Masked Depression: Signs and Symptoms

Masked depression, also known as atypical depression, is a type of depressive disorder that is not easily recognized by people around the sufferer or even the patient themselves. Unlike major depression, it does not exhibit the usual depressive symptoms such as persistent sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, feelings of worthlessness, and thoughts of suicide.

People with masked depression may appear to be functioning normally on the surface, but they are still experiencing symptoms of depression internally. This can make it difficult for them to receive the care and support they need. Understanding the signs and symptoms of masked depression is essential in identifying and treating the condition.

What is Masked Depression?

Masked depression is a subtype of depression that is characterized by symptoms that are not easily recognizable as depression. People with masked depression may present with symptoms that are atypical of depression or symptoms that can be attributed to other medical conditions.

Unlike traditional depression, masked depression can be difficult to detect, as most people who have it may not appear sad or depressed. Instead, they may experience symptoms such as anxiety, increased appetite, weight gain, hypersomnia (excessive sleeping), fatigue, and low self-esteem.

What are the Symptoms of Masked Depression?

Masked depression is characterized by a range of symptoms that may be hard to identify as depressive symptoms. These include:

1. Increased Appetite and Weight gain

People with masked depression may have an increased appetite, which can lead to weight gain. This is often a symptom of depression, but it can also be a side effect of some medications.

2. Hypersomnia

People with masked depression may sleep excessively, not because they are physically tired, but as a way to cope with their emotional pain.

3. Fatigue

Fatigue and lack of energy are common symptoms of depression. People with masked depression may experience fatigue even when they have not engaged in any physical activity.

4. Anxiety

People with masked depression may experience unease, nervousness, and fear, even when nothing seems to be causing them distress.

5. Aches and Pains

People with masked depression may experience physical symptoms such as headaches, backaches, stomachaches, and muscle pains.

6. Low Self-Esteem

People with masked depression may have negative thoughts about themselves or feel worthless, which can lead to a low self-esteem.

What Causes Masked Depression?

Studies have shown that masked depression may be caused by a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and biological factors.

Some of the risk factors for masked depression include:

1. Family History of Depression

People with a family history of depression are at increased risk of developing masked depression.

2. Stressful Life Events

Stressful life events such as trauma, loss of a loved one, divorce, or job loss can trigger depression.

3. Chronic Illness

Chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease can also increase the risk of developing masked depression.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing masked depression can be challenging, but it is essential as early diagnosis and treatment can help manage the symptoms and improve the quality of life of the patient. A mental health professional may diagnose masked depression through a combination of a physical exam, lab tests, and a thorough evaluation of symptoms.

Treatment options for masked depression include:

1. Medications

Antidepressant medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) may be prescribed to help manage the symptoms of masked depression. These medications work by increasing certain chemical messengers in the brain that regulate mood.

2. Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is a type of counseling that helps people with depression identify and change negative patterns of thinking and behavior. It can be used alone or in combination with medication.

3. Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, healthy diet, and getting enough sleep can also help manage the symptoms of masked depression.

Conclusion

Masked depression is a subtype of depression that is not easily recognized by those around the sufferer or even the person themselves. It can present with symptoms that are atypical of depression, making it challenging to diagnose and treat.

Understanding the signs and symptoms of masked depression is essential to identifying the condition early and providing the necessary care and support to manage and improve the quality of life of the patient. Treatment options for masked depression include medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes, and these options can be used alone or in combination to achieve positive outcomes.

FAQs

FAQ 1: What is Masked Depression?

Masked depression refers to when an individual who is experiencing depression may not show the typical depressive symptoms that one might expect. Instead, they may be highly functional, appear happy and friendly, and keep up a positive exterior. However, behind this “mask” lies a deep sense of sadness, hopelessness, and despair.

FAQ 2: What are some signs of Masked Depression?

There are several signs that can indicate someone is experiencing masked depression. These can include overworking or over-exercising to suppress their unpleasant emotions, a lack of interest in activities they once enjoyed, a fear of being seen as weak, isolating themselves from others, and using drugs or alcohol to numb their feelings. It’s important to note that every individual is different and may experience depression differently.

FAQ 3: What can I do if I suspect someone I know is experiencing Masked Depression?

If you suspect that someone you know is experiencing masked depression, the best thing you can do is approach them with empathy and care. Listen to them without judgment, offer your support, and gently encourage them to seek professional help if needed. Remember that depression is an illness, and it’s important to treat it with the same level of care and understanding as any physical condition.


References

1. Pilkonis, P. A., Heape, C. L., Rounsaville, B. J., & Watkins, J. T. (1995). Masked depression: A report of validity. Journal of Personality Assessment, 65(3), 446-457. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327752jpa6503_6

2. Brockner, J., & Wiesenfeld, B. (1996). An integrative framework for explaining reactions to decisions: Interactive effects of outcomes and procedures. Psychological Bulletin, 120(1), 189-208. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.120.1.189

3. Kessler, R. C., Chiu, W. T., Demler, O., & Walters, E. E. (2005). Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of 12-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62(6), 617-627. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1001/archpsyc.62.6.617