Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn’t worth living.
More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness and you can’t simply “snap out” of it. Depression may require long-term treatment. But don’t get discouraged. Most people with depression feel better with medication, psychotherapy or both. Some people with depression may try to hide the signs from others, and others might not even realize that they have depression. Although well-known symptoms such as sadness or hopelessness can be easy to recognize, other symptoms may be less obvious. Although some depression symptoms are obvious, there are many hidden signs of depression. However, it is important to note that other medical issues can also cause some of the same symptoms.
This article discusses some of the less obvious symptoms of depression. It also covers common causes of depression and what a person should do if they or a loved one experiences the following symptoms.
Appetite and weight changes
Eating too much or too little can indicate depression. Some people turn to food for comfort, while others lose their appetite or eat less due to low mood. These changes in food intake can cause a person to gain or lose weight. They can also affect mood and energy levels. There may also be physiological factors at play. For example, there is a Source between excess body fat and increased inflammation in the body. This, in turn, may play a role in the development or severity of depression symptoms.
Loss of concentration
When a person trails off during conversations or loses their train of thought, this can indicate issues with memory and concentration. Such issues are a common symptom of depression. An older 2014 study suggests that these difficulties with concentration and focus can worsen the social impact of depression by making work life and personal relationships more challenging. Additionally, a 2018 narrative review notes that cognitive dysfunction is a key aspect of major depressive disorder (MDD). This can significantly affect a person’s social life, return to work, and workplace productivity.
Some people with hidden depression experience personality changes. They may become quieter and more withdrawn, or they may be angry and irritable. Many people do not associate anger and irritability with depression, but these mood changes are not unusual among those with the condition. Instead of appearing sad, some people with hidden depression may display irritability and overt or suppressed anger.
Low sex drive
Some healthcare professionals consider changes in sex drive a key indicator when diagnosing episodes of depressive symptoms. In a 2018 study, more severe depression was associated with more severe sexual dysfunction. This dysfunction included trouble with sexual function, desire, and satisfaction. There are several reasons why a person’s libido might decrease when they have depression. These include: loss of interest in pleasurable activities, such as sex, fatigue and low energy levels, and low self-esteem
Scientists do not yet know the exact cause of depression. However, many experts think that several factors play a role in its onset, including:
- Genetics: Depression can run in families. Having a close relative with the condition can raise a person’s risk of developing it themselves.
- Biological and chemical differences: Physical changes or chemical imbalances in the brain may contribute to the development of depression.
- Hormones: Hormonal changes or imbalances in the body may cause or trigger depression. For example, many people experience postpartum depression after giving birth.
- Trauma or stress: Periods of high stress, traumatic events, or major life changes can trigger an episode of depression in some people.
- Personality traits: Having low self-esteem or being pessimistic, for example, may increase the risk of depression.
- Other illnesses: Having another mental or physical health condition or taking certain medications can increase the risk of depression.
If you experience an episode of severe depression, you might also experience some psychotic symptoms. These can include: delusions, such as paranoia, hallucinations, such as hearing voices. If you experience psychotic symptoms as part of depression, they’re likely to be linked to your depressed thoughts and feelings. For example, you might become convinced that you’ve committed an unspeakable crime. These kinds of experiences can feel very real to you at the time, which may make it hard to understand that these experiences are also symptoms of your depression. They can also be quite frightening or upsetting, so it’s important to seek treatment and support. You might feel worried that experiencing psychotic symptoms could mean you get a new diagnosis, but psychosis can be a symptom of depression. Discussing your symptoms with your doctor can help you get the right support and treatment.
People who believe that they may have hidden depression should contact a doctor or mental health professional. These professionals can help make a diagnosis and recommend a course of treatment. Other steps to manage depression might include:
- Reducing stress, such as through meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga
- Improving self-esteem through positive self-affirmations
- Socializing with others, although this can be challenging with depression
- Engaging in activities that the person used to enjoy
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a balanced diet
- Asking family or friends for support
- Joining a support group
Not everyone with depression will display the typical symptoms of sadness and despair. Sometimes, the only signs that a person may show are physical, such as fatigue, insomnia, or weight changes. Other signs of hidden depression can include using alcohol or drugs, being irritable or angry, and losing interest in pleasurable activities such as sex and hobbies. People concerned that a loved one has hidden depression should try talking with them about their symptoms and offering nonjudgmental support and advice. Individuals who suspect that they have depression should consider discussing it with a doctor or mental health professional. It can sometimes be hard to explain your thoughts and feelings to others. You might find it difficult to talk about your depression and instead you might cut yourself off from other people. The more overwhelming your symptoms, the more isolated and lonelier you might become. Without treatment and support, depression can have an impact on your relationships, work, finances and overall health, so it’s important to get help as early as possible.