• Ami Sharma-Desai, LCSW

The face of depression

Updated: Jun 20, 2019

There is no one face to depression

Depression can feel paralzing

One of the biggest problems of depression is the stigma around what depression really looks like. The media often portrays a depressed person looking downtrodden in bed, having difficulty walking, appearing having difficulty functioning. In commercials advertising for anti-depressants, once on meds a person is often seen walking happily through a meadow of flowers. The harsh reality is either one of those scenarios can be a person who is filled with sadness and hopelessness.


A person doesn't have to look depressed to be depressed. People with depression often wear masks. They may not appear that they have problems. They often maintain full-time jobs, appear to be the life of a party, if in school-have a 4.0 GPA. On the outside things may appear great. However, on the inside they may be suffering from tremendous sadness, isolation, insomnia, and sometimes suicidal thoughts.


Not everyone experiences depression in the same way. When I was working in college counseling at Upenn, the university had coined the term "Penn Face. The "Penn Face" is similar to the idea of smiling depression- a defense mechanism, a facade to hide ones true feelings. I often see variations of the "Penn Face" in my practice. Often the clients I see who are most surprised they have depression are the ones who appear happy on the outside. Unconsciously or consciously, brushing their sadness aside. We think if we push our pain aside we can snap out of our negative feelings, make ourselves not feel depressed. But, we are not robots and we unfortunately cannot turn our feelings off. Denying and avoiding unpleasant emotions is only a temporary solution. Sooner or later emotions build up and become worse.


Depression affects people from all walks of life and ages. Unfortunately the stigma around depression can prevent people from getting the help they need. Depression is not a weakness. #breakthestigma #mentalhealthawareness


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