Depression is an invisible illness. That’s why it makes it so hard for us to discern when someone in our life is secretly unhappy, because it’s so easy to hide.
The stigma surrounding depression doesn’t help, either. It makes it even harder for people to share their struggles and get the help that they need.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
If we practice extra awareness about depression, the signs that someone in our life is secretly unhappy becomes so much easier to notice.
And when you make an effort to spot them, they wouldn’t seem so invisible anymore. This is important because finding out that a loved one is secretly unhappy is the first step towards helping them.
If you want to learn more about how to tell if someone in your life is secretly unhappy, read more below.
1) They sleep more or less than usual
Experiencing difficulty sleeping is a common symptom of depression.
Having trouble sleeping usually manifests in two different ways: one, they might find themselves sleeping more in order to escape their current reality, or; two, have trouble sleeping because they can’t turn off their brain to stop worrying.
Another reason why they could have trouble sleeping is due to insomnia. If they don’t sleep enough at night, they would experience daytime sleepiness, where they feel exhausted all throughout the day due to lack of sleep at night.
If a loved one tells you they’re having sleep problems, make sure to check on them. Ask them how they’re doing, how’s life for them lately, and generally just make sure they’re doing okay. They might be secretly struggling from deep unhappiness, they’re just good at hiding it.
2) They don’t enjoy their hobbies anymore
If someone in your life tells you that they have recently stopped enjoying their hobbies, that is a glaring sign of depression.
This phenomenon is called Anhedonia, which is defined as the reduced ability to experience pleasure.
If a person is secretly deeply unhappy with their life, they will stop enjoying things, even those they previously liked.
They might not like watching TV or Netflix anymore, they might have stopped reading books; or they might have stopped drawing or making music, because they just don’t feel happy doing any of these anymore.
It’s especially disheartening to witness if you know your loved one is a very talented person, but they’ve stopped pursuing their creative pursuits due to depression.
So if someone in your life tells you this, be proactive. Encourage them to get help and spend more time with them when you can. Being incapable of feeling joy from the things you once found happiness doing is a serious sign of depression.
3) They start neglecting their body
Another glaring sign of depression is when a person stops taking care of their body.
These are the following signs that a person have started neglecting themselves:
- Going to bed with their outside clothes
- Not showering enough
- Eating unhealthy/eating junk food often
- Barely getting out of bed or out of their room
- Always eating in bed or in their room
This is one of the only things that is a little easier to notice because it manifests physically.
But why does this happen?
Usually, it’s because people who are deeply unhappy with life have lost the drive or motivation to take care of anything, including themselves. If you’re too sad to function, why try to even take care of your body?
When you’re suffering from depression, it will feel pointless to pay attention to your health and even with how you look.
4) They stop paying attention to how they look
A person who is secretly unhappy will stop paying attention to how they look.
It’s not the edgy, hippie “I don’t care how people perceive me” type of thing, because that’s more of an outward motivation. For people suffering from depression, they inwardly stop wanting to care about how they look.
This is especially noticeable for a person who used to put care and effort with how they look—maybe they used to always do their makeup, choose their clothes carefully, or even wear nail polish, but because they’re depressed, they’ve stopped doing all that.
In situations like this, if you have someone in your life whom you suspect is secretly unhappy, don’t judge them if they look rugged or smell bad. Your judgment won’t help, but you know what will? Empathy and compassion.
So don’t tell them about how they used to look good and now they don’t. Don’t judge them for not having the motivation to take care of themselves enough. If you truly love them, you will practice understanding rather than judgment.
5) Their personal spaces are messy
A person who’s secretly unhappy will stop caring so much about their life that they will have messy personal spaces.
If their car, house, or bedroom is messy or dirty, trust me: it’s not because of intentional neglect. This is because of a lack of motivation.
People suffering from depression usually don’t have the motivation to even get up and out of bed, what more to clean their spaces?
Like we previously discussed, in situations like this, understanding goes a long way. Don’t tell this person that they’re disgusting or lazy. Commonly, depressed people already know what they need to do, but don’t have the motivation to do it.
In this case, they probably want to clean their spaces and “get their life together,” but it feels physically impossible for them to do so.
If you genuinely want to help, offering to clean for them could greatly help them. It’s important for us to take care of depressed loved ones in any way we can, because it shows them that even if they’re experiencing rock bottom, there’s still people who care about them.
6) They talk less than usual
When you converse with a friend and they always have short, one-word answers, that might be a sign that they’re secretly unhappy.
Sometimes, these might just be because they’re bad at small talk, but if it’s a person you know and love, it might be a symptom of depression.
This is especially obvious when you enthusiastically tell them stories about your life but they just won’t return the energy. Note, however, that it’s not that they won’t—it’s just that they can’t.
If they used to be lively and now they’re often unusually quiet, if they prefer keeping to themselves more than socializing, it might be a sign that they’re secretly unhappy.
Check on them often if you notice this unusual behavior, and perhaps encourage them to open up and get the help they need.
Similarly, someone who is suffering from depression will be more avoidant than usual.
7) They’re more avoidant
Someone who is secretly unhappy will be more inclined to spend time alone than hang out with friends.
Some subtle signs include canceling plans at the last minute, showing up late, or outrightly refusing invitations to go out with your other friends.
This happens because for people suffering from depression, it’s hard enough to get out of bed. What more to get out of the house and socialize?
As someone who previously suffered from depression, I used to want to be left alone at all times just to numb my brain with YouTube videos and sitcoms I’ve watched over and over again I almost memorized every line.
However, on the rare occasion that I went out with friends, I found my mental state to get a little bit better, albeit temporarily—and this seemingly little change makes a huge difference, which is why you should never give up inviting your depressed friends to go out, even if they keep refusing.
Note that you should not force them to hang out with you. Gently encourage them to go out with you instead.
This means not getting offended when they refuse your invitations, and making them feel like they owe you because they’ve previously rejected you many times.
Simply put, make sure your depressed friends feel loved and cared for, even if they often refuse hanging out with you. These efforts will go a long way in helping them.
8) They make self-deprecating jokes
A lot of us make self-deprecating jokes. Famous comedians do this a lot to make people laugh. But did you know that it could point to an underlying problem of depression?
A lot of famous comedians make fun of their trauma to make it more palatable to an audience. Simply put, they make fun of their emotional baggage to make it seem less serious. Average people do it too, and this phenomenon is a double-edged sword.
This is because on one hand, it destigmatizes mental health problems, but on the other, it might unintentionally make us desensitized to mental health issues that we end up not noticing them when they emerge.
This is why we must practice extra awareness with our loved ones when they make fun of their trauma, especially when they joke about ending their lives.
They might disguise it as a joke but there’s always a hint of truth to it.
9) They’re irritable
When a person is easily irritated, we usually find it annoying. Why would they be angry over the simplest things, when they could talk about it rationally, right?
Wrong. Usually, people who are always irritable are actually suffering from depression.
If someone you know easily lashes out on people or easily gets angry, try to treat them with kindness rather than fight fire with fire.
As a person who used to suffer from depression, I used to always be irritable with everyone as well. I would get angry over the smallest, most trivial things. Even the simple act of my parents asking for help about their phone was annoying to me.
I only realized something was wrong when I was diagnosed with depression, and the anger subsided once I started getting the help I need.
People with depression need to be treated with empathy and compassion. Judgment can never help them, which is why it’s so important for us to always make an effort to practice kindness.
10) They start giving away things they valued
Out of all the things in this list, this is probably the biggest warning sign.
Why? Because it’s a sign that they might be planning to end their life.
If they start giving away their valuables, such as the guitar they very much loved, their favorite books, or even put their pet up for adoption, that’s a warning sign that they’re planning to commit suicide.
They might seem happier at first, and it would feel relieving to see them happy after seeing them miserable for so long, but this happiness is actually because they’ve finally made up their mind about ending their life and are at peace with it ending.
If a loved one does this, don’t leave them alone, even if they insist. It is scary, but if you truly care about them, it’s important that you do everything in your power to stop them. Make sure to get professional help when you can.
11) They start having substance abuse problems
An estimated one-third of people suffering from depression also have an alcohol problem. Similarly, tobacco dependence is also associated with depression.
This could be harder to discern because as a society, we perceive drinking and smoking to be cool or edgy, which is why a lot of us don’t see a problem with a chronic smoker or drinker.
However, if a loved one has been smoking or drinking a lot lately, it would be a good idea to check on them. They might be secretly suffering from depression and are using smoking or drinking as unhealthy coping mechanisms.
I know it is hard to have someone you care about suffer from depression, but practicing empathy, kindness, and understanding will always go a long way.
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