If someone is secretly unhappy in life, they’ll display these 7 subtle behaviors

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

Ever noticed someone close pretending they’re okay, but something’s just… off?

I’ve been observant—apart from a few oblivious episodes—for most of my conscious life. And as someone who prides themselves on their keen intuition and understanding of human nature, I get asked a lot about how I spot those hidden signs of unhappiness.

Friends, who are unsure of their significant other’s emotional state, or relatives worried about a particular family member, even colleagues uncertain about the mental wellbeing of their teammates.

It’s strange, right? Why do we often miss these quiet cries for help? Is it because we’re all busy trying to look happy and successful ourselves?

The truth is that many people are experts at hiding their true feelings behind a facade of normality and contentment.

By the end of this article, you’ll know the seven quiet signs of someone secretly struggling.

It’s okay to notice, to care, and to offer a hand. Let’s not make quick judgments. Instead, we should do an effort and learn to really see and understand each other.

1) They constantly put themselves down

Think about the people around you. You may notice that someone who is secretly unhappy often puts themselves down.

It seems as though they cannot accept a compliment without brushing it off or negating it with a self-deprecating comment.

If you want to really understand human emotions, it’s crucial to recognize that this behavior is not merely a quirky personality trait.

It’s an indication of an underlying unhappiness. They’re operating under a cloud of negativity.

We have to break free from the illusion that self-deprecation is a sign of humility. It’s not.

It’s a sign of hidden unhappiness and low self-worth, especially when it keeps happening without thinking.

2) They find too much comfort in isolation

This insight came to me from observing some very close friends who on different occasions were secretly battling unhappiness.

Most advice on how to spot an unhappy person usually focuses on visible signs of distress or outward expressions of sadness. While these are often true, they are not the only indicators.

Instead, a more subtle sign comes from their preference for solitude. It comes from observing their tendency to isolate themselves.

You will be able to notice that they are not merely enjoying solitude, they are using it as a shield against the world.

It’s true that sometimes people choose solitude because they enjoy it. But other times, they’re using it as a defense mechanism against the pain they’re feeling inside.

The key is not to jump to conclusions but rather observe, understand, and offer support when needed.

3) They avoid personal questions

This one took me a while to notice.

“Being open and transparent” is often seen as a mark of someone who is content and comfortable in their life.

But the reality is that those who are secretly unhappy often avoid personal questions or shy away from sharing details about their life.

Think about your conversations with them.

They might willingly engage in discussions about the weather, sports, books, or movies, but as soon as the conversation shifts towards them—towards their feelings, their experiences, their dreams—they artfully redirect it or give vague, non-committal answers.

If you’re going to understand their emotional state, it’s crucial to realize that this evasion is not a sign of privacy or introverted nature. It’s a subtle defense mechanism.

4) They are overly critical of others

“Being critical” is often seen as a sign of having high standards or being a perfectionist.

However, the reality is that people secretly struggling with unhappiness often project their dissatisfaction onto others, becoming overly critical.

Consider their interactions with others.

They may be quick to point out flaws, make derogatory comments or have a generally negative outlook on others’ actions.

When they focus on the shortcomings of those around them, they project their own frustrations onto others and take them off of themselves.

Their criticisms often reveal more about their own mindset than about those they critique, especially when unprovoked. When they’re voiced instinctively.

5) They overcompensate with humor

This one hits close to home for me.

I’ve always been the “funny one” in my group of friends, the one who could always be counted on to lighten the mood or make people laugh.

In many ways, humor became my armor, a way to hide my own struggles and unhappiness from the people around me.

For example. When I was going through a particularly tough time, I remember using humor as a shield. I would crack jokes, make people laugh, and play the clown, all the while battling a deep sense of unhappiness within. 

Truth be told, constant humor is not always a sign of a happy spirit. Sometimes, it’s a mask for hidden pain.

Sometimes the jokes and quips may be a cover for something deeper, and they are most revealing when they are constant and seemingly without reason. When they are used as deflection.

6) They have irregular sleep patterns

People who are secretly unhappy often struggle with their sleep.

This isn’t just a random observation but is backed by scientific research. Studies have shown a strong correlation between sleep disturbances and depression, highlighting how our emotional state can significantly affect our rest.

For those battling hidden unhappiness, a good night’s sleep can become elusive.

It’s a constant reminder that something is not quite right, even if they manage to put up a brave front during the day.

This insight pushes us to be more observant of not just what people say or do during waking hours, but also their sleeping patterns. It nudges us to consider factors that might be less evident but profoundly telling.

7) They appear unusually happy

This may seem contradictory, but it’s often the truth.

People who are secretly struggling with unhappiness sometimes project an image of extreme joy and contentment to the world. They wear a metaphorical mask, hiding their true feelings behind a facade of happiness.

Consider this:

If you watch carefully, you might notice their cheerfulness is a bit too constant, too forced.

It doesn’t fluctuate or change in response to different situations as genuine emotions do. This unwavering high spirits can be an attempt to convince themselves and others that everything is fine.

For those grappling with concealed unhappiness, maintaining this cheerful exterior can be exhausting. It’s a relentless performance, leaving them feeling even more depleted and unhappy behind closed doors.

Recognizing this paradoxical behavior can offer a deeper understanding of their emotional state.

It’s not about doubting the happiness of others but being mindful that sometimes, an overly cheerful demeanor can be a cry for help hidden in plain sight.

In closing: the pillar of self-love

Throughout my journey of observation and understanding, one thing has become abundantly clear: the power of self-love. 

Recognizing the quiet signs of struggle in others reminded me time and again of the importance of this deep-seated self-affection.

Perhaps, in many of these individuals who struggle in silence, a lack of self-love is the common thread. 

And it’s manifested in different ways: hiding behind humor, avoiding personal questions, or even pretending everything is perfectly fine. 

These signs might be subtle, but they all signal an inner battle, and at the core of many of these battles lies an absence or scarcity of self-love.

When we truly love ourselves, we give ourselves permission to feel, to struggle, and most importantly, to ask for help when we need it. 

We won’t feel the need to hide behind facades or wear masks of faux happiness.

As you reflect on these signs and possibly recognize them in yourself or others, remember that the journey to true contentment often begins with embracing self-love. 

Cherishing and valuing oneself can be transformative. It’s not a solution to every problem, but it lays a strong foundation for healing and understanding.

To anyone reading this, whether you see these signs in others or in the mirror, take a moment today to show some love to yourself. 

Understand that you’re deserving of it, every single day. In doing so, you’ll not only find strength in your vulnerabilities but also empower others to do the same.

Did you like my article? Like me on Facebook to see more articles like this in your feed.

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

If your partner says these 20 things, they truly value being with you

12 signs your partner truly loves you, even if they rarely say it