6 Depression Symptoms That Often Go Unnoticed

According to a recent survey by the World Health Organization, as of 2020, over 264 million people all over the globe reportedly suffer from depression, making it not only the most common mental illness in the world, but also the leading cause of disability.

In spite of its prevalence, however, there’s still an unfortunately large number of people who remain ignorant of the nature, cause, and effects of depression. Perhaps most harmful of all is the misconception many hold that depression looks the same for everybody and, for that very same reason, easy to identify and recognize in others.

Think about that statistic we just told you about again; 264 million is an awfully big number. That means as many as 3 out of every 10 people you know are likely to be either at risk of or already suffering from depression. And the worst part is, most people probably wouldn’t even realize it until it was too late.

With that said, here are 6 of the most often overlooked symptoms of depression you need to know about:

1. Overeating

While most people often associate depression with weight loss and loss of appetite, the opposite can actually be true as well. Known as one of the “atypical features” of depression, overeating is an uncommon but still significant symptom of depression because it indicates a disturbance in one’s normal eating habits and patterns, most likely due to low mood (American Psychological Association, 2013). Dramatic weight gain may be especially telling of depression as well, because most people tend to overeat when they are too stressed and unable to cope with it.  

2. Oversleeping

Another “atypical feature” of depression is oversleeping or hypersomnia. And though it is much more common for people who are depressed to suffer from insomnia – that is, being unable to sleep most days – hypersomnia is still considered a telltale warning sign that someone may be emotionally and psychologically unwell. Why? Because a sudden desire to spend most of your hours asleep indicates emotional burnout, fatigue, low energy, negative feelings, lack of motivation, and most of all, a depressed mood (American Psychological Association, 2013).

3. Substance Use

Next on our list is substance use (e.g. drugs, alcohol, etc). And though we might not immediately think that someone who uses drugs or drinks a lot of alcohol is actually crying out for help, especially if they do it often enough or at parties, it’s important to take a closer look at this kind of behavior just to make sure. After all, just like sleeping or overeating, a lot of people often turn to drugs and alcohol to help them cope with feelings of intense sadness, emptiness, and loneliness. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (2017), approximately 20% of those diagnosed with an anxiety or mood disorder such as depression often have symptoms of alcohol and substance abuse as well.

4. Risky Behavior

Similar to substance use, you might think someone who drinks a lot, experiments with drugs, and does risky but exciting things is only having fun and looking for a good time, but it might indicate feelings of hopelessness, self-destructiveness, and suicidal ideation, too. Risky behaviors such as speeding, drunk driving, getting into fights, being promiscuous, having unprotected sex, stealing, vandalizing, smoking and so on may be deliberate attempts to put oneself in harms way and could mean that someone is spiraling deeper into their depression.

5. Anger and Irritability

When we think of someone who’s depressed, we often picture a person who’s sad, down, and lying in bed all day doing nothing. But frequent and sudden bouts of anger and irritability could be symptoms of depression, too. This is particularly common among men. Psychologists believe that this is because the anger is meant to either suppress their emotional torment or a misplacement of it. That is to say, most men don’t feel comfortable enough to be open about their depression (or might not even realize they have it), so they become angry and irritable instead as a maladaptive way of coping (Troisi & D’Argenio, 2004). 

6. Uncontrollable Emotions

Aside from anger and irritability, people may also become uncontrollably emotional when struggling with depression. Mood swings, temper tantrums, and hysterical crying are sometimes observed in patients who are depressed, as well as a heightened sensitivity to rejection and abandonment (Thase, 2007).  Forgot to mention something to them? It’s going to turn into a big fight. Missed their call because you were busy? They’re probably going to spend hours crying and overthinking about it. They can’t cope well with even the slightest of stressors and will often get over emotional about everything.

So, were you surprised to learn something new about depression in this article? Please note that this content for informative purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition.

So if you spot these warning signs in yourself or anyone you know, please do not hesitate to reach out to a mental healthcare professional today and talk to them about it. The sooner the person in need receives a diagnosis, the better. Psychologists can recommend a course of treatment best suited for their case, and hopefully, with time, dedication, and support from their loved ones, they can start to get better.


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