They say not to judge a book by its cover...
You might think you could spot a depressed person from a mile away. However, it’s a myth that everyone with depression shows telltale signs like constant sadness, lethargy, or self-harm. In fact, many people with high-functioning depression can experience other unexpected symptoms.
9 Symptoms of Depression That Might Surprise You
1. Changes in your eating habits that may lead to weight gain or loss
Popular movie scenes often show sobbing women with pints of ice cream, and it’s true that emotional eating can be quite common. However, many people with depression actually lose their appetite. For that reason, significant weight gain or loss could indicate underlying mental distress.
2. Changes in your sleeping habits: sleeping too much or too little
Yep, when it comes to bedtime routines, you can probably find a person with depression who does both. Ping-ponging between periods of insomnia and extreme fatigue is quite common. This creates a cycle of not being able to sleep, and then being tired and needing naps during the day. Then, this low energy during the day can worsen mood and prolong depression.
3. Feeling unfocused or distracted
This one feels a bit less obvious, but lack of concentration is a sign to look out for. This is especially important if it impacts your ability to function in your normal daily activities. For example, you may find it difficult to focus on work tasks or school projects.
4. Trouble with decision making, memory, and intrusive thoughts
People might relate these experiences to other disorders like ADHD or obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, these conditions often co-occur with depression. For example, someone with depression may have constant, intrusive thoughts that they are not good enough, that their loved ones think they’re a burden, or that they’re a failure.
5. Anger or easy irritability
As the conversation about mental health awareness becomes more mainstream, it’s also becoming more nuanced. For instance, it has become clear that many who have short fuses or notorious tempers could actually be expressing their anxiety or depression (especially in men). To make it worse, many feel guilty or ashamed after these outbursts, which can fuel the depressive cycle.
6. Body pains (migraines, digestive issues, and other body aches)
The mind-body connection is very real. Some may feel lower back pain, headaches, or an upset stomach before they ever link it to a disordered mood.
7. Concurrent anxiety
Why have one condition when you can have both? Anxiety and depression are often two sides of the same coin. It could be helpful to think of it like this:
- Anxiety is ruminating on your fear of the future and unknown outcomes.
- Depression often involves ruminating on past or current events you have no control over.
Luckily, this also means that medications and therapies for one illness can also help treat the other.
8. Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
Ever heard of anhedonia? Basically the opposite of hedonism, it translates to a lack of desire to even attempt to find pleasure. For example, people with depression may have a lack of desire to hang out with friends, engage in hobbies, or celebrate special events.
9. Overcompensating behavior to “prove happiness”
On the other end of the spectrum, some may create a facade of insincere joyfulness. There is something to be said for “fake it ‘til you make it.” However, in cases of clinical depression, the goal post of “making it” will keep moving farther away without proper treatment.
Depression is not one-size-fits-all, and there is not necessarily a permanent cure. Still, putting a concerted effort into addressing these symptoms proactively can help make it more manageable.
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- Recognizing the “unusual” signs of depression. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Health Publishing, 2013. (Accessed on July 21, 2021)