The Hidden Signs of Depression

I’m not a psychiatrist, but if a friend came to me and said she was feeling so hopeless that she couldn’t function at work; that she was going through a box of tissues every few days because of her unexplained crying spells; and that she was no longer enjoying the things she used to dig, like her three-month-old chocolate lab, I’d heave her into my car, take her to the doctor, and see that she get evaluated for depression.

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), depression affects over 15 million U.S. adults every year, so you probably know someone who is (or has been) depressed.  And most of us are familiar enough with the symptoms of depression that we could easily recognize them in ourselves or loved ones.

But there are some other signs of depression that often get overlooked. 

If the same friend told me that she had been feeling lethargic, wasn’t sleeping well, felt annoyed with everyone around her, and kept getting headaches, I might assume she was drinking too much coffee or suffering from a bad case of PMS.  But these could also be symptoms of depression.  Many people suffering from these “hidden signs of depression” delay or never receive diagnosis and treatment, because they attribute them to some other cause.  Some commonly overlooked symptoms of depression may include:
  • A persistent lack of energy—feeling fatigued, lethargic, and “slowed down," even with ample sleep
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering things, and making decisions
  • Changes in sleep patterns—insomnia, early-morning awakening with difficulty going back to sleep, or oversleeping that can make other symptoms even worse
  • Appetite changes—a decrease in appetite and subsequent weight loss OR increase in appetite and weight gain could mean you're depressed
  • Thoughts about death or dying, but not necessarily of suicide
  • Restlessness, increased irritability, anger, worry, agitation, anxiety
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Chronic pain and persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, backaches, and digestive disorders (dry mouth, stomachaches, constipation, diarrhea)
Our moods naturally vary over time, and everyone feels sad, annoyed, worried, or withdrawn from time to time.  In order to be diagnosed with depression, five or more of the above symptoms must be present continuously for at least two weeks.  The symptoms should be serious enough to cause worry and to interfere with work, social life, and/or daily life.

Many things can trigger depression.  A traumatic event, like the death of a loved one or the loss of a job—or even the long-term stress of a chronic illness or an unhealthy relationship can trigger the biochemical changes that affect brain function and lead to symptoms of depression.  But sometimes these biochemical changes seem to be the result of nothing in particular.  In short, sometimes depression just happens.
Fortunately, depression is a treatable illness that responds extremely well to treatment programs. The most effective treatment for depression is one that includes counseling in addition to appropriate use of medication.  The first step is to talk with your doctor, explaining exactly how you’ve been feeling.  Don’t try to diagnose yourself, because depression is a complex disorder with many possible causes, symptoms, and treatments.  Together with your doctor, you can formulate a treatment plan that can help you feel like yourself again.
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Member Comments

Yep, but I just ignore it and go on. Life is a drag. Report
thanks for this info, you're like a https://en.wikipe
Main_Page# Report
A lot of people struggle with depression in the winter. There's little sunshine. That sure doesn't help Report
this is a great start for handling depression. Thank you. Report
Very interesting and helpful article. Report
I thought I had the depression I suffered from in check. But, seems a bad weather day, a disappointment, a little bit of anger...maybe road rage...and it all comes back to me. I have a hard time keeping my depression from creeping back into my life. Yes, I know what it is and know how it feels and know the symptoms that develop into heavier bouts....but how do you avoid it?? Report
Good list, and also the list that CHARADE539 posts. I'm a retired behavioral health RN with depression in treatment for 10+ years. Report
Great article Report
Other signs to look out for:
1. Irritability, snapping at friends and family, finding things that didn't annoy you before highly annoying now.
2. Paranoia, feeling like people are only spending time with you out of obligation, or that everyone secretly hates you and wants you to go away.
3. Wishing you could "just stop existing for awhile". Not death, but an escape from everything.
4. Inability to stay focused on tasks.
5. Having to invent excuses to keep going. (For me it was my dogs. If I didn't get up and go to work they would starve.) Report
Absolutely Report
Very informative! Report
And what do you do if the person is an adult and refuses to seek help? Yeah, recognizing signs is all well and good, but ain't nothing you can do if they don't want help.
things to watch for Report
Good article. Report


About The Author

Liza Barnes
Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.