Uncommon Signs and Symptoms of Depression UPDATED

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

By Tara Yombor, LMHC, and updated by Sarah Desantis, LCSW

Symptoms of depression can show up in uncommon ways. Imagine you are out to lunch with a friend. While chatting over Cobb Salads and a Coke, she tells you about her cousin who has been severely depressed.

Then, your friend states that her cousin seems happy and even makes jokes at her own expense, despite her report of struggling with severe depression.

Wait, what?

She’s angry?

Making jokes?

That doesn’t sound like depression; or at least not the typical signs of depression that we’ve all come to know.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression - Depression Therapy Fort Lauderdale - Depression is the Common Cold of Mental HealthAt some point, we all may experience a temporary feeling of sadness, whether it’s not getting a promotion at work, or At some point, we all may experience temporary feelings of sadness, whether it’s not getting the promotion at work or being sad over a breakup.

Depression is much more than a temporary feeling of sadness and it presents differently for every individual. For someone who is facing Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), internally they may feel lost, hopeless, helpless, guilty, angry, sad, anxious, or even suicidal. They may experience a lack of sleep, lack of pleasure, and decreased or increased appetite. Depression can feel debilitating.

Someone may still feel isolated even when surrounded by a sea of loving people.

Nonetheless, the symptoms they display to the outside world may be very different from the way they’re feeling on the inside. Below are the less commonly known signs of depression.

Depression is not an emotion;
it’s a mental illness.

Uncommon Depression Symptoms:

  • Overcompensation through perceived happiness: Those struggling with depression may do anything they can to deter people from knowing they are depressed. They may feel guilty, ashamed, weak, or embarrassed, and start overcompensating for their depression by doing anything to mask their depressive symptoms to appear “okay” or “happy.”

    Someone who appears very outgoing and who is seen laughing within a crowd of people may be crippled with thoughts of sadness, emptiness, and desperation. Think back to the beloved comedian and actor, Robin Williams. He made millions of people laugh with his witty and slapstick comedy. However, he was struggling with depression, which eventually led to his suicide.

  • Hypersexuality: Depression can cause you to push down difficult emotions leading to avoidance behaviors such as hypersexuality or the misuse of alcohol and other substances. These behaviors serve as a way of coping and finding short-term, momentary relief.
  • Working too much: The myth is busted! Being depressed doesn’t mean you have no motivation. Of course, lethargy or feeling no energy is a common symptom. There is a large sect of people who work to distract. Actually, workaholics are twice as likely to be depressed than non-workaholics.
  • Codependency: In order to combat the overwhelming feelings of loneliness, many individuals with depression seek relief through attachment with others. Do you know the saying “misery loves company”? It can be true in depression. In order to avoid overwhelming feelings of loneliness, many people with depression will soothe themselves through attachment to others.
  • Purposely depriving oneself of sleep: We know that depression impacts the way we sleep, whether it be insomnia or hypersomnia, or just difficulty falling asleep. More uncommon is when an individual intentionally throws off their sleep schedules. This is usually due to wanting more time to engage in pleasurable activities.

    Some people may stay up late or avoid sleep in order to have more time for pleasurable activities. This happens because so much of the day is consumed by depression.

  • Weight gain/weight loss: Depression causes changes in our appetite. This change in appetite can lead to overeating (weight gain) or weight loss when not dieting.
  • Anger and irritability: Signs of depression vary depending on sex. Anger is one of the most common symptoms of depression in men. History tells us that men are also less likely than women to acknowledge or accept their depression. This may explain why some men cope with their emotions by using drugs and alcohol or having displaced anger toward a loved one through verbal or physical abuse.

    This does not mean that only men experience anger as a symptom of depression. Many women tend to show an increase in irritability and can lash out verbally against their loved ones or toward themselves through self-harm or drugs and alcohol.

  • Uncontrollable emotions: Experiencing rapid changes in mood or emotion can also be a sign of depression. Not being able to control your emotions from one hour, minute, or day to the next. Someone experiencing depression may vacillate from crying to laughing, to anger, to guilt, to a feeling of numbness without reason.

    These feelings may also be disproportionate to the current situation or event. For example, uncontrollable crying over spilling water on the kitchen floor.

  • Difficulty showing emotion: Do you always have to be sad to have depression? No! For many, this is not the case. Instead of feeling sad, you may feel disconnected and numb to your emotions.
  • Anxiety: Depression can be paralyzing. It can cause feelings of inferiority or guilt, which then leads to anxiety over not being able to cope with day-to-day activities. Every task may feel more overwhelming and anxiety-provoking due to low motivation/low energy.

    Those dealing with depression can have ruminating and intrusive thoughts, lack of concentration, and the inability to make a decision.

Common Symptoms Of Depression:

  • Loss of interest: Another symptom of depression is diminished interest or pleasure. A loss of pleasure is called anhedonia (learn more about anhedonia here) and is usually experienced in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day. These activities would include things the person once used to enjoy that they no longer find pleasure in doing. This can also include a decreased sex drive or loss of interest in sex.
  • Self-Harm Behaviors: these signs of depression include cutting the wrists, legs, hips, or stomach; burning self, skin picking, or engaging in behaviors to create physical harm to self. Many report that self-harming behavior is a way to express on the outside the pain they are feeling on the inside. This can also include intrusive thoughts of death, with or without a specific suicide plan. Also, it can include a specific plan for committing suicide.

Depression is not an emotion; it’s a mental illness. If you know someone struggling with a mental illness, do not judge them. Provide support and lovingly encourage them to get help from a professional. 

If you identify with the symptoms above, know that hope and change is possible. You are not alone. Invest in yourself by reserving time with a therapist because you are worth it.


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