Lots of people walk through life trying to hide their depression. Although public understanding of this illness has improved somewhat over the years, we as a society still frequently misunderstand or overlook depression and its symptoms. People with concealed or hidden depression often don’t want to acknowledge the severity of their depressive feelings. They believe that if they just continue living their life, the depression will simply go away on its own. In a few cases, this might work. But for most folks, it just drags out the feelings of sadness and loneliness. We need to unlearn this assumption that suffering is always clearly visible to us, so that we can better understand and help those who struggle with illnesses that go unseen. Here are some signs that someone might be secretly depressed.
8 Signs That Someone Is Secretly Depressed
1. The Put Out A Cry For Help, Only To Take It Back – People with hidden depression struggle fiercely with keeping it hidden. Sometimes, they give up the struggle to conceal their true feelings and decide to tell someone about it. They may even take the first and make an appointment with a doctor or therapist, and a handful will even make it to their first session. But then they wake up the next day and realize they’ve gone too far. Seeking out help for their depression would be admitting they truly are depressed. That is an acknowledgment that many people with concealed depression struggle with and cannot make. Nobody else is allowed to see their weakness.
2. They Feel Things More Intensely Than Normal – A person who is secretly depressed often feels emotions more intensely than others. They might come across as someone who doesn’t normally cry while watching a TV show or movie, but suddenly breaks out in tears during a poignant scene. Or someone who doesn’t normally get angry about anything, but then suddenly gets really mad at a driver who cuts them off in traffic. Or someone who doesn’t usually express terms of endearment suddenly telling you that they love you. It’s like by keeping their depressive feelings all boxed up, other feelings leak out around the edges more easily.
3. Unusual Eating, Sleeping Or Drinking Habits – When someone seems to have changed the way they sleep or eat in significant ways, it’s often a sign that something is wrong. Sleep is the foundation of both good health and mental health. When a person can’t sleep (or sleeps for too long) every day, that could be a sign that they’re secretly depressed. Others turn to food or alcohol to try and quash their feelings. Overeating can help someone who is depressed feel full, which in turn helps them feel less emotionally empty inside. Drinking may be used to help cover up the feelings of sadness and loneliness which often accompany depression. Sometimes a person will go in the other direction too – losing all interest in food or drinking, because they see no point in it, or it brings them no joy.
4. They Might Not “Look Depressed” – Due to media and cultural stereotypes, most of us have assumptions about how someone behaves and looks if they’re struggling with depression. We imagine someone who rarely leaves their room, doesn’t dress themselves well, and constantly looks miserable, but people with depression do not all behave the same way. We’re all different from one another – and the symptoms and coping abilities of people with depression are also different. Many are able to keep up a facade of good mental health to protect themselves, but they aren’t suffering any less simply because they can do this. Similarly, those who are unable to keep up such a facade are not “weaker” than those who can.
5. They Have A Tough Time Responding To Affection – The main misconception about depression is that it’s all about “feeling” sad. On the contrary, depression is mostly about not feeling anything, or only partially and briefly experiencing emotions. It depends on the individual, but some people with hidden depression report feeling almost “numb,” and the closest thing to an emotion they experience is a kind of sadness and/or irritation. Because of this, appropriately responding to gestures or words of affection will be difficult for them, or they just don’t think about it any more. They may even get irrationally irritated or annoyed with you over it, because it may simply be too difficult for their brains to process and respond to your loving gestures.
6. They Talk More Philosophically Than Normal – When you finally catch up with someone experiencing hidden depression, you may find the conversation turning to philosophical topics they don’t normally talk much about. These might include the meaning of life, or what their life has amounted to so far. They may even open up enough to acknowledge occasional thoughts of wanting to hurt themselves. They may talk about finding happiness or a better path in the journey of life. These kinds of topics may be a sign that a person is struggling internally with darker thoughts that they do not share.
7. They Turn Down Activities They One Enjoyed – Unless other explanations could equally be possible, an uncharacteristic lack of interest in activities over an extended period of time could be a sign that someone is secretly depressed. As mentioned above, depression is just as physically draining as it is mentally draining, which makes enjoying all the things you usually do difficult. Previously-loved activities can even lose their appeal in general, because depression also commonly makes it difficult to enjoy or feel fulfilled by much at all. If you have no other way of explaining their decreasing interest, it could be a symptom of clinical depression.
8. They Start Needing More From You – Someone who is depressed won’t be able to function like a mentally healthy person would. There will be things they will no longer be able to do as much of, as often, or at all. Pestering or shaming them about it will only hurt, not help. If they’ve been keeping their depression private, it will be that much harder to deal with other people getting irritated with them because they can’t perform at the level that’s expected of a mentally healthy person. This is why it’s always best to be understanding with those who are in your life, both work and personal. You don’t know if someone is just slacking off, or is struggling with a real health problem.