When you picture someone with depression you probably see them crying on the bathroom floor, looking miserable and in despair. But the truth is, there is more to depression than what might commonly be portrayed in society, or depicted in the media. Depression can look like the happiest person in your friend group. Depression can look like that one coworker who’s gotten excellent recognition three weeks in a row, depression can look like your friendly neighbor next door. Depression doesn’t just have a face or form- it comes in many, which is what can make it so hard to detect in yourself or others. Here are some hidden signs of depression.
Please be mindful that this article is purely for informative purposes and is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. If you are struggling with your mental health, we highly recommend that you seek help from a qualified healthcare provider or mental health professional. Now without further ado, let’s get started!
1. They Have an Inconsistent Sleep Schedule
An unusual or inconsistent sleep schedule is a huge indicator of a troubled mind. Johns Hopkins researcher, Patrick H. Finan, PhD states that, “Poor sleep may create difficulties regulating emotions that, in turn, may leave you more vulnerable to depression in the future—months or even years from now.” A recent study conducted by Finan analyzing healthy women and men who got interrupted sleep through the night shows a notable 31 percent reduction in positive moods the next day. If this is the harm that one night of sleeplessness can have on someone, just imagine the drastic impact that unusual sleep habits can have overtime. Severe insomnia can increase a person’s risk of depression and weakens their emotional resilience. So when they are faced with challenges in life, they lack the ability to deal with them in a healthy way.
2. They Seem Irritable or Frustrated on a Daily Basis
Do you find yourself feeling angry with no particular reason? If not you, maybe you know someone else in your life who seems to display distressed or triggered behavior. Take notice of why they may be acting this way- is there a genuine reason? If not, you have just come across a major indicator of concealed depression. This person is most likely acting this way due to going long lengths of time suppressing or avoiding their stress or emotions. It’s kind of like a glass of water that fills up to the brim and then overflows when it can’t take anymore. When you suppress your emotions, you will end up releasing them with external negative energy and frequent microaggressions throughout the day.
3. Their Happiness Seems Forced
We all know that one cheerful person in our lives. But what if they seem- a little too cheerful? Yes, it can be possible to be too happy. Forcing happiness to cover up internal sadness is actually known as smiling depression. The National Alliance on Mental Illness explains that “smiling depression involves appearing happy to others and smiling through the pain, keeping the inner turmoil hidden. It’s a major depressive disorder with atypical symptoms, and as a result, many don’t know they’re depressed or don’t seek help… Their facade is put together and accomplished.”. This sign can be very hard to notice and directly attribute to depression, because some people just have genuinely joyful personalities which can make it hard to differentiate. If you suspect that you or someone you know is struggling with depression and hiding it in this way (sometimes without even being aware of it), start paying close attention to your/their behaviors and actions. In this case, someone forcing their happiness will also have to release their inner troubled energy in the form of muted cries which can easily go unnoticed, but require attention.
4. They Demonstrate an Obsessive Sense of Responsibility
People with hidden depression can oftentimes be found neglecting their own needs, but making up for this void by fueling off of always being there for others. They are hyper aware of the emotions, feelings, and needs of others and are the first ones to step up and offer help where help is needed. Psychologist and author of Perfectly Hidden Depression: How to Break Free from the Perfectionism that Masks Your Depression, Margaret Robinson Rutherford, Ph.D, states that in this case “You’re a good leader, although not the best delegator.” This heightened sense of being responsible, reliable, and responsive can pressure people with depression to readily expect the worst-case scenarios and also blame themselves when things go wrong. They struggle to take a moment to zoom out and see the big picture and also understand that unfortunately, not everything can be fixed or controlled by them.
5. They Work Extra Hard to Stay Busy (Accomplishment=Self-worth)
When you have a lost desire to thrive fully as a person, you resort to measuring your self-worth on a scale of how productive you are in a day. Margaret Robinson Rutherford, Ph.D continues to explain this stating that “You count on activity and accomplishment to distract yourself from any inner insecurities… There’s value in purpose and effort. But you carry it too far. You may not know what brings you a sense of esteem, except for those accomplishments and tasks.” People with hidden depression tend to stick with a packed schedule, mainly as an attempt to run away from the real problem at hand, and to avoid facing their confusing internal criticism and conflict.
6. They Compartmentalize Their Feelings (Both Past and Present)
People that are internally trapped in a depressive state are often known to compartmentalize their feelings. And you don’t have to have depression to practice this unhealthy coping mechanism- people with healthier minds and thinking patterns also run into this issue every once in a while. They create a system over time in which they lock up their feelings of anger, sadness, hurt, pain, distress, etc. in boxes which are kept away in the depths of their mind. Along with this, you most likely also dismiss or discount hurt or abuse from past experiences, downplaying and invalidating your own personal pain which will eventually bring you down in other areas of your life. It takes mindfulness and close attention and awareness to see this unhealthy and less obvious sign of depression in yourself or someone else.
We hope this list of the more difficult to notice signs of depression have provided some sort of insight for yourself or someone else you may know in your life. Please remember that if you or someone you know is going through any sort of mental health struggles or issues, it is highly recommended that you reach out to a qualified professional for help. You can also take a look at this article to get started on your self-healing and recovery: https://psych2go.net/8-ways-to-stop-feeling-empty-inside/ . Hope it helps and, as always, good luck with your journey!
- Coward, L. (2016, September 2). What You Need to Know About “Smiling Depression.” NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. Retrieved March 26, 2021, from https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/September-2016/What-You-Need-to-Know-About-Smiling-Depression%E2%80%9D
- Depression and Sleep: Understanding the Connection. (n.d.). Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved March 26, 2021, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/depression-and-sleep-understanding-the-connection
- Invisible Depression. (2020, October 14). Grace Med. Retrieved March 26, 2021, from https://gracemed.org/hidden-depression
- Korn, C., Sharot, T., Walter, H., Heekeren, H., & Dolan, R. (2013, May 15). Depression is related to an absence of optimistically biased belief updating about future life events. NCBI: National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved March 26, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3880066/
- Leonard, J. (2019, June 19). Recognizing the hidden signs of depression (T. J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP, Ed.). Medical News Today. Retrieved March 26, 2021, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325513
- Rutherford, M. R. (2019, September 1). The 10 Core Traits of Perfectly Hidden Depression. Psychology Today. Retrieved March 26, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/perfectly-hidden-depression/201909/the-10-core-traits-perfectly-hidden-depression
- Sahu, A., Gupta, P., & Chatterjee, B. (2014, January). Depression is More Than Just Sadness: A Case of Excessive Anger and Its Management in Depression. NCBI: National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved March 26, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3959025/