“People don’t fake depression; they fake being OK”: How to recognize depression in a loved one

When you meet someone, it’s easy to make a snap judgment about them. We believe that based on their behavior, personality and facial expressions during a conversation, that we have an understanding of who they are. But people often wear a mask, and you may be surprised to learn about what is truly underneath it. 

You may be surprised to learn that someone close to you has major depressive disorder. This disorder is more commonly known as depression. You may think, “Wow! They never seem sad. I see them laugh and smile all the time.” People with depression are good at wearing that mask in front of others, faking like they are OK. This can be especially true for the people nearest and dearest to us. 

Loved ones often pretend to be OK in front of us to avoid feeling like a burden or causing others to worry. But they always feel that weight, and it’s important to remember that people don’t fake having depression. They just fake being OK. That’s why it’s vital to take note of possible depression in your loved ones so you can support them and help them find effective treatment. 

Signs of depression you may see in loved ones who are faking that they are OK

There is a difference between sadness and depression. Recognizing possible depression in a loved one isn’t easy. This is especially true when they may be trying to hide it from those around them. However, there are depression signs that you can look out for even when someone is trying to hide them, including:  

  • Isolation — People with depression embrace isolation in different ways. Some avoid people by staying at home; they struggle to leave the house. Others may show a lack of energy as well as a fear of social interaction with others. 
  • Emotional distance — Pulling away from friends and family is a sign of depression that often goes hand in hand with isolation. This is a prime example of pretending to be OK because it’s harder for people to put on a mask in front of those who know them best, especially for long periods of time. For instance, they may have more difficulty maintaining their mask at an extended social gathering with friends or family. 
  • Substance abuseIncreased use of alcohol and drugs is an especially dangerous sign of depression. Sometimes, individuals struggling with their mental health will turn to substances in hopes that it will make their minds “forget” about their melancholy thoughts.
  • Being overwhelmed — Being unable to handle everyday responsibilities and stress is a common sign of depression. For instance, those with depression may feel unable to brush their teeth or make a phone call. Even common tasks like these can be seen as mentally, emotionally and physically taxing for a client.
  • Habit changes — Many people have relatively consistent routines, especially when it comes to eating and sleeping. For example, you may set an alarm to wake up every day or plan your meals in advance. Significant changes to these habits can be a possible sign of depression, such as sleeping for longer periods of time or reducing the amount of food consumed.

These symptoms may be a sign that a person’s depression is not faked, but their positivity is.

How to help someone dealing with depression stop faking like they are OK

It can be difficult to approach the subject of depression with anyone, but it can be even more nerve-wracking if the person is someone close to you, especially because it’s important to respect their emotional boundaries. Many people struggling with their mental health may not be the most open about their feelings. But letting them know that you see their struggles can make a big difference.

Once you decide to ask your friend or family member about their feelings and behavior, it can be hard for them to find the motivation to start their treatment journey. Starting treatment may be daunting for them to think about, especially if they have other things that require their time and energy, such as school, work or taking care of a family. But pointing out the long-term goals of treating their depression, like better focus and emotional presence, can help them realize that the short-term stress is worth it. The best part about you helping them see the possibilities of finding treatment is you help them see that they truly aren’t alone. Not only do they have you by their side, but they also have mental health professionals to help them take their first step toward improvement.

Our Lightfully Behavioral Health team can help them stop pretending to be OK

There are many resources available that provide support for a variety of mental health concerns, depression included, for both you and those close to you. If you believe that your loved one is just faking that they are OK, it’s important to remember that change is possible. When your loved one is ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward their fullest, brightest version of themselves.

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