How to Know You Have Perfectly Hidden Depression (PHD)?

Last Update on September 2, 2021 : Published on September 2, 2021
perfectly hidden depression

Did you know that some people have the capability of hiding depression even from themselves? Strange right? How can someone not know about their own feelings? Is it possible to fool yourself? Well, according to Dr. Margret Rutherford, it is possible!

Dr. Margret’s book, Perfectly Hidden Depression (PHD), has drawn my interest lately. She talks about how perfectionism can mask your depression and how we can break free. She has even prepared a questionnaire to test people with (PHD).

To Take a Test click here!

And today I am aiming to explore more about hidden depression and its characteristics. But first let’s get a brief understanding of hidden depression.

What is a Perfectly Hidden Depression (PHD)?

Let’s understand this in a very, very simple way. We are all aware of what depression looks like. Many people even try to hide their depression from others. But this case is different, here the depression is hidden from the very person himself!

Well, we cannot say that it is completely hidden but in terms of consciousness, you may not be consciously aware of depression. In the quiet of the night, deep down that loneliness and shame (of being incompetent) may hit you. But your brain will quickly push that thought away.

That’s why I think it’s not completely hidden. Having said that, not being consciously aware of it is hidden enough. Because only Sigmund Freud had a way with the unconscious mind. Normal people like me can barely handle the conscious mind!

Also read: Woke Up Feeling Depressed? Here’s What You Need To Know About Morning Depression

If you can’t identify your depression, I think it’s next to impossible for people around you to do it for you. The major problem here is that you might not have any symptoms. You don’t fit in the criteria of neither minor depression nor major depression.

Because you may seem far too confident and driven to be depressed. Now the question arises here is how can some even be depressed if there are no symptoms?

PHD is found in people who hold a belief that expressing or even having emotions is a sign of weakness. This belief is injected into the brain in the younger days, when emotions are ridiculed and not given enough importance.

Some people grow up believing that emotions are not for them. Everyone has emotions but people with PDH feel troubled while experiencing emotions and this pulls them towards depression. Perfectionism is another thing that is very, very common in people suffering from PHD.

Also read: 7 Effective Ways to Overcome Perfectionism

Such people bury themselves in work and are always trying to perfect things. They do this to mask their emotions and depression. They are so obsessed with perfecting work and life that they completely ignore their thoughts and emotions. This leads to a perfectly hidden depression.

Now that you know what hidden depression is, let’s see what it may look like in an individual…

Signs and Characteristics of PHD

  • Perfectionism (caused by inner shame)
  • Difficulty in expressing/accepting emotions (mostly painful)
  • Counting their blessing (avoiding troubling issues)
  • Inability to maintain personal relationships (excel professionally though)
  • Worry too much (especially about things that aren’t in control)
  • Excessive concern about others health
  • Aren’t open about their feelings
  • Use accomplishments to feel valuable
  • Intense focus on tasks

These signs may look very generic in nature but if you identify with these signs, you may be suffering from hidden depression. Let’s look at how a person may behave or feel while going through a hidden depression.

1. Critical inner voice of intense shame.

There is a constant self-evaluation. You want to be the perfect parent, professional, friends, sibling and partner. There is no space for mistakes or imperfection. And when you fail to live up to your own standards you begin to feel intense shame.

2. Difficulty in dealing with emotions.

You look down upon the mere existence of your emotions. You see emotions as a sign of weakness. Neither will you acknowledge that you are feeling a certain way nor are you ready to express your feelings.

Also Read The Importance Of Expressing Emotions #I_Feel_It_All

3. Tend to avoid situations where you feel vulnerable or powerless.

There are chances that you may feel like running away from situations where you begin to lose control. In PHD a person only wants to be at places where he/she can control everything.

4. Excessive sense of responsibility

You may be a very good leader but fail to delegate most of the time. You take each failure way too personally. This leads to self-doubt and guilt.

5. Dismiss feeling hurt and abused

Now this is a skill I must say. There is a tendency to keep the feelings of hurt, despair and abuse on a hold. You push the painful feelings aside and tell yourself that you’ll deal with them when you are ready (which you might never be).

6. Toxic exterior optimism

You can’t tolerate any sort of flaw/imperfection in a situation or even yourself. Now to avoid feeling anything you start to count on your blessing. Because how can you accept that things can go wrong too and it’s okay!

Food for thought…

I have gathered information about the signs and characteristics of perfectly hidden depression to make your lives easy. It’s not something that is easily identifiable.

Trust me there are so many people who are suffering with PHD and aren’t even aware of it. If you identify with such signs try contacting a professional. Maybe PHD is the reason behind your excessive worry, restless nights and unsettled mind.

In fact there are studies that show that people who commit sudden suicides (successful or not) are mostly suffering from perfectly hidden depression. Keep the signs and characteristics in mind so that you can save yourself and your family and friends.

Remember, people with PHD will never ask for help because they might not even know they need help.

For more information, you can connect with us on social media or write to us at We’re always looking forward to hearing from you!

I hope this article helps you identify perfectly hidden depression in you and your family and friends. Be there for each other because that’s how we can grow!

Thanks for reading.

Take care! Stay safe!

About The Author

Kirti Bhati
Kirti Bhati

I am an English literature (major) and psychology (minor) graduate from St. Bede’s College, Shimla. Postgraduate in Clinical psychology from IIS University, Jaipur. She has published a Research paper on Music therapy in the military population and Workplace stress in a national seminar conducted by Fortis hospital (gurugram) and international seminar conducted by St. Bede’s College, Shimla, Respectively. Authored a dissertation work on ‘effect of social media addiction on the mental and physical well-being in adolescents’ Currently working at calm sage as a writer.

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