Stop Saying You’re Fine: How to Recognize and Address “Smiling Depression”

Do you ever feeling like you are putting on a false happy face for the world? If someone asks how you’re doing, you’ll instinctively reply, “I’m fine.” Are you, really?

As Mel Robbins puts it in her eye-opening book, Stop Saying You’re Fine, too many of us lean on this vague metric rather than admitting to ourselves that we’re unhappy with where we are in life or that we feel stuck in our current situation. While Robbins’ book doesn’t expressly refer to mental illness, I see clients in my practice who have described themselves as “fine” when they are really suffering from depression.

Why do we say we’re fine when we’re not? Because it’s so much easier to provide a socially acceptable lie and go on our way than to admit that we’re having a hard time. Some of us don’t care to burden others with the details of our emotional pain. Others may not even realize they are suffering.

What is “Smiling Depression?”

“Smiling depression” frequently slips under everyone’s radar. This happens because the general picture of depression portrays someone who neglects their hygiene, withdraws from others, and fails to function in school or work.

In comparison to lower-functioning depressed persons, an individual with smiling depression may have trouble recognizing their illness. Symptoms of smiling depression may be easily overlooked; they include sleep disruption, decline in sex drive, and displeasure in previously enjoyable activities. You may grapple with chronic feelings of sadness, fear, worthlessness, or despair. But, you do—eventually—get out of bed each morning and face your day.

Deep down, you know that something’s off, but you also see yourself functioning in your marriage, career, and family life. Therefore, you think “I must be okay.” If you think you may be experiencing smiling depression, it can help to see an experienced therapist.

How can I improve my “Smiling Depression?”

Admit You’re Not Fine

Denial often prevents people with smiling depression from getting professional help from a counselor. Therefore, a good starting place is to confess what you’re feeling to someone you trust. Go to your partner, parent, or best friend and admit, “I’m not doing so well…” Afterwards, you may sigh with relief that you no longer have to put on a false face.

Introduce Self-Care

If you have smiling depression, you may work extra hard to convince yourself that you’re okay. This often translates to taking on too many responsibilities and neglecting your own well-being. Carve out time from your busy schedule to care for yourself. Cook a delicious, healthy meal. Take a walk in the park or by the river. Schedule a spa day. Do more things that pour back into yourself instead of the other way around.

See a Therapist

It can be challenging to recover from smiling depression on your own. Professional therapy can help you get better faster. A therapist offers an unbiased ear, someone with whom you can share your frustrations and worries without fearing judgment. Counseling can help you remove the mask you have been wearing and get closer to being your authentic self.

Don’t let busyness or fear keep you from getting help for smiling depression….it can get better.

Professional counseling can help you find hope and a way out of feeling hopeless and sad.


Attached Image: Getty: #469628862, Path:

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