21 behaviors that reveal someone is secretly unhappy

The truth is that unhappiness shows up in many ways.

Someone may seem like the life and soul of the party, or have a smile plastered on their face. Yet deep inside they are still struggling.

So how can you tell if someone is secretly unhappy?

Look for these telltale signs…

1) Dodging conversations about themselves

Maybe they always want to talk about you rather than them. Getting any real details about their life feels like getting blood from a stone.

They prefer small talk, and to keep things light.

It can be too emotionally challenging for unhappy people to dive into their pain. So they would rather pretend all is well.

They may seem purposefully deflective whenever you dig deeper into what’s going on with them.

2) Quitting hobbies and activities they used to love

When unhappiness strikes it can be really difficult to find joy even in the things we once took great pleasure in.

That’s why giving up on the things someone once enjoyed is an indication that they aren’t feeling quite right.  

3) Constantly canceling on you

Have you ever cursed a flakey friend for canceling on you last minute…again.

But before we get annoyed, it’s wise to cut one another some slack. Because not all broken plans are an act of selfishness.

When someone is feeling low, they may find it hard to face other people. They may struggle to put on a brave face.

It can feel like the easier option to withdraw into solo pursuits, as we’ll see next.

4) Spending a lot of time on social media or watching TV

When you are down, engaging with the outside world can feel quite a chore. So some people would rather retreat into another world.

Technology can provide a form of escapism. It gives a sense of connection, without having to put yourself out there.

I had a friend whose husband would spend hours in a room alone playing video games. He seemed to enjoy it, but really he was having a hard time and looking for distractions.

When social media use, video games, and watching TV become excessive it can be a signal of unhappiness.

Of course, you may not pick up on these changes if the person also retreats into themselves…

5) Spending way more time alone

Liking your own company is a really good thing. In fact, it’s often a sign of high intelligence and strong self-esteem.

Being a loner certainly doesn’t make you unhappy. But when someone increasingly withdraws from the group it should raise alarm bells.

We all need relationships and connections. If someone seems to suddenly step back and spend all their time alone, they may be going through a hard time. 

6) Losing their temper more often

We automatically think of unhappy people as sad. But what we need to remember is that anger is actually just another mask for sadness.

It seems as if they have very little patience. They may snap at you for no reason, or get stressed out about even the most minor things.

These frustrations that spill out as anger are usually at their root an indication of unhappiness.

7) They can’t be bothered with things

They take little interest in the people, places, and things around them.

Maybe they give short responses to you when you ask questions.

If you ask their thoughts on something, they don’t express a preference. If you ask for their opinion, they may say they “don’t mind” or “it’s up to you”.

Apathy is a big warning sign of depression.

8) Not checking in with family or friends

Some of us are better at keeping in touch than others. But happy people care about the people who are closest to them.

So they will check in and make an effort to stay in touch.

It’s not that unhappy people don’t care per se. They may not have the emotional bandwidth to reach out and have those sorts of interactions.

9) Sleeping problems

When life doesn’t feel so great, sleep is another one of those places we can try to hide.

Simple tasks can feel overwhelming. They may want to pull the covers over their head to try to make the outside world disappear.

Research has shown that sleep disorders are linked to depression. So you may notice that they are sleeping a lot more. But the opposite can also be true. Insomnia may also strike.

10) Weight changes

Just like our sleep patterns, low mood can take other tolls on our bodies.

That’s why changes in weight can suggest psychological problems and not just physical ones.

If someone eats as a way to comfort themselves, they may gain weight as a consequence.

Or if they lose their appetite because of the way they’re feeling, they may unintentionally lose weight.

11) Losing all drive or ambition

I’m not suggesting you are unhappy if you have no desire to conquer the world. This is less about achievements or accolades and more about feeling purposeful.

When someone feels directionless they often feel lost too. This may show up as a sense of hopelessness about the future.

They may give up on goals and dreams, and let any concrete plans fall by the wayside.

12) Anxiety and worrying

I’m a self-confessed stress head. I’m good at organizing and that can all too often spill over into trying to control things too tightly.

But I’m also well aware that the happier I feel generally in life, the less this anxiety and worry shows up. I’m able to focus on the bigger picture and not sweat the small stuff.

When someone seems tightly wound, there could be deeper unhappiness dwelling beneath.

13) Putting themselves down

Someone who struggles to accept a compliment, or worse, actively bad mouths themselves, probably has some self-esteem issues.

It’s really difficult to be happy when you have a little voice in your head that puts you down all the time.

And it’s not just themselves that unhappy people may criticize. As we’ll see next, they can see the whole world in a negative light.

14) Being negative about everything

Do you know someone who is frequently judgemental, grumpy, or constantly complaining?

It can seem like everything or everyone just gets under their skin.

When we’re feeling discontented with ourselves or our lives, that casts a shadow on everything around us.

They may have a deeply pessimistic outlook on everything, and not even see it. But their internal negative mindset is being reflected in how they perceive the world.

15) Drinking too much, excessively partying, or taking drugs

Sometimes unhappiness can secretly masquerade under the guise of having a “good time”.

Someone who drinks often, and in large amounts, may argue that they’re just letting loose. But alcohol and drug use are so often escapism.

A temporary high may help someone to forget their problems for a while. But it can be a sign that their sober life has some issues they don’t want to face.

16) Slipping into victimhood

They’re always looking for something or someone to blame. They may feel like life is against them or that they can’t catch a break.

The truth is that it’s hard to feel empowered when we’re at our lowest. We struggle to shake the pessimistic outlook.

A negative mindset often goes hand in hand with unhappiness. We start to expect more of the same.

17) Failing to keep up with their commitments

We all have things that we’ve got to do, whether we like it or not.

Some are important, some less so. From going to work to cleaning your house —obligations and responsibilities are a part of daily life.

Maybe they’re missing things they said they would show up for. Perhaps their home seems uncharacteristically chaotic.

If they seem to struggle to keep up with their usual routines then something could be up.

18) Making zero effort with their appearance

I’m far from high maintenance. I certainly don’t go in for the glamorous look. But when we stop taking any pride whatsoever in the way we look, it can be a red flag.

We’re talking about basic hygiene, like showering daily, washing your hair, and brushing your teeth.

It could suggest that they are lacking in the energy and inclination to care anymore.

19) Acting recklessly

It’s true that risk-takers are often some of the most successful people.

After all, we need to move past fear and go for things. But there’s a big difference between calculated risk-taking and sheer recklessness.

If someone starts engaging in totally risky behaviors then they could be feeling unstable.

20) Using humor to deflect

Sometimes the so-called “class clown” is the unhappiest person in the room.

Whilst on the surface they seem to have everyone else cracking up, this can be a defense mechanism.

Many people use humor and sarcasm as a protective barrier that stops others from getting too close.

It’s a way of always making sure that nothing gets “too serious”. But the truth is that behind the wisecracks, they may not feel as upbeat as they pretend.

21) Not replying to texts and calls

I hold my hands up and admit I can totally suck at getting back to people.

In a world where we are connected 24-7 with technology, it’s hard to switch off. Not everyone wants to feel glued to their phone.

But if someone uncharacteristically stops responding to your messages or calls, it can be another sign of withdrawal.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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