Can you be happy with depression?


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Page last updated: 22/10/2022

Can you be happy with depression ?

Yes, you can have moments of joy with depression. In this article we will learn the myths surrounding depression and what are some clinical features of atypical depression as well as understand the concept of “smiling depression”. 

One of the most common, longstanding, and infuriating misconceptions about depression is that it implies that depressed individuals are always unhappy – thus, by implication, that those who are joyful can’t be depressed, even if they claim to be.

This fosters a skewed perception of what mental disorders look like and invalidate feelings if a person does not fit the stereotype of mental illnesses. It further stigmatises and isolates persons suffering from depression and other mental health issues. This is because, to put it frankly, depression does not make you unhappy all of the time – but the amount of sorrow a patient feels varies depending on the individual and the severity of their depression.

Depression expresses itself in different ways and at different periods in different people. Various behaviours are not evidence positive that someone is or isn’t depressed, and asserting that someone isn’t depressed solely because of a display of something other than profound, ingrained sadness is deliberately destructive, as is any armchair diagnosis.

Let’s begin with the basics. What do we know about depression? 

Depression symptoms and causes 

Depression, the most prevalent mood disorder worldwide, has been indicated as an increasing social burden and as causing a significant proportion of mortality. Depression, occurring beyond or around and even among us, is the most common mental illness. 

As defined in the recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th edition), outlines the following criterion to make a diagnosis of depression. The individual must be experiencing five or more symptoms during the same 2-week period and at least one of the symptoms should be either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure.

Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder may include but are not exhaustive of:

  • Feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities.
  • Loss or weight or weight gain.
  • Difficulties sleeping or excessive sleepiness.
  • Noticeable restlessness or slowness.
  • Lack of energy.
  • Troubles concentrating and indecisiveness.
  • Feeling of worthless and excessive guilt.
  • Continued thoughts of wanting to die.

Major Depressive Disorder ranges from mild, moderate to severe depending on the intensity of symptoms and the extent of impaired functioning. Psychotic features may be present. If repeated episodes occur, it is considered recurring and can be in partial or full remission.

Can you be happy with depression?

People with depression are at risk of suicide, especially if they have made attempts or threats in the past. According to DSM-5. high levels of negativity, a difficult childhood, and life stressors like divorce or losing a job can be precursors to depression. 

There is also a genetic component and people with an immediate family member who has experienced depression are two to four times more likely to have depressive symptoms than the general population (DSM-5).

Happiness and depression 

Happiness, on the other hand, is both a feeling and a subjective assessment of one’s life. Psychologists use happiness and life satisfaction surveys to pose questions like “Is your life near to ideal?” and “Do you have the main things you want?” As a result, while happy and depressed symptoms normally travel in opposite directions (the more of one, the less of the other), they can sometimes rise and fall together since they represent distinct things.

Clinical depression, like many other conditions, is classified as mild, moderate, or severe. A somewhat depressed person may be depressed most of the time but manages to keep up appearances, whereas a seriously depressed person finds it difficult to get out of bed. If, on the other hand, sorrow only strikes once in a while and never prevents you from attending your morning meetings or your closest friend’s birthday party, it may be termed as something else. 

There’s several terms, one of which is a diagnosis called Atypical Depression, also called depression with atypical features — means that your depressed mood can brighten in response to positive events. 

Other key symptoms include increased appetite, sleeping too much, feeling that your arms or legs are heavy, and feeling rejected.

Symptoms of atypical depression can vary from person to person. Key signs and symptoms may include:

  • Depression that temporarily lifts in response to good news or positive events
  • Increased appetite or weight gain
  • Sleeping too much but still feeling sleepy in the daytime
  • Heavy, leaden feeling in your arms or legs that lasts an hour or more in a day
  • Sensitivity to rejection or criticism, which affects your relationships, social life or job

What is ‘Smiling depression’?

Smiling depression involves appearing happy to others and smiling through the pain, keeping the inner turmoil hidden. It’s a major depressive disorder with atypical symptoms, and as a result, many don’t know they’re depressed or don’t seek help.

While psychologists do not use the phrase “smiling depression,” it is undoubtedly possible to be depressed and effectively disguise the symptoms. “Atypical depression” is the closest technical word for this illness. In reality, a large percentage of people who suffer from depression and a lack of interest in activities are able to conceal their symptoms in this way.

It might be difficult to recognise persons who are suffering from smiling depression. They may appear to have no reason to be unhappy since they have a job, an apartment, and maybe children or a spouse. They greet you with a grin and can have a great chat. In other words, they wear a mask to the outer world while appearing to live regular, busy lives.

Despite the fact that persons with smiling depression put on a “happy face” to the outer world, pleasant events in their life might really raise their spirits. 

Receiving a text message from someone they’ve been waiting to hear from or being complimented at work, for example, might make them feel better for a few seconds before returning to their previous state.

It’s really common. About one out of every ten persons is sad, and 15 percent to 40% of these people have an unusual kind of melancholy that looks like smiling depression. Depression like this frequently begins early in life and lasts a long period.

Risk of suicide 

People who have features of atypical depression or ‘smiling depression’ have a higher risk of suicidal behaviour. Suicide and death are common ideas among those who are depressed. 

However, those suffering from severe depression may lack the energy to make a strategy and carry it through. While everybody suffering from depression is at danger of suicide, those suffering from smiling depression may be at an even higher risk because to their high-functioning features.

Individuals with cheerful sadness frequently have the stamina to act on suicide ideas. Individuals with smiling sadness, on the other hand, are frequently mistreated. In addition, untreated depression can worsen over time, increasing the risk of suicide.

Treatment for atypical depression 

Most persons with depression, even those with atypical depression, can benefit from medication and talk therapy (psychotherapy). Medications might be prescribed by your health care physician or a psychiatrist to alleviate symptoms. Many persons with atypical depression, on the other hand, benefit from visiting a psychologist or other mental health practitioner as well.

Speaking with a professional can be incredibly helpful for depression symptoms, as a professional can help you come up with personalized strategies for coping and tactics for negative thought processes. If they believe you might benefit from medications or group therapy, they can refer you.

Talk therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes are effective treatments for MDD with atypical features. But there are other ways to cope with symptoms:

  • Write in a journal every day.
  • Plan ahead and manage your time well.
  • Participate in activities that help manage stress, such as yoga, tai chi, or meditation.
  • Surround yourself with family and friends instead of isolating yourself.
  • Confide in a trusted friend.
  • Ask your doctor for information on local support groups for depression.

Like other types of depression, atypical depression is a serious illness that can cause major problems. Atypical depression can result in emotional, behavioral and health problems that affect every area of your life.

For example, atypical depression can be associated with:

  • Weight gain due to an increased appetite
  • Personal and work relationship problems due to rejection sensitivity
  • Drug or alcohol use due to trouble coping
  • Other mental health disorders such as anxiety
  • Suicide from feelings of depression


Those who are experiencing symptoms of depression should seek medical assistance. Depression can worsen without treatment and affect a person’s quality of life. 

Some of the classic symptoms of depression are, but not limited to: change in appetite, change in sleeping patterns and/or insomnia, lack of energy and motivation, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, inability to concentrate or make decisions and suicidal thoughts. 

Individuals who live with this may try so hard to put on a happy face. Take the first step and reach out for help. With the right treatment and support, the smile you have on the outside will soon match how you feel on the inside.