Having depression might seem like it would be something obvious, but not all people who are depressed experience the typical symptoms of major depression. If you're feeling down and frustrated for prolonged periods of time but are still able to get through your day-to-day life,
you may have walking depression. Although walking depression — sometimes called smiling depression — isn't a clinical term, it's what is used colloquially to refer to someone who feels depressed and unhappy, but is still able to walk, talk, and get through their day while seeming just fine to everyone on the outside.
There is a clinical term for a less-severe depression called Dysthymia (
also called Persistent Depressive Disorder), and it is described as a long-term depression that is not as severe as Major Depressive Disorder. But what separates walking depression from dysthymia is how the symptoms affect your life. Typically, a person with walking depression experiences fewer symptoms than someone with major depression, and these symptoms do not get in the way of your social or occupational functioning. Someone with Dysthymia may experience more disruption due to these symptoms.
Walking depression can be particularly dangerous because people who are suffering are less likely to get the emotional support they need. "It is a hidden experience and can also make people especially lonely,"
psychologist Nicole Issa, PsyD tells Bustle. "In fact, individuals with walking depression may not even know they are depressed because they do not look like a typical person with depression."
Treating your walking depression is just as important as treating major depression, which is why it's vital to pay attention to symptoms. If you've been experiencing some mood changes, but you're not exhibiting the classic signs of depression, look out for these seven signs that you might have walking depression.
Your Usual Habits Don't Bring You Joy
Walking depression can be characterized by a lack of positive emotion rather than intense despair or distress, which can make this type of depression less obvious. "This can be especially difficult for people to recognize if they have gradually slid into depression, since it isn’t easy to pick out a period where they switched from having positive experiences and feeling motivated to lacking interest and pleasure,"
psychologist Randall Morris-Ostrom, PsyD, LP tells Bustle.
You Avoid Social Situations
Someone with walking depression is likely to
avoid social situations, as it can be exhausting putting on a happy face. "Often when we are able to push ourselves to function in our daily life, it leaves no extra energy for socializing," therapist Kati Morton, LMFT tells Bustle. "You may find yourself canceling plans, just wanting to be alone a lot, and withdrawing from those you love and care for."
Irritability can be another sign of a more subtle depression. "If you find yourself more impatient and grumpy than usual, and it persists, it could signal that there's something more going on than just waking up on the wrong side of the bed,"
psychologist Jo Eckler, Psy.D., RYT, tells Bustle. "This is especially relevant if you're usually easygoing. If you go from typically embodying compassionate patience to sudden major road rage, it could be fueled by depression."
People with walking depression often experience fatigue and exhaustion, which sometimes can co-occur with insomnia. "Getting through a day when mood and energy are low or anxiety is high can be a significant and exhausting hurdle for people,"
psychiatrist Alex Dimitriu, MD, tells Bustle. "I often hear clients describe themselves as 'sick and tired' on most days for some time as an expression of this fatigue."
You Have Trouble Concentrating
Trouble with memory, focus, and concentration can be part of depression. "[Do you] read and re-read emails, still not knowing what it said?" Morton asks. "Is it hard to focus, even to watch TV? Many of my clients will tell me that they struggle to even follow a plot in a movie or TV show, and will have to go back to rewatch portions of it."
You're Using Other Things To Escape
If you find yourself turning to coping mechanisms frequently, it could be
a sign of depression. "This could be drinking more alcohol, zoning out in front of the TV, playing a video game, or even [changes in your eating habits]," Morton says. "If you find yourself slipping back into old (or even new) unhealthy habits, please reach out and talk to someone about it. Getting a handle on these issues early allows you to find healthier coping skills to replace them more easily." Editors' Note: If you or someone you know is seeking help for substance use, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357).
You Have A Low Sex Drive
While having a varying sex drive is common, take note if a low sex drive seems persistent. "Sexual function may also be affected, with loss of interest in sex, erectile dysfunction in men, and lack of interest in intimate relationships," Dr. Dimitriu says. "Again, in most of these cases, the gas tank is empty, and in the cases of high functioning depression, these are luxuries that cannot be afforded."
If any of these symptoms sound familiar to you, see a professional who can help give you an accurate diagnosis and the right type of treatment for your specific depression.