What Is Concealed Depression?

Reviewed by Dawn Brown, LPC, NCC

Published 06/24/2022

Depression isn't just about feeling down; it's a mood disorder which the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) explains as a condition characterized by severe symptoms that affect your feelings, thoughts, and actions (including working, eating, and sleeping). To be diagnosed with depression, your symptoms must be present for at least 14 days. 

Depression can appear in different forms. Many people may think everyone experiencing depression must feel down from time to time; this is actually not always true. There is a form of depression that is entirely different from what several people believe. This form is called “concealed depression." If you're suffering from concealed depression, you won't feel sad most of the time because your symptoms have been “masked" by you.

Technically, concealed depression can also be called "masked depression" or "hidden depression." The terms "concealed, ""masked," and "hidden" indicate that you intentionally secrete your mental illness, which perhaps implies that you don't want to trouble people around you with your challenges— you want to fight the battle all by yourself. For those experiencing concealed depression, the mood will not be considered as a factor.  Hiding depression is not that easy, and that is why people with concealed depression are seen to be "masters at masking their true feelings." In fact, they may be people you see to be most outgoing, lively, and with the brightest smile.

Those with concealed depression may rely on behavioral manners as an attempt to manage their symptoms — they may try to look undepressed and attempting to downplay their distress. Masking their condition does not imply that they won't complain about any symptoms. Actually, some of them may complain about some somatic or physical symptoms, including backaches, headaches, chest pains, abdominal pains, tingling, and so on.  It's medically advisable to see your doctor when you begin to experience an episode of depressive symptoms, or click here to take an online depression test to know for potential clarity on the symptoms you see.

Besides, hidden depression may be in the form of compulsive behaviors. These compulsive-type behaviors may include compulsive gambling, becoming a workaholic, and substance abuse to conceal the common depressive symptoms such as sadness and loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy.

What Are The Signs Of Concealed Depression?

Generally, depression can be overwhelming and can have negative implications on your overall well-being. Concealed depression, as a form of depression, has many symptoms that are subtle and difficult to identify. Some signs may be noticed in the habits of those struggling with concealed depression. So, if you have anyone showing any of these signs, try to talk to them about it. Discussing their issues with them can help them to unconcealed their mood disorder. The following are signs you may see: 

  • Abnormal Sleeping Habits: Sleeping problems (insomnia and hypersomnia) are common depressive symptoms you may experience if you're suffering from concealed depression. Sleeping can be seen as a tentative escape from extreme depression. For those suffering from concealed depression, masking your depressed state from others can drain you physically and emotionally. Sleep deprivation can lead to persistent tiredness in someone experiencing concealed depression. Also, they may sleep more often.
  • Loss Of Interest In Activities Once Enjoyed. Although this may not be evident sometimes because they know how to hide their feelings, some may show this sign by lacking enthusiasm in activities they used to enjoy. They may stop activities such as playing the piano for months or quit engaging in sports.
  • Unique Ability And Expressiveness: It may sound strange that someone depressed can often be loud. Actually, this is one reason why the condition is referred to as being "hidden." People suffering from concealed depression are often expressive and relented. Usually, they talk through music, comedy, poetry, writing, and art. They are gifted in linking both the good and bad sides of their personalities.
  • Creation Of Cover-Up Stories: Those suffering from concealed depression are good at creating great cover-up stories to justify their feelings or reasons for doing/not doing some specific things. These stories may be to explain why they failed to return your calls or show up for dinner, why they feel so tired, or sometimes why they hurt themselves (cutting or bruising in their arms). If you have people who skip important meetings more often or become more secretive than they were before, this may be a sign of Concealed depression.
  • Abandonment Issues: On several occasions, people with concealed depression may be filled with the fear of being a people they are closed to. This may explain their constant sensational habits of smiling, cracking jokes, or laughing to masks their feelings. They are occupied with the fearful thoughts that you may abandon them if they express their true emotional state to you.
  • Habitual Remedies: Those with concealed depression have healthy habits they never skip. These habits may include exercising or running, going for a drive or a walk, and listening to music. You can know if they are suffering from concealed depression if these habits are excessive or take these habits more seriously if they miss out on them a day, possibly because of a schedule change. 
  • Appetite Loss Or Overeating: Those suffering from depression can develop some eating habits, which may consequently affect their weight. They may feel indifferent about food or turn to food as a method to relieve their conditions. Basically, dietary habit changes can usually be a depressive symptom. Appetite loss or overeating can result in weight loss or gain, respectively.

  • Inordinate Thinking About Life And Death: Several individuals suffering from concealed depression tend to usually think obsessively about life, death, how both terms are deeply perceived by them or their society. Their views about life and death are often unique and complex, which may emanate from an intense idea about their predisposition to death and how valuable their lives are.
  • Search Of purpose Externally: Those with concealed depression often try to find their way in life purposely to hide their fear to be seen as inadequate. They may tend to frequently change their living situations or jobs to compensate for their challenges. Also, they make different desperate attempts to seek something external that will give them a purpose of living rather than looking internally into themselves.
  • Small And Subtle Cries For Assistance And subtle Cries For Assistance: Even though concealed depression is characterized by masking true feelings and thoughts, there are times people suffering from this condition tend to subtly reveal their emotions to someone they can trust with their feelings. To not be seen as people with mental challenges, a burden to those around them, or being judged, it's pertinent that their loved ones make them (those suffering from concealed depression) believe that they are safe to talk about what they are truly going through.

Most time, those battling with depression often have feelings of being alone and thinking that other people are entirely different from them based on the way others live their lives happily and purposely. So, you must let out your true feelings to your loved ones. Be honest about feeling down, anxious, and stressed. Revealing your emotional problems to people suffering from concealed depression can make such people feel safe to discuss their challenges with you.

  • Appearing Very Happy: Those with concealed depression will usually make attempts to show others how happy they are. They can post on social media the amount of fun they are having or how great their lives have been. They often find it difficult to admit that they are sad or going through tough times.
  • Knowledge About Medications, Alcohol, And Drugs: Those battling with concealed depression may have intensive knowledge about the effects of substances and drugs such as alcohol (a depressant) and caffeine (a stimulant). They know that substances and medications can alter their mood.
  • Striving To Be Perfect And Covering Their Imperfections: Here, in order not to be judged by others, label as being mentally disturbed, or being hate or rejected by others, they may tend to always try to appear perfect by protecting their heart and identity, themselves, and even people around them from their problems.

What Are The Treatment Options For Concealed Depression?

Just like other forms of depression, those suffering from concealed depression have different options for treatment. These may include:

  • Psychoeducation: Psychoeducation can help you reduce the levels of your distress you you're experiencing hidden depression. It can help you understand the link between your feelings and behavior and help grow an actual self- concept.
  • Medications: There are different classes of antidepressants that can help deal with concealed depression. Ensure that you take medications only if prescribed by a psychiatrist.
  • Psychotherapy: Your therapist may recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for the treatment of concealed depression. CBT helps people address their belief system, behaviors, and attitudes. Other forms of psychotherapy, such as talk therapy or counseling, can also be of help.
  • Lifestyle Changes And Support: Different lifestyle changes can help improve your condition. These may include eating a healthy diet, switching jobs, engaging in regular exercise and meditation, and quitting drug or alcohol use. It can also be beneficial if you can vet social support from friends and family.