Many people suffer through depression in our current society, but did you know there are different kinds of subtypes in depression? There’s Melancholic Depression where the stress exhausts out our brain energy, Seasonal Depression that occurs under certain seasons, and Postpartum Depression that happens after a female gives birth. In this post, we introduce you to what’s called Masked Depression, where most symptoms tend to manifest physically than mentally.

What is Masked Depression?

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What’s your first thought when you hear the word “depression”? Most people think of sadness, avoidance, and low motivation. Yes, those are typical symptoms of depression. However, there are people who have no obvious mental symptoms like that who carry physical symptoms like headaches, burnout, and shoulder pain. These are signs of masked depression.

Masked depression is where all the symptoms manifest physical rather than mental. The headache, fatigue, or shoulder pain suddenly shows up one day and starts to affect the everyday. Usually, doctor examinations won’t show any apparent results or causes, but the physical symptoms will sometimes worsen to a point where it’s difficult to continue a healthy life.

In other words, masked depression tends to be “masked” with physical symptoms, that it’s hard to even recognize the possibility of “depression.”

Who Is Prone to Masked Depression?

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Typical signs of masked depression:

  • Headache
  • Burnout
  • Shoulder pain
  • Constant fatigue
  • Stomachache and loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Fever

These are just a few examples of the physical symptoms depression can cause. This leads to some doctors diagnosing masked depression as a sign of onset early depression.

The problem with masked depression is that most people don’t feel any kind of mental symptoms while the physical symptoms start to appear. People usually think that they’re ‘just tired’ or ‘have a cold’ at the moment and leave it at that. When depression is left undiagnosed, the symptoms tend to drag on.

People who are always busy or have high standards will continue to push while they ignore their physical signs thinking, “this is not a good enough excuse to rest or go seek help.” This can lead to risks of more serious symptoms if they are in fact going through masked depression.

Prevent Masked Depression Through Stress Recognition

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Masked depression, similarly to other types of depression, is primarily caused by stress. Therefore, the preventative measures for it are consistent with the other types of depression.

To prevent masked depression, it’s important that we don’t hold onto stress. Healthy wake-sleep cycles and adequate rest will allow a person to stay aware of the slightest changes in their stress levels. Make sure that you don’t miss the signs of stress.

When we are aware of our own stress levels, we have a better ability to suspect the physical symptoms as possible early-onset depression.

It’s a good idea to find ways that allow you to relieve stress daily.

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How To Become Self-Aware of Your Stress

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Keep A Diary
Diary keeping is a basic method known to help depression in cognitive behavior therapy. You can understand what kind of stress you’re exposed to, by looking back and reflecting upon your day. Additionally, verbalizing and writing out your thoughts and feelings is an activity that helps reduce stress.

Intervention Bracelet

This is a method that allows you to recognize and bring awareness to your daily stressors. You wear a ring or a bracelet on one side and move it to the other side every time you feel stress. Researchers at the University of Texas revealed that this method helps with stress reduction and improves self-esteem. Check out the post below for more details on this.

Don’t Self-Diagnose Your Symptoms

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When our bodies feel sluggish or there’s shoulder pain, most of us associate it with a mild cold, tiredness, or aging. However, our beliefs and experiences aren’t always right. You should never leave physical symptoms unattended. We recommend that you rethink and suspect the possibilities of masked depression if you’re under a lot of stress.

There is no way to recognize the possibilities of masked depression if you’re not aware that you’re feeling stressed. The best preventative measure is to build self-awareness towards the stress that you’re exposed to every day.

Think You Might Have Masked Depression?

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Masked depression is a subtype of depression that sometimes can’t be fixed by just obtaining healthy lifestyle choices. Some cases require medication and therapy. If you feel that there is a possibility of masked depression, try to seek professional help.


Hasegawa, K., & Watanabe, N. (1989). Depression and Psychosomatic medicine. The Japanese Society of Psychosomatic Medicine29(5), 427–435.

About the Author


As a writer, worked on many medical-related articles based on academic papers. Specializes in articles on mental health and stress care.

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