I found this article very interesting and quite relevant to our situation at this very challenging period of our national life, when a sizeable number of Nigerians may become depressed without knowing or make efforts to conceal it.
This article was originally written by Dr. John Grohol, who is an author, researcher and expert in mental health online and has been writing about mental health and psychology issues since 1992.
The following signs might point to the depression that such individuals may have been trying to conceal.
Unusual sleep, eating or drinking habits
When a person seems to have changed the way they sleep or eat in significant ways, that’s often a sign that something is wrong. When a person can’t sleep (or sleeps for far too long) every day, that may be a sign of hidden depression.
Others turn to food or alcohol to try and quash their feelings. Overeating can help someone who is depressed to feel full, which in turn helps them feel less emotionally empty inside. Drinking may be used to help to cover up the feelings of sadness and loneliness that often accompany depression. Sometimes a person will go in the other direction too – losing all interest in food or drinking.
They wear a forced “happy face”
We have all seen someone who seems like they are trying to force happiness. It’s a mask we all wear from time to time. But in most cases, the mask wears thin the longer you spend time with the person who’s wearing it.
That’s why lots of people with hidden depression try not to spend any more time with others than they absolutely have to. They seem to always have a quick and ready excuse for not being able to hang out, go to dinner, or see you.
It’s hard to see behind the mask of happiness that people with hidden depression wear. Sometimes you can catch a glimpse of it in a moment of honesty, or when there’s a conversation lull.
They may talk more philosophically than normal.
When you do finally catch up with a person with masked depression, you may find the conversation turning to philosophical topics they don’t normally talk much about. These might include the meaning of life, or what their lives have amounted to so far. They may even open up enough to acknowledge occasional thoughts of wanting to hurt themselves or even thoughts of death. They may talk about finding happiness or a better path in the journey of life. These kinds of topics may be a sign that a person is struggling internally with darker thoughts that they dare not share.
They may put out a cry for help, only to take it back.
People with hidden depression struggle fiercely with keeping it hidden. Sometimes, they give up the struggle to conceal their true feelings and so they tell someone about it. They may even take the first step and make an appointment with a doctor or therapist, and a handful will even make it to the first session. But then they wake up the next day and realise they have gone too far. Seeking out help for their depression would be admitting they truly are depressed. That is an acknowledgment that many people with concealed depression struggle with and cannot make. Nobody else is allowed to see their weakness.
They feel things more intensely than normal.
A person with masked depression often feels emotions more intensely than others. This might come across as someone who doesn’t normally cry while watching a TV show or movie suddenly breaks out in tears during a poignant scene. Or someone who doesn’t normally get angry about anything suddenly gets very mad at a driver who cut them off in traffic. Or someone who doesn’t usually express terms of endearment suddenly is telling you that they love you. It’s like by keeping their depressive feelings all boxed up, other feelings leak out around the edges more easily.
They are pessimistic
This is depressive realism when such individuals appear to have a more realistic picture of the world around them. For instance, while normal people are usually more optimistic about life circumstances, those attempting to conceal depression may say things like “Well, I’m up for that promotion again, but I doubt I’ll get it.” In our own environment they may be more involved in overt, religiously-prescribed, problem-solving approaches to the detriment of their overall quality of life.
If anyone fits into any of these complaints, it is advisable to visit a psychiatrist or any mental health expert for effective intervention to prevent suicide.