High-Functioning “Walking and Smiling Depression”: What are the Subtle Signs?

High-Functioning “Walking and Smiling Depression”: Subtle Signs

Some of your closest people will say that they don’t believe in depression and that they don’t really get all that since the person who is saying that he is depressed looks so put together from outside. But the people who are really struggling know that depression can take many forms. Not each person who is depressed demonstrate the typical symptoms. In fact, others may think that people who have smiling or walking depression have no real struggle, but the truth is that they are fighting from inside.

A leading website defines smiling depression [1] as something which makes people depressed from inside but they appear absolutely content and happy from outside. Their social life is totally in place and they might be described as perfect or normal by other people. People with walking depression are thought to be fine and privileged and so it is difficult for such people to disclose their struggles. So, people with smiling and walking depression may compensate how they feel on the inside by coming across as totally put together on outside.

A myth that persists is that people who seem put together from outside should not be anxious and depressed and this type of thinking is a hindrance to the treatment process. Mental illness does not discriminate. It can hit anyone, and money may be able to buy you better care, but it cannot treat mental illness.

A person experiencing smiling depression looks content and happy from outside. However, from within they would be feeling the disturbing symptoms of depression [2]. With more and more people opening up about their condition in public, it gives a platform to initiate a conversation about the common misconceptions of depression and anxiety.


It is not surprising but some people having smiling depression do not even know that they have the condition. It is extremely important to have knowledge about the same. Smiling or walking depression does not find a mention in the list of mental illnesses and is not an official diagnosis so it is difficult to detect, but it is a high functioning depression and if you are not the one who is experiencing the symptoms, the detection may not be possible.


Smiling depression also often goes unnoticed. People suffering from it don’t want to accept and they brush aside their feelings thinking it will fade away. They may not accept the symptoms, thinking if they do so they will be considered weak and sometimes people do not even know that they have the condition.

Rita Labeaune, Psy.D., says that there is no difference between the symptoms of regular depression and that of smiling or walking depression. So, if you have smiling or walking depression, you will experience sadness, loss of appetite, anxiety, fear, fatigue, inability to sleep, etc. But the striking difference is that walking depression won’t affect the everyday life tasks and does not interfere with the day to day responsibilities just like major depression does.

A great way to educate yourself regarding mental illness is to take a free course from Mental Health First Aid-USA. Check out their website and find one close to you. When you are aware of the signs and symptoms of mental illness, you will be in a better position to help others and also be able to identify them in yourself. Even Cynthia Germanotta (Lady Gaga’s mother) took the course and got to know a lot about depression and how to handle it. She says it helped her understand how mood and behaviour changes in normal people are different from mood variations that someone is dealing with, when they have a mental health issue. She feels, as a mother, she should have known it early since it would have been great to know if her children were going through normal adolescent development or if they were struggling with some mental health condition. It would have been really helpful.


If you are dealing with any mental health illness (depression or anxiety of any kind), it’s okay to ask for help because what you are going through is real. You don’t want to go through it alone and so you must seek help.