When it comes to depression, too many people are trying to grin and bear it.
So they may plaster a smile all over their face and try to be the life and soul of the party.
Yet underneath their facade, they are hurting.
So how do you tell when someone is struggling when they are trying so hard to hide it?
Let’s take a look at some of the signs to watch out for.
1) They’re always exhausted
Not only is depression tiring in itself as it takes its emotional toll, but trying to carry on as normal adds an extra burden.
They’re constantly worn out and running on empty.
Even if they try to protest that they are fine, you can see it in their face.
Their energy levels just don’t seem on a par with what you’re used to from them.
2) Their appetite isn’t the same as it once was
The key here is changes in the way they eat.
That can include often saying they’re not being hungry but it might also be an increase in appetite along with comfort eating.
As a consequence, one of the first signs you might pick up on is something different about their weight.
Perhaps they’ve lost quite a lot of pounds, and it doesn’t seem right. Or they’ve been steadily increasing in weight.
3) Their sleep patterns have changed too
Much like appetite, those changes can be individual and depend on the person.
But again, it’s about a notable difference in how they normally sleep.
Perhaps they mention that they’ve not been getting a lot of shut-eye and are suffering from insomnia.
Or maybe it’s quite the opposite.
Whereas once upon a time they were up with the lark, these days lie in’s are a common occurrence.
They’re spending far more time resting and struggling to get out of bed.
That may be a consequence of the next thing on our list.
4) Their motivation seems to have faded
It can be harder to spot when someone is trying to hide it. But you sense that they are faking it.
They may say the right things or agree to plans, but it’s like their heart isn’t in it.
They could make excuses to get out of things more often and seem more withdrawn than normal.
Even if they’re still joining in, they seem more apathetic.
They’re going along with things, but the pleasure is missing when they do.
5) Their smile is fake
Not all smiles are created equal.
We’re actually way better at spotting a false smile than you might give yourself credit for.
In fact, research has shown that our instincts are more often than not right when detecting a pretend smile from a genuine one, especially if you’ve got a lot of empathy.
According to experts, it’s all in the eyes, as researcher Erin Heerey told NBC News:
“The key feature differentiating these types of smiles is the presence of so-called ‘laugh lines,’ the tiny wrinkles that appear at the corners of the eye during smiling. These are produced by the action of a muscle called the orbicularis oculi, which rings the eye and contracts when people produce genuine, but not polite smiles.”
6) They use a lot of self-deprecating humor
Being willing to make yourself the butt of the joke is one thing.
But it is quite another when someone is always putting themselves down, yet masking it with humor.
If someone is always making fun of themselves, don’t assume they’re only kidding.
If it’s persistent or particularly nasty it can point to some very low self-esteem.
Sometimes people act like the class clown not because they’re happy, but because they don’t love and respect themselves.
7) They’re plastering their life all over social media, and it smacks of attention-seeking
In our modern tech world, we can even hide our unhappiness behind glamorous snaps and inspirational posts.
From the outside, their life looks so good that it’s envy-inducing.
But it’s not the real picture.
It’s a carefully engineered image to disguise the way they are really feeling.
Understandably, this can be so hard to spot. It’s not easy to know someone’s intentions.
But you may sense that it is for the benefit of others.
It feels like their increased posting and sharing online is a cry for some much-needed attention and validation.
8) They’ve started engaging in reckless behavior
Not everyone who is in a bad place will crawl under the covers and hide.
There is a wide range of potential symptoms that can come from different struggles with our mental health.
And believe it or not, some of those can even make it seem like someone is living their best life.
Their “carefree” approach though actually borders on loss of control.
An increase in risky behaviors, like:
- Drinking excessively
- Non stop partying
- Uncharacteristic casual sex
- Drug taking
- Putting personal safety at risk
These can be signs that someone is feeling lost and finding it hard to regulate their emotions.
If they’ve been feeling low, they may be trying to find external things that will bring them joy or make them feel something again.
9) They’re losing their patience more than usual
Irritability and mood swings are classic signs of mental health problems.
Rather than being openly down, it may present as having a shorter fuse.
Frustrations are harder to cope with than usual, so they might snap at you more often.
They don’t seem to have the patience they once did at dealing with life’s little annoyances.
10) If ever they start to talk to you about their troubles, they shut themselves down
Maybe by saying something along the lines of:
“Oh, well, I can’t complain”
“I mustn’t grumble”
“Others have got it far worse than me”
“Ah, it’s nothing really”
“There’s no point dwelling on it”
You encourage them to share their feelings, their bad days, and their struggles, but they are reluctant to.
Rather than being eternally positive, it could be a sign of toxic positivity.
This is so harmful because people make themselves feel wrong for their perfectly normal emotions.
They may feel like it’s ungrateful to be unhappy when they should feel lucky for what they have.
This sort of internal pressure they put on themselves means they keep the bad locked inside, and it only ends up eating away at you when you do.
We don’t need a “good reason” to feel down
People may hide what they’re going through for all sorts of reasons.
They could fear the judgment of others. They may misguidedly believe it’s a weakness to suffer with your mental health.
Some people don’t feel vindicated in their sadness if they don’t feel like they have a good reason to feel that way.
That’s when they may try to hide it.
But that’s not how depression, anxiety, and rough patches in life work.
It’s got nothing to do with being ungrateful, spoiled, or demanding.
As many as 1 in 10 of us experience depression. It happens for all sorts of reasons and can manifest in all sorts of ways.
Sadly, ignoring it and trying to pretend it doesn’t exist isn’t the way to ease it.
We have to stop trying to rationalize our problems and open up about them instead.