling depression”.
Is it normal to pretend to be happy?
Many people try to mask the symptoms of depression or other negative emotions by pretending to be happy. Faking happiness may stem from a desire to protect friends or family members from worry, or from a fear of judgement in professional or personal life. Others may feel that feeling sad is weak, or feel embarrassed about their sadness.
Why is pretending to be happy exhausting?
For those who feel pressure to feel happy or act happy all the time, performing a part that you don’t truly feel can be emotionally and even physically exhausting. Often these individuals do not seek or receive help because they hide their feelings so well, and the negative feelings continue. To experience authentic happiness, a person may have to stop pretending happiness and learn to process and manage negative emotions.
How can you tell if someone is pretending to be happy?
Some signs to look for in someone you suspect may be pretending to act happy include:
- A loss of interest in activities that they typically enjoy
- Appetite changes, or weight changes
- A change in sleep habits (more sleep or less sleep than usual)
- Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or worthlessness
- Will only talk about positive feelings, never seems to have a bad day
- Avoids speaking about their personal life
What is the word for delusion of happiness?
Though not a diagnosis, therapists may refer to a happiness delusion as “magical thinking”. This is a kind of coping mechanism used to feel more positive about situations that may not be that great. Often you will see this sort of “smile while the world crumbles around you” thinking promoted by a life coach or in the final thoughts of an Instagram influencer’s post. It is not necessarily harmful; it can be a coping mechanism that helps put a positive spin on life during times of stress. However, if a person relies on magical thinking all the time, it can become an issue.
What is a cherophobia person?
Cherophobia is an irrational aversion to being happy, and is classified by some experts as a form of anxiety disorder (it is not classified as a disorder in the DSM-V). Someone with cherophobia will often avoid activities that could lead to feelings of joy or happiness. They may feel that happiness makes them a bad person, or believe that feelings of happiness are a precursor to something bad happening in their life.
Why do I keep forcing myself to be happy?
There are a number of reasons why a person may force themselves to appear happy. Some may feel that they will be negatively impacted personally or professionally if they are thought to be depressed. Others may be in denial, and believe that as long as they practice smiling, happiness will follow. Some may act happy for the sake of their love life, believing that they are unlovable if they are unhappy. Still others may feel guilty about sadness, believing that these feelings are ungrateful because they have a good life.
How do you describe fake happiness?
Fake happiness can be described as playing a role of happiness for others. Do any of the following sound familiar?
- Hiding distressing events in your life, for fear that people will think you are unhappy
- Faking a smile
- Being excessively positive, no matter how you actually feel
- Moving away from social drinking to self-medicate with alcohol use
- You experience mood swings
- You avoid those who know you best, because they may be able to see that you aren’t as happy as you pretend to be
Is it normal for adults to pretend?
Adults can pretend in many ways. Even common politeness could be considered a form of pretending (have you ever pretended to like a friend’s hideous new dress?). Some forms of pretending are beneficial to society or to self, while others may be harmful.
Research shows that in the long run, pretending to be happy can be harmful. If you truly do experience feelings of depression or excessive sadness, fear, or anxiety, it can be helpful to talk to a licensed therapist to learn how to process and manage these feelings.
Why do depressed people start acting happy?
There are different reasons why depressed people start acting happy. They can be experiencing an improvement in symptoms (this may especially be true if they are receiving treatment for their depression). They may feel the need to pretend to be happy for the sake of others, or for a specific situation. It may indicate an even more serious issue. A depressed person may act happy if they are feeling suicidal and have made up their mind to go through with it. This decision can be accompanied by feelings of energy and a happiness that they’re getting ready to act.
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