March 4, 2023 11:07 am

Psychology Element

Occasionally, someone close to us is suffering from depression but they’re keeping it hidden. There are many reasons why people keep their depression a secret. Shame and guilt are both commonly experienced with depression which is one reason why people feel the need to isolate themselves from others.

They might not want to feel like a burden or they may tell themselves people experience worse hardships, so they have no reason for their sadness. 

Depression is a very serious condition that affects anyone of all demographics. People who you may never expect to ever feel sad could be keeping it a secret from the world. Thankfully, we’ve come up with the Top 7 Signs Someone is Secretly Depressed.

Be sure to read until the end. The last tip is our favorite because it’s one no one ever expects! 

1. Changes In Appetite or Weight 

When people are depressed they might experience changes in their appetite, which could eventually result in changes in their weight. The changes usually depend on the individual. 

Some people’s appetites increase with depression, turning to food as a means of comfort and pleasure. This is often called emotional eating. 

Some researchers claim that emotional eating is often caused by someone’s response to certain emotions, due to the food changing the brain’s chemical balance. This change in balance can soothe negative emotions by giving your body the feeling of fullness and pleasure. 

Some research also found that there might also be positive associations between someone’s memory and a specific food that might make someone temporarily feel better. For example, if someone is feeling depressed, they decide to cook their mom’s famous lasagna recipe or eat their ex’s favorite candy bar to produce the positive emotions you’ve associated with the food. 

In contrast, some people might lose their appetite when depressed. Some people with depression have reported losing interest in everything, even eating. This is particularly common in elderly populations who don’t have the energy or desire to cook anymore, resulting in weight loss.

They feel too depressed to bother cooking, instead, they skip meals and eventually lose weight. Others report nausea as a symptom of depression, making it difficult to eat. 

There are many different explanations for a change in appetite or weight, but it could be a sign of a serious underlying health condition. If you or someone you know is experiencing this, it’s advised to get a medical opinion to rule out anything else. 

Assuming there are no underlying health concerns, if you notice a change in a friend’s eating habits, it could be a sign they’re depressed.

2. Changes in sleep patterns 

Is someone you know yawning constantly throughout the day? Do they seem to be drinking more coffee to get themselves through the afternoon? Maybe they’re saying more often, they couldn’t sleep the night before. Or maybe they’re missing shifts or classes completely and don’t leave their bed all day.

All of these could be signs that someone you know is secretly depressed. If you notice this pattern in them, try asking them how they’ve been feeling lately. Even if they aren’t ready to open up yet, knowing you care helps.

You can watch this article if you prefer watching instead.

3. Increased use of alcohol or other substances 

If you notice your friend or coworker has had an increase in their substance use, they might be using them as a coping method to distract themselves from their depressive thoughts. 

Substances work as a coping mechanism because they may temporarily soothe or numb the symptoms of depression. Unfortunately, they often also exasperate the feelings of loneliness and dread that accompanies depression.

Your friend might be open about their substance use, but if they keep it hidden, there are some signs to look out for. For example, extreme lethargy, bloodshot eyes, odors of the substance on clothing are good indicators someone may be using substances. 

If you fear this is true, it’s important to reach out to your friends. Although it’s an uncomfortable topic to bring up, due to the harmful, sometimes lethal, side effects of drugs and alcohol, it’s in their best interest.

4. More irritable or prone to anger

When people are suffering from depression, they might experience so much pain from their anxiety that it builds up tension inside. Sometimes every task sounds  As if one more single thing that goes wrong will send them off. Whether they go into a fit of rage, shouting and stomping around, or make snide, sarcastic comments, both are evidence that they might be suffering from depression.

Before you respond back with anger or take it too personally, try asking them if anything is going on that they’d like to talk about.

5. Change in work ethic 

It’s unsurprising that if all of these other issues are going on, there would be a change in work patterns. Most would assume that people would only show negative changes in their work performance. It is true that feeling a lack of motivation, energy, or purpose in a person’s daily life are all signs of depression that can show a decrease in work ethic.

However, an effect of depression that’s sometimes reported, though not discussed as often, is showing an extreme increase in their work performance. 

As a means of distracting themselves from their depression, they might pour all their energy and focus on their work. They might exude confidence and appear to have their lives perfectly in order all while suffering in silence.

Researchers studying differences in mental disorders between workaholics and non-workaholics found that in the workaholic group, 8.9% showed met the diagnostic requirements for depression compared to 2.6% in the group of non-workaholics. Along with depression, workaholics also showed high rates of OCD, Anxiety, and ADHD. 

So, if you notice someone showing a decrease or increase in their work ethic, they might be secretly depressed.

6. Personality traits and changes 

Personality changes are common in people with depression. If someone is naturally bubbly and energetic, and they begin appearing gloomy or irritable, they may be hiding their depression. 

What many people aren’t aware of, however, is that certain personality traits can work as a predictor for future depression diagnoses. Psychologists often use the Big Five Personality Test in order to understand an individual’s personality traits.

The Big Five Personality Traits are measured on a spectrum in 5 distinct categories. A good way to remember these traits is to use the acronym OCEAN.

Openness to new experiences





Research has shown that the traits associated with depression are Neuroticism, Extraversion, and Conscientiousness. If people score high in neuroticism, they report higher levels of depression. Low Extraversion and Conscientiousness are also predictors of depression. 

If you know someone who shows these similar traits, they’re already at risk of experiencing depression. If they begin showing the previous signs, it’s a good idea to ask them if they need any support.

7. They smile a lot

A depressed person who smiles a lot might sound strange, but it’s very common and is often why depression is hard to detect in some individuals.

The term “smiling depression” describes an individual who appears happy, social, and high functioning while they’re silently suffering on the inside. Although this isn’t a medical diagnostic term, it does explain the experience of people who smile instead of showing their depression.

Some people with depression might feel weak if they showed any of their symptoms and instead force themselves to act happy and energetic, even if it hurts. They might not want to burden people with their problems or feel as if other people have it much worse so they have no right to feel depressed. 

While they’re smiling and appearing to be having fun, they could be thinking that the world would be better off without them. This is why it’s important to check in with those important to you and remind them that you’re there for support, even if they aren’t showing any typical depressive symptoms. 

We hope these tips helped you find out if someone close to you is secretly dealing with depression. Which tip was your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author

Psychology Element helps you to understand your own psychology, your relationships, and various mental disorders.

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