Depression, especially milder cases, doesn’t always involve crying or feeling obviously unhappy. These subtler mental clues could also indicate you have this mood disorder.
by Lauren Gelman
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You hide from your feelings
You might be a “perfectly hidden depressed person,” says Fayetteville, Arkansas psychologist Margaret Rutherford, PhD, where people think, “This is someone out there in the community, very task-oriented, almost perfectionistic. She has her act together.” On the inside you might be grappling with unresolved or troubling issues, but you don’t like to think about them, let alone talk about them. “This person might look and seem like she has it all together, but if you scratch the surface, you’ll see they’re terrified that if they begin talking about what they really feel like, they’ll just break apart,” Rutherford says.
You wouldn’t say you’re happy or unhappy
This weird gray zone could be a sign of apathy or ambivalence, according to wellness expert Brett Blumenthal, author of A Whole New You: Six Steps to Ignite Change for Your Best Life, on her blog. “If one is depressed, they may unknowingly turn off all of their emotions in order to shut out emotions such as unhappiness,” she writes.
You’ve carefully constructed a very busy life
One way that people may cope with these buried emotions, says Rutherford, is to stay on autopilot. “They might be very into their children, their church, other community groups, they might be workaholics—they use this activity to stay away from their feelings,” she says.
Random things make you mad
A lot of people think of depression as sadness, crying, and melancholy, but anger can be a common sign too, especially in men. It might be that anger is a more comfortable—or, socially acceptable—channel of expression. Rutherford shares an example of someone grieving from a recent divorce who might not be able to get through the day without expressing rage: yelling at his kids, or being more irritable at work. “This anger is just as much a sign of depression as if he came in and were sobbing on my couch,” she says.
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You’re acting recklessly
Another sign of untreated depression, particularly in men, is taking dangerous risks with driving, sex, gambling, drinking, or other similar activities, according to WebMD.
You aren’t thinking clearly
A sluggish mind is a common symptom Rutherford sees with her patients. “They’ll say, ‘It feels like my mind is just murky; I can’t think through things like I used to, like I’m dragging my mind through mud’,” she says. Blumenthal writes that it’s common for people with depression to have trouble focusing on even the most basic tasks, and that they can become very indecisive.
You stop enjoying activities you previously loved
You used to go to the gym three or four days a week, or rarely missed a golf or card game with friends. But if you start to feel like you have to force yourself to go, or just don’t want to do them anymore, it could be a warning sign of depression. Brain changes during depression can make you less engaged and motivated.
You’re introspective to a fault
Depression forces you to focus on yourself and your needs, and you become less concerned about others. That turning away can lead to guilty feelings. “Patients feel bad because they realize they’re not as involved with their kids, or families or friends. Many people are aware of how self-involved they are,” Rutherford says.