How is humor a sign of depression?


The tragic death of the beloved Robin Williams has everyone asking "how?" Robin starred in many magnificent movie roles and was well known for his on screen talents. As with any national figure who has passed, you turn on the TV, radio or search through Facebook and everyone is in mourning, trying to collect the pieces. The question remains, how could a famous comedian be depressed to the point of suicide?

This answer begins with our definition or stereotype of depression. If you ask most of us, a depressed person is described as someone who exhibits the following: shyness, loss of interest, speaks minimally, isolates, sadness, tears, anger, poor appearance, has trouble eating or sleeping, does not smile or even laugh. Even though the above is true for most depressed clients, it is only a generalization. Depression can be masked or hidden if we really try to not make it apparent. This hidden depression is extremely dangerous since family, friends and loved ones are unaware of possible underlying symptoms. 

Someone who is depressed does not necessarily have to be honest about it and may use humor to cover a very sad truth. Humor and laughter are emotions quite opposite from sadness or anger which are typically associated with depression. For Robin Williams laughter was his way of coping with his true loneliness and despair. Some depressed clients, believe facing true and uncomfortable emotions is too frightening and they would rather just avoid any sorrow. Unfortunately, Robin used humor as his coping skill and all too well. 

As grief stricken fans, now all we can do is learn, hope and become more aware of depression symptoms. Depression can lead to suicide and depression does not always fit a stereotype. Do not be fooled by those around you who may seem to have it all, many people hide their true emotions for their own self protection. Being vulnerable and learning to face our demons without humor can be a true feat in itself.