6 signs someone is struggling silently and needs your support

In our busy lives, amidst the noise of social media and everyday chatter, it’s easy to miss the silent cries for help. 

I remember watching an old friend plaster smiling selfies online, only to find out later she was battling severe depression. 

It struck me — not all struggles are loud. Some are quiet, hidden behind brave faces. And knowing the subtle signs of someone silently struggling can make all the difference. 

Here are 6 signs to watch out for, so you can step in and be there for someone who really needs it.

1) They start isolating themselves

The first sign I noticed in my friend was that she suddenly started isolating herself — not just from me, but from several other mutual friends too.

It’s not like we used to hang out every day, but we did get together at least once or twice per month to chat in our favorite café and play some games together.

And suddenly, she started declining all our invitations to hang out. She didn’t even seem interested in doing activities she used to love, like playing chess or going horseback riding.

Isolation is a common sign that someone is silently struggling — when people feel overwhelmed or are grappling with internal turmoil, they may distance themselves from friends, family, or events.

It may be because they don’t know how to explain what’s going on with them, or they feel too ashamed about it and don’t want anyone else to notice.

But prolonged isolation can make problems that much worse. 

If you notice someone pulling away, it’s essential not to push them too hard or judge them. Instead, give them a gentle reminder that while they might want some space, they’re cherished and not alone in this journey.

2) Their behavior suddenly changed

Most of us have a predictable rhythm to our daily lives, certain behaviors and routines we adhere to. 

And we all have off days too, but a sudden and sustained change in behavior can be a telling sign. 

In the case of my friend, it was a little harder to notice because she started isolating herself as I mentioned above. 

But both I and a few other mutual friends noticed a difference in the way she texted us back.

She used to write long, well thought-out answers touching on everything a message from someone mentioned, without skipping or ignoring any points.

And at a certain point, her answers became truncated, as if she was pushing herself to answer but wanted to shut the conversation down as soon as possible.

Be sure not to jump to conclusions, but don’t dismiss these shifts from a person’s norm as “just a phase”. It can reflect a change in their mental wellbeing that’s manifesting externally in this way.

3) Their physical appearance changes

Silent struggles can also lead to changes in a person’s appearance — especially if it’s things they may not have so much control over.

This can include sudden weight gain or weight loss, bad skin, or dull looking hair.

It was hard to notice in my friend since I didn’t see her in person for a while, but I did notice she seemed to be using filters in her social media photos, which she hadn’t done before.

And on one occasion when I ran into her, I was startled to notice her dark under eye circles, as if she hadn’t been sleeping well.

These changes can also manifest as changes in clothing, hairstyle, or makeup. If a person used to put a lot of care into something then suddenly stops, it can indicate a total lack of energy or motivation.

Or, a sudden change in style can also be the result of a sudden change in mental state, or an attempt to disassociate from their past self if something bad happened to them. 

This isn’t about being judgmental or making assumptions based on looks alone. Rather, it’s recognizing that these physical changes might be external manifestations of an internal struggle. 

4) They talk negatively about themselves

We can’t hear someone’s internal dialogue, but sometimes we can notice hints in the way they talk about themselves to others.

Before my friend started isolating herself, I remember her making a few self-deprecating comments a few times.

Like during one of our last hangouts, we looked at our Human Design charts for fun, and she seemed to think hers was horrible, even though there’s no such thing as a “bad” chart.

She just saw flaws and shortcomings everywhere, and sounded like she thought her chart meant she was somehow broken.

I was startled, but as it was one of the first signs, I didn’t know it could point to something more serious under the surface, and thought the idea of Human Design just didn’t sit well with her. 

But now thinking back, I also remember her talking negatively about the world at large too, as if it was full of bad things happening and there was little to no hope for the future. 

If you notice someone start to be negative, then it’s crucial to listen actively. Don’t try to forcibly “brighten” their perspective, because they’ll probably just pretend to agree to make you stop. 

Instead, allow them space to share what they feel, and tell them you’re there for them if they want to talk. 

5) They neglect their responsibilities

As life becomes more overwhelming, it’s not unusual for someone to begin neglecting responsibilities they once held in high regard.

In my friend’s case, she actually didn’t have many responsibilities during her difficult time because she had quit her job.

This was something she had been planning to do because she felt stuck in a rut and needed a change, but I wonder if that in and of itself was also a sign that she was becoming increasingly unhappy.

Her original plan was to take one or two months off to focus on her hobbies, and then find a new job.

But a few months after she quit, I heard from a relative of hers that she wasn’t even actively looking for a job yet.

Obviously, it’s her choice, and as long as a person has enough savings, there’s nothing wrong with taking some time off.

But this sudden change in attitude seemed alarming, as she was always someone who felt strongly about supporting herself and giving back to the community.

It’s vital to understand that someone neglecting their responsibilities is not always out of laziness or a lack of care. It could just be excruciatingly hard for them to focus or prioritize tasks as they used to.

6) They are much more sensitive

During the time my friend gradually distanced herself, the few moments of contact we had revealed another telling sign: heightened sensitivity. 

I remember once sending her a light-hearted meme that we would typically laugh at together. However, this time, she replied with a comment that seemed to imply she didn’t think it was funny at all.

It caught me off-guard, as it was the sort of thing we’d shared countless times before.

On another occasion, while texting, a casual remark I made about life and its challenges led her to shut down the conversation abruptly. It was as if her emotional resilience had waned, making her more susceptible to interpreting messages in a way she wouldn’t have before.

This increased sensitivity can be a manifestation of the emotional weight one carries. When a person is silently struggling, they might be teetering on the edge, and even seemingly innocuous comments or situations can push them farther than they can handle.

Approaching someone exhibiting this heightened sensitivity requires tact and understanding. Be sure to acknowledge their emotions, with something like “I’m sorry that upset you, that wasn’t my intention.” 

Such gestures show that you’re attentive to their feelings and willing to adjust your approach in support of their well-being.

Helping someone who’s struggling

Now you know 6 signs that someone is silently struggling and needs your support

Hopefully everyone in your life is well — but if not, it’s very important to notice these things so you can be there for them when they need it.

It can be very difficult for some people to reach out and ask for help, especially if they’re going through something extremely hard. 

So it can mean the world when you find a way to extend a helping hand. Always approach them with empathy and an open heart.

Avoid judgment, and offer your support in whatever way would make them most comfortable.

If they’re going through something extreme, you might want to guide them towards professional help such as therapy or counseling. Many cities have free resources for such cases.

And remember, we at Hack Spirit are also here with many more articles where this came from, to support you and your loved ones on your journeys. 

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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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