[Source: Mental Wellness Journal, Dr. F. Gianmichael Salvato, N.D., Ph.D.]
We all know someone who suffers from depression; especially at a time when the corruption, divisive rhetoric and dangers to the fundamental security of our nation are all around us. For many, this is the trigger of an experience of trauma that has all but destroyed lives, families and relationships.
Usually, when we think of someone who suffers from depression, it’s someone we’ve either observed personally, heard about through a third-party, or were told directly by the person who is struggling.
But experts tell us that there is an even greater epidemic, hidden in plain sight, which they refer to as “concealed depression”. What is it, and what are the signs we can look for to be able to help?
We’ll start by looking at depression in general. The diagnosis of major depressive disorder cannot be made by any medical test, such as a blood test or scan. Instead, the person must exhibit behavioural symptoms like sadness, fatigue, energy loss, sleep difficulties, etc.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) outlines the formal diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder in its current diagnostic manual the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition(DSM-5).
In order for an individual to be diagnosed with major depressive disorder, they must exhibit at least five of nine potential diagnostic symptoms (listed in the DSM-5) over a two-week period (the same symptoms must be present in the two-week period) and one of the symptoms must include having a depressed mood (e.g., sadness) or a significant inability to feel pleasure (or a loss of pleasure that is demonstrated by a significant loss of interest in things that were normally interesting to the person).
How Common Is Concealed Depression?
According to studies, concealed depression, which was far more common, prior to the 1990s than currently, is still relatively common. It may be as frequent as depression that is overtly detected and occurs across all ages but may be most common after middle age.
People who suffer from concealed depression may have the appearance of “having it all together”, but because this depression is complicated by feelings of shame, guilt and other difficult emotions, may actually be suffering more than those with common presentations and symptoms.
Depression is a very serious mental illness that often goes unnoticed for years. People with concealed depression are battling demons within themselves all on their own. They are not sharing their struggles, and do not want to burden those around them.
You see, for most people, psychological wounds are not something we are open about. We tend to bottle things up, and attempt to remedy them on our own. There are times when we might even have been chastised by those who insist it’s inappropriate to talk about our “personal stuff” in a public way.
The following 10 characteristics are some of the most common among people dealing with concealed depression.
- They are often quite talented and very expressive. A lot of famous people have suffered from mental illnesses, and this suffering can result in the appearance of deeper emotions. If you really think about it, this is, in some form, a source of their greatness. While we cannot always see it, their struggles are often reflected in their works. These people are able to bring something beautiful out of the darkness that consumes them.
- They tend to search for purpose. We all need a purpose in this life. We want to be sure that we are doing meaningful things. People suffering from hidden depression are not exempt from this. They too want to know the reason for their existence. They are much more susceptible to feeling things like inadequacy and anxiety; which leaves them searching for something they can never seem to achieve in their own minds.
- They interpret substances differently. Someone who is dealing with depression usually knows what it is they can take to ease their pain temporarily. They know that caffeine and sugar will elevate their mood, and that some medicines can help them. They actually have to put a lot of effort into feeling better, unlike most people. It is not as simple as taking a Tylenol when you have a headache.
- They often have a very involved perception of life and death. People suffering from depression often face their own mortality in moments of despair, and seek answers to life’s deepest questions. They tend to shift from one terrible mindset into another. while it’s true that not all depressed people deal with suicidal thoughts, some do.
- They frequently have abnormal sleeping habits. People with depression will often sleep for what seems like, or may literally be, days on end. Sleep at times can be impossible; while other times could be the only thing left that the person can do. When a person is depressed, they are dealing with a state of helplessness that will shake them to the core.
- They may have abandonment issues. If you have dealt with abandonment, then you know how terrible it can be. When someone walks out of your life it can be devastating, but this impacts those with depression much more than other people. It causes them to be more and more secretive about their feelings, and creates a fear within them of being abandoned by their loved ones.
- They are experts at coming up with ‘cover’ stories. They are able to come up with believable elaborate excuses for the things they are going through. For example, if they skip an appointment, or don’t return your calls for days, they can create a masterful tale about why that happened. They can easily change the subject when things like this come up, and turn the attention away from their pain.
- They go to extremes to seem happy. People suffering from depression learn to fake moods. They will often come off as happy and normal on the outside. When they let their inner struggles show, they feel as if they are bringing others down.
- They have trouble shutting off their brains. These people process everything going on in their lives at a much faster speed. They over analyse the good and the bad, making everything impact them that much deeper. Their brains are like sponges — absorbing everything that comes their way.
- They appear to be more empathic than most, and hurt when other people hurt. When other people are suffering, it brings them down to their worst points. This sort of thing often triggers their own emotional pain and can be crippling.
The real issue isn’t just the brain…
For decades, our society treated depression with medications, and occasional therapy. And the medications were directed at the brain, which helps, but isn’t enough. New research has pointed to the importance of a healthy gut-brain axis (GBX), in conjunction with providing stem-cell nutrition, utilising cutting-edge science and more than 100 years of research. This natural, functional-foods based approach offers renewed help for permanently addressing the dangers of untreated depression, anxiety and mania.
If you or someone you care about is suffering from concealed depression, it can often be enough to simply let them know you’ve felt alone and struggled with depression yourself, and are willing to listen, if they ever need to talk.