The persona of a competent person with smiling depression

We were shocked to see someone who suddenly committed suicide without a sign. Usually, these people were always appearing cheerful, sociable and capable in front of others. However, underlying their persona, they may be depressed, anxious, or having negative cognitions about self and others. A client of mine recently found out the betrayal of one of his best friends. Due to the common social circles with this friend, he pretended that he did not realize his manipulation and lies. Without directly confronting him, he started to detach from him and reduce seeing him regularly. However, this friend kept spreading negative rumors about my client and making other friends in the social circles misunderstood him. He was gradually isolated by some social circles and felt wronged for having done nothing. This client was a very capable gentleman with a very positive persona all along. He believed that he needed to present his best in front of others all the time. In fact, he also believed that he needed to be socially active even though other friends misunderstood and wronged him. However, deep down inside him, he was depressed and lonely. He felt that no one understand him and started to have suicidal ideas.

This gentleman was having depression in disguise, smiling depression. People with smiling depression may worry about burdening others if they show their depressive mood and sadness. They may also have perfectionistic trait causing them to believe depression is a sign of weakness. In fact, they cannot accept their depressed condition and want to hide away their negative emotions. Sometimes, people are also influenced by the portrays of happiness and good life in the social media. As a result, they may believe that they are the only one who have depressive mood and feel isolated and alone. One of the risks for smiling depression is the higher risk of suicide. It is because people with smiling depression are frequently high-functioning individuals. They are more capable of following through their plans for attempting suicide. How can we be more alert for those who appear normal but may be depressed due to stress and aversities?

If we suspect someone may have smiling depression, we can try to observe some less-obvious signs. For instance, there may be noticeable change in weight or appetite for this person. We may also notice a disinterest in formerly enjoyable activities. Sometimes, we may be able to observe increased irritability or agitation in this person. If this is the case, it is important to persuade the person to consult a psychologist for formal assessment and treatment.

For those who tended to present ones’ best “self” in front of others all along, it is important to cultivate self-awareness. Sometimes, when we used to put on our persona for too long most of the time, we may believe that our persona reflects who we really are. We may practice mindful awareness on our changing thoughts, feelings and emotions. In this way, we may be able to realize that deep down our cheerful, sociable and capable persona, we may have a depressed part that is not being taken care of. Being able to put down our persona sometimes and get in touch with our true feelings is important for connecting to our inner core. As a result, we can be more authentic and embrace our vulnerable sides.

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