10 subtle signs someone is unhappy, even if they don’t realize it themselves

Unhappiness is a peculiar thing. 

Sometimes, we might not realize we’re unhappy outright. 

Instead, a general feeling of discontent and emptiness sort of hovers over us indefinitely.

This feeling affects our day-to-day lives in subtle yet profound ways. 

If left unchecked, it can spiral into things like depression and burnout. 

So if you suspect someone in your life is suffering from unhappiness, it’s worthwhile first getting to know the signs. 

Let’s get to it!

1) Change in sleep patterns

Sleeping in every so often is fine, even healthy; but when irregular sleep patterns become the norm, this can be concerning. 

Sleeping a bit too much or too little often signifies an underlying feeling of unhappiness. 

My ex suffered from chronic depression

I’ll admit that it took me a while to really grasp the gravity of her condition. 

During the tenure of our relationship, I often noticed her sleeping for 12, 13, and sometimes 14 hours a night. 

She would also habitually take lengthy naps in the afternoon. 

Initially, this bothered me, since her extended periods of sleeping meant she wasn’t particularly productive or present in her waking hours. 

But once I came to terms with her condition, I did my best to be compassionate rather than critical. 

Eventually, she pursued consistent treatment–and sure enough, her sleep schedule improved dramatically. 

2) Altered eating habits

When someone is unhappy, it often reflects in their eating habits.

Food, particularly junk food, has a numbing effect. 

You’ve seen it before in the movies: a character fresh off a breakup is weeping while gorging themselves with a pint of ice cream, living in an apartment littered with empty pizza boxes. 

Some people might drink themselves to oblivion to cope with sadness, others will turn to food to ease the heartache.

Like the aforementioned film cliche, I had a similar post-breakup experience. 

When I split up with my first girlfriend, I distinctly remember that my immediate instinct was to order, specifically over order, fast food. 

On the flip side, a sudden loss of appetite is just as concerning, if not more. 

Food is one of the great delights of existence, so when someone’s enthusiasm for eating abruptly fades, this often signals deeper issues. 

3) Lack of interest in activities

Our hobbies and interests give us meaning; they give us a conceivable reason to get out of bed in the morning. 

So once our interests become less appealing, this can be a troubling sign. 

I know a guy who used to love yoga so much that he ended up as a popular instructor in his community. 

But when the pandemic rolled around, his passion dwindled until it was virtually nonexistent. 

He became sedentary and gained at least 40 lbs, which only worsened his already damaged self-worth. 

His general outlook became desolate. 

Rather than taking out his frustrations on the yoga mat, he lost all motivation. 

So if you know someone who suddenly loses interest in an activity they once loved and enjoyed, this, more often than not, indicates an internal struggle. 

4) Withdrawal from social interaction

When you’re unhappy with life, you tend not to want to leave the house. 

Suddenly, routine things like seeing people–or even just getting dressed–become daunting tasks.

Fair enough. 

When I get blue, I’d rather just be alone. 

Solitude can be comforting, after all. 

Being alone offers a peaceful retreat from the anxiety and demands of social interaction. 

This allows unhappy people to process their emotions without the pressure of external judgment. 

Remember what Jean-Paul Sartre said, “Hell is other people.” 

This is especially true when you’re going through an ordeal in life. 

5) Decreased energy levels

Have you ever been tired for no apparent reason? I know I have. 

When I was jobless and in debt, my life lacked meaning. 

My days consisted of worrying, spacing out into the abyss, and taking the occasional trip to the fridge. 

I was lost. I could feel a palpable void in my life. 

My existence felt like an endless loop–like the film Groundhog Day, without the laughs. 

I was barely leaving my apartment–so it might sound unusual that I was consistently low energy and tired. 

The truth is, when your mind goes into overdrive as a result of stress, sorrow, or boredom, this can affect your physical state. 

Persistent fatigue, not related to physical exertion, is therefore a common sign of sadness. 

6) Neglecting personal care

I don’t think it’s up for debate: the pandemic was a dark time for everyone. 

Yes, it was more grim for some than others, but I think we’re all overjoyed that it’s mostly a thing of the past. 

Fingers crossed. 

The pandemic was a particularly rough time for me as a business owner. 

As mentioned, I racked up significant debt. 

Creditors were relentlessly after me. Every day, I contended with the thought of losing everything. 

So I wasn’t exactly dressed in my Sunday best on the daily. 

When I did go out, say to the grocery or a socially distanced gathering with family, I was dressed like a slob, sometimes wearing what I wore to sleep, often unbathed. 

When my relatives started commenting on the odor I was giving off, I knew it was time to get in gear. 

I now know firsthand that suddenly neglecting personal hygiene and appearance can be a telltale sign of inner turmoil

7) Irritability or short temper

Speaking of the pandemic, I think that the most glaring sign I was unhappy at the time was my change in mood. 

Family and friends were bothered by how drastically my character had changed over that period. 

I can’t blame them. I was irritable, snarky, and could easily snap into an unhinged rage. 

Sometimes, my loved ones had to walk on eggshells around me. 

You know those viral videos of Karen’s melting down out in public? 

Well, I could relate and empathize with them. I was bitter with life and took it out on whoever was in my vicinity. 

Things like irritability and constant anger are clear indicators of unhappiness or stress. 

So if someone is stressed out and happens to snap at you, try not to take it personally. 

It’s likely them with the issue, not you. 

And when they realize it, they’ll often feel remorseful and apologetic, as I did. 

8) Frequent sighing 

This one is more subtle than angry outbursts. 

When my previous relationship had run its course, sighing became a frequent sound in my life, both for me and my partner. 

We were discontented, bored, and unfulfilled with each other. 

Rather than tackle the problem, we’d just subconsciously sigh, hinting at our frustration and exhaustion with the status quo. 

So if you notice someone in your life sighing more frequently, then there’s a decent chance something’s up. 

Sighing is often a physical manifestation of a range of negative emotional states; and most of the time, we don’t even realize we’re doing it.

9) Changes in communication patterns

If you’re going through a crisis, say a breakup or mourning a loved one, it’s unlikely you’ll maintain a consistently upbeat mood in your interactions. 

Speaking less, or adopting a more withdrawn, passive tone, when unhappy is to be expected. 

So if you notice a friend or family texting or speaking in monosyllables, this could be a sign that they’re dealing with something. 

It might be our gut reaction to someone’s sudden change in aura to wonder if we did something wrong. 

Don’t rush to conclusions. 

Typically, an abruptly terse tone simply means the person you’re speaking to has something going on internally.

10) Physical symptoms without medical cause

Sometimes emotional distress manifests as physical symptoms, like headaches or stomach aches, dizziness, nausea, and so on, without a clear medical cause. 

I think we’ve all been there at some point. 

Stress triggers physiological responses, releasing hormones that can cause these undesirable symptoms. 

So if you experience a sudden onslaught of headaches or stomach issues, don’t panic. 

This may just mean emotional discomfort, stress, or unhappiness. 

Breathe in, breathe out. You’ll be okay. 

Final words 

Occasionally feeling unhappy is a normal part of life.

But when these episodes of discontent are prolonged, this can be a red flag. 

If you or someone you know seems to be constantly down in the dumps, then getting help is the right move. 

This can simply mean reaching out to an understanding friend or relative. 

However, if you feel the situation calls for more, seeking professional assistance might be necessary. You got this. 

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