8 signs someone is downplaying their unhappiness, according to psychology

No one wants to be unhappy in life. We all want to find happiness and unequivocal joy.

Which is why it can be tempting to hide when you’re feeling unhappy; to act like you’re all OK and that you aren’t as sad as you feel deep down…

The thing is, you can get so good at downplaying your unhappiness that you don’t even realize just how unhappy you are yourself.

You get so used to pretending for everyone else that you’ve even convinced yourself!

Think you might be downplaying your unhappiness to your friends, family, workplace, or even your partner? Here are 8 signs that might be the case…

Up first:

1) Your answer is always “I’m fine”

The definition of downplaying your unhappiness is telling everyone you’re fine (when really you aren’t).

When a friend texts you to check in, you tell them, “Everything’s great!”. When your mom calls to ask how you are, you tell her things are all A-OK. And when your boss wants to meet with you one-on-one, you tell them you couldn’t be happier with how things are at work.

Basically, you tell everyone you’re fine, fine, fine.

You never say, “I wasn’t great because of [this] but I’m OK now”. Or “[This happened] and it upset me but I’m doing alright”.

Your answer is always that you’re “OK, thanks for asking” – rather than anything deeper. When really, you know there’s a lot more going on under the surface…

2) You brush off talks about how you are

You might not always say, “I’m fine” whenever someone asks. You might just ignore the subject entirely when you’re downplaying your unhappiness.

I know this game all too well. When I was sad and didn’t want to talk about something, I simply wouldn’t.

People would ask me directly and indirectly about the subject. But I didn’t want them to know how sad I was about it. I didn’t even want to admit it myself! So I simply ignored their question, brushed it off, or changed the subject a little too quickly.

Experts say this is a theme among people with concealed depression. They easily come up with cover stories, excuses, and subject changes to throw people off their scent.

3) You get jealous in unhealthy ways

Jealousy isn’t always a bad thing. I’ve been in relationships where the other person never got jealous and ones when they were a tiny bit jealous. And I think (as do the experts) that a little bit of jealousy is a good thing. It shows that you care.

But when you cross over into unhealthy jealousy territory, this really isn’t good.

A friend of mine used to get jealous whenever I was happy. When I moved home, she was jealous. When I went on a good date, she was jealous. Even if I caught a suntan, she was – you guessed it – jealous!

The way she showed her jealousy was to 1) not ask me about things that were going on in my life or 2) make a cynical joke whenever I talked about these things.

She wouldn’t tell me she was unhappy. But her jealous behavior showed it. And in honesty, I don’t even think she realized she was doing it most of the time.

If you’re downplaying your own unhappiness, you might be getting unhealthily jealous, too. And your friends or partner might notice more than you think…

4) You squash negative thoughts until you’re alone

Another behavior I know about all too well! When you’re out with people, you act like everything is fine. You act happy and upbeat.

Whenever a bad thought crops into your head, you push it away. You distract yourself by doing something else or talking to someone else.

You wouldn’t dream of talking about it so you can get support from the person you’re with. Instead, you hide it away and let it all come out of you when you’re alone.

I’m sorry to break it to you, but this behavior is also a sign of concealed depression.

5) You joke about not caring/having no feelings

Humor: the way we show our happiness and the way we hide our unhappiness!

Not everyone who cracks jokes is sad beneath the surface. But it depends on the type of joke.

People who joke about having no feelings are probably unhappier than you think. They’re either so numb to their sadness that they genuinely don’t feel things. Or they’re downplaying their unhappiness by telling people they have no feelings at all.

Like by saying they “don’t care” that they’re single or were ghosted. Or they “couldn’t care less” about not being invited out or having no plans this weekend (or the next or the next…).

When really, they do care – and they care a lot. They’re just downplaying how much they care so others aren’t suspicious.

6) You fake a smile and laugh a little too often

Fake it til you make it – right? Well, yes, but maybe not always.

When I went through a bad breakup, I was sad all the time. But after talking it out, I tried to push things out of my head and have a good time with friends.

This is what people mean when they say fake it til you make it. You know you’re sad, you’ve talked about being sad, and then you try to enjoy yourself and move forward. This is kind of healthy, to be honest.

Faking it becomes a problem when you do it all the time. No matter how sad you are, you put a smile on your face, you laugh at people’s jokes, and you pretend like everything is just swell.

When really, it isn’t. You just don’t want people to know how unhappy you are. Or even admit it yourself…

7) You make excuses for not going to social events

“I can’t be bothered to go to that”.

“Nah, I’d much rather stay at home!”.

“I don’t want to come anymore, it’s probably going to be rubbish anyway!”.

When you’re feeling sad, it’s tempting to hole yourself up indoors and never venture out. Why? Because at home you can be as sad as you like – without having to answer for it. You can be 100% yourself, warts and all!

Being around people requires pretending and a whole lot of effort to downplay your unhappiness. But on your own, you don’t have to work hard at all.

Some alone time is good for everyone. It gives you space to recharge, think critically, and plan for the future. But you can have too much of a good thing.

If you cancel plans all the time or make excuses not to attend (that aren’t truly how you feel), this is yet another classic sign that you’re downplaying your unhappiness.

8) You make excuses for everything (or outright lie)

It’s not just social events that you make excuses for when you’re downplaying your unhappiness. It’s everything!

If you haven’t cleaned your apartment in months (and it’s really starting to show), instead of admitting that it’s because you’re feeling down, you lie. You say you had a busy weekend or that your dishwasher broke.

If you’ve stopped washing your hair, you say your boiler isn’t working right now and it’s going to take a couple of weeks to get someone in to look at it.

If you keep wearing the same clothes without ever washing them, you say that the store didn’t have any detergent.

These are either outright lies or excuses. And you’re making them because you don’t want people to know how unhappy you are or how much it’s impacting your life right now. In fact, you don’t even want to acknowledge it yourself!

Final thoughts

It’s difficult isn’t it, being unhappy? On the one hand, I believe you have to tell yourself you’re OK if you want to be OK eventually.

When I’ve been really sad in life, I’ve downplayed my own unhappiness. I’ve put those negative thoughts out of my head when they creep in. I’ve told myself to stop talking about things that bring me down. And I’ve faked a smile to try to make myself feel as happy as I look.

And I don’t think there’s anything so wrong with that – provided you’re doing these things because you know you’re unhappy and you’re trying to work on it.

But when you do these things because you’re trying to run from your unhappiness and hide it from everyone you know – even yourself – this isn’t good.

And maybe this is your sign to face how you’re truly feeling, so you can start working on experiencing genuine happiness instead…

Amy Reed

Amy Reed is a content writer from London working with international brands. As an empath, she loves sharing her life insights to help others. When she’s not writing, she enjoys a simple life of reading, gardening, and making a fuss over her two cats.

6 traits of people who enjoy helping others (without expecting anything in return)

If you possess these 11 qualities, your partner is lucky to have you