How to Know Your Loved One is Silently Depressed?

“People think depression is sadness. People think depression is crying. People think depression is dressing in black. But people are wrong. Depression is the constant feeling of being numb. Being numb to emotions, being numb to life. You wake up in the morning just to go back to bed again.” – Unknown

Depression affects millions of people worldwide, and this number only seems to be growing. The World Health Organization puts the number of people who are depressed at around 350 million, but this number only represents the people actually diagnosed. Those who suffer silently and choose not to get help out of embarrassment, shame, or pride might make that number jump significantly.

Maybe the person suffering doesn’t even know that they have a problem, which makes silent depression even more dangerous. However, some people simply don’t know how to express their emotions, or don’t feel comfortable doing so. This is why we all need to look out for the people in our lives, and watch for the signs and behaviors that someone is silently depressed. 

The typical symptoms of depression, such as sadness or hopelessness, can be easy to recognize, there are symptoms that may be less obvious. Here we’ll discuss some of the possible hidden signs of depression, support and advice.

Withdrawal from activities, work, or school

Withdrawal from activities is one of the key signs of depression; this occurs because the disorder takes up all of the person’s time and energy. Depression makes it very difficult to carry on with daily life, aside from what is absolutely necessary, because the pain becomes too great. Those who suffer silently might start dropping one or two activities from their schedule in hopes that no one will notice. Many who suffer don’t want to admit they have a problem and don’t want others to know about it.

If you notice that a loved one is starting to miss out on life, then this is a sign of silent depression.


No surprise here depression zaps a person’s energy levels to the point where even getting out of bed can seem like running a marathon. The constant, intrusive thoughts of hopelessness and despair combined with high stress, poor appetite, and sleep troubles make life a daily battle. A person that suffers silently from depression might even start withdrawing from friendships and family life because they have no energy left for them.

Eating too much or too little

Increased or decreased appetite is a common symptom of depression. Gary Kennedy, MD, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York, says, “A sudden change in weight, either gaining or losing, can be a warning of depression, especially in someone who has other symptoms of depression or a history of depression.”

If you notice unusual eating habits in a friend or loved one, they could be suffering silently from depression.

Trouble sleeping

According to WebMD, 80% of adults with depression have trouble falling or staying asleep. Patients who have chronic insomnia have three times the likelihood of developing depression compared to those without insomnia. Many doctors believe that treating insomnia will help reduce depressive symptoms in people suffering. If someone you know complains of sleep problems on a regular basis, he or she might have depression.

Substance abuse

Sadly, substance abuse is common among those with depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders. While it’s understandable to want to escape reality and troubled thoughts for a while, addiction can cause even more problems down the road. If you know someone abuses drugs or alcohol on a regular basis, they might be silently depressed.

Faking emotions

A lot of people with depression don’t want to admit it, either to themselves or others. When in others’ company, they will appear overly happy or give vague answers when people ask about how their life is going. They only engage in shallow conversation because they want to avoid judgment cast upon them about their depression. If you notice someone has become distant or only makes small talk, this might point to hidden depression.

They become workaholic

You might not think of overworking as a symptom of depression, but some people use work to cover up their emotions. They see work as an excuse to escape how they feel, a distraction for the torment that their mind causes them. If you notice someone staying late at work most nights of the week, they might actually be silently depressed and not just a workaholic.

Causes of depression

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 for 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 women 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.

What to do if a loved one has hidden depression

If a loved one appears to have signs of hidden depression, try to talk to them about their symptoms and offer nonjudgmental support and advice.

This can include:

  • Encouraging them to seek treatment
  • Offering to accompany them to appointments
  • Planning enjoyable activities together
  • Exercising together
  • Encouraging them to socialize with others

Final thoughts

Depression seems like a monster in the minds of those who suffer from it, which makes it critical for them to get the help they need. If you notice someone showing any of the above mentioned signs, don’t hesitate to offer them a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. If we all look out for one another, we might just put the stigma surrounding depression to rest and make people feel more comfortable and willing to get the treatment they need.