Check on Your 'Always Happy' Friends   

Check on Your 'Always Happy' Friends

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Clinical Contributors to this story:
Yeraz N Markarian, PhD

It’s easy to think that people are happier than you, or happy all the time, because they seem to constantly have a smile on their face. But those who appear to be “always happy” could be managing a mental disorder such as high-functioning anxiety or depression.

It may be time to check in with a friend who exhibits this behavior to be sure that what looks like an ideal and sublime life really is that.

The truth is, to be completely satisfied with life is not easy for anyone no matter what “it looks like.” 

“Being happy all of the time is unrealistic and a fictitious version of the way things really are,” says Yeraz N. Markarian, Ph.D., psychologist at Hackensack University Medical Center. “In the real world, pain and suffering, and ups and downs, are a natural part of life, as are joy and exhilaration.”

How to Check In

Checking in and inquiring about that person can provide them an opportunity to communicate some of their sadness, since they didn’t have to come to you first. Dr. Markarian recommends starting with: “Hi, how are you—really? Is everything going OK for you?”

Remember that people with depression or anxiety can:

  • Feel guilty sharing because they think they will bring others down
  • Act like everything is OK because they don’t want to acknowledge what they are feeling, because it’s uncomfortable
  • Think they’ll “fake it until they make it”

Approach the conversation in a way that feels natural to your relationship. For example, if you typically take walks with this friend, or like to meet them for dinner, you can check in with them in a space that feels comfortable. Staying true to your connection can help your loved one feel safe to open up.

When Your Help Isn’t Enough

Sometimes when things don’t get better on their own, a person might need counseling. That’s when coffee with a friend to talk about things doesn’t help as much, or the good news they got at work doesn’t really make them smile. If they notice that they still feel unfulfilled, hopeless, unsatisfied or empty, that’s a clear signal that professional help might be a logical next step.

When things that usually make people happy don’t work anymore, it’s time to seek help, especially if they’re having very negative thoughts about life or suicidal thoughts.

Shutting Off Images of Perfection

Social media seems to be preoccupied with celebrities or influencers who create the illusion that things really are perfect. That can take us down a very negative road.

“Overall, it’s healthier to shut off those images of perfection and focus on ourselves—to take a break from social media, for example, and from obsessions about celebrities,” Dr. Markarian says. “We should gauge our own barometer of happiness and ask ourselves: ‘Am I going to follow others or focus on me, on what drives me, on what I enjoy?’”

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


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