A man holding a notebook and thinking about depression signs

Someone you love may be experiencing depression signs, even if they don’t show it. Depression has many faces, and not every face can be identified easily.  

For example, hidden depression, or ‘smiling depression’, is when someone intentionally or unintentionally conceals their signs to show the world that they are fine.  

Hiding depression could involve several reasons – perhaps it is the fear that society would consider them ‘unproductive’ or maybe they worry about being judged for doing less work than their peers.  

The reason could also be that they don’t want to worry their loved ones.  

By understanding how to identify the signs of depression, we may be better prepared to ask for help and to provide support for those struggling.  

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live can bear with almost any ‘how.'”  — Viktor E. Frankl. 

What Is Depression?

Depression, or MDD, is a mood disorder that can affect our emotions, thoughts, and actions. Other common terms are major depression, major depressive disorder, or clinical depression.  

People diagnosed with the condition may show depression signs for at least 2 weeks.  

Some people can be depressed and not be aware of it. Some may also misunderstand depression to be bipolar disorder. 

This is because bipolar disorder may also have signs like those of depression.  

For example, people with bipolar disorder may experience ‘depressive episodes’, where they feel sad, hopeless, unworthy, and may have low energy.  

However, people with bipolar disorder may also have ‘manic episodes’, where they usually experience high moods like feeling happy, elated, and having high energy.  

Although some depression signs – like sadness and hopelessness – may be obvious, there are many hidden signs of depression.  

Let’s see what depression signs feel like (ie what one person may experience) and look like (ie how the signs may present themselves externally).  

What Depression Signs Can Feel Like

People may have different experiences of feeling depression. Although people of all genders can feel depressed, the way they feel and express their signs may differ.  

For example, due to societal systems, men are usually taught to ‘be strong’ and avoid feeling ‘too emotional’. Although these are harmful ideologies, men may find it hard to express their sadness due to conditional upbringing. 

Men may show signs of anger and irritability or may consume alcohol or drugs to cope with depression signs.  

Hence, even if we usually think of depression signs as feeling sad or upset, people may have a lot of other hidden signs, including: 

1. Negative Self-Talk

Negative self-talk is when we use harmful and condescending inner dialogues with ourselves, especially when we make a mistake or feel an ‘uncommon’ emotion.  

We may all have an inner critic, which was probably shaped by our childhood experiences, past friendships, and relationships with our parents.  

Most times, it’s the little voice inside us that helps us achieve something. Do you hear yourself saying, “Let’s go! We can do it!” whenever you’re stressed? That’s your inner voice.  

However, our inner voice can be more harmful if we’ve been exposed to post-traumatic stress or other mental health conditions like depression.  

Here’s how you can identify this sign of depression. Negative self-talk can sound like: 

  • I’m not good at this. I should give up on all tasks similar to this one.” 
  • “I can never do anything correctly. I’m a failure.” 
  • “I don’t deserve to be happy or to exist in this world.” 
  • “I can never do this even if I work hard.” 

It could seem like a realistic appraisal of a situation. For example, “I failed my chemistry exam. Maybe this is not my strong subject.”  

We may eventually delve too much into this thought and feed it based on fear, which could lead us to think, “I’ll never be able to learn chemistry properly.” 

Negative self-talk is any inner dialogue that demotivates, puts us down, or limits our belief in ourselves.  

Research shows that negative self-talk could be a hidden depression sign that may impact our ability to make positive changes in our lives.  

In fact, a recent study indicates that negative self-talk has a long-term effect on our well-being and cognitive function.  

A person looking at their reflection that seems to be very critical, indicating signs of depression

2. Forced Happiness

Forced happiness or smiling depression is when we appear calm and happy on the outside (ie by forcing a smile on our face), but in reality, we struggle with severe signs of depression. 

People who hide their depression well may often struggle to get the help they need. Sometimes, they may avoid seeking help due to inner shame. Other times, they may fear judgement and discrimination from society or their workplace.  

People with this depression sign may be at a higher risk of self-harming or dying by suicide.  

Many may not even be aware that they’re depressed, as hiding their signs may be unintentional.  

Most people with this symptom avoid help because their social and professional lives are intact, and they are not struggling. They put up a facade of being accomplished and put together.  

Try to identify if you are feeling signs of depression, such as: 

  • Worthlessness 
  • Despair 
  • Intrusive thoughts 
  • Lack of energy  
  • Sleep problems 

A mental health counsellor may help you identify and manage these emotions, even if you are hesitant to reveal them. Counselling is a space for you to express yourself without any fear of ridicule.  

Depression Has Many Faces, and We May Not Know All of Them

There is a strong connection between smiling depression and suicide.  

That is, compared to people who have little energy to function, chronically depressed people who hide their symptoms and seem to be livelier are more likely to initiate a suicide attempt.  

Identifying depression in people who hide their signs is particularly difficult.  

Hence, try to pay more attention to yourself and your loved ones. Ask hard questions and initiate difficult conversations. Deep talk can be uncomfortable, but it’s important to maintain our wellness and state of mind.  

3. Loss of Concentration

People with signs of depression may lack concentration and attention even in things they were previously interested in.  

Sometimes, these people may lose their train of thought, struggle to articulate their emotions or forget to recall important events or information. Depression signs such as these could indicate a depressive or mood disorder.  

A study conducted in 2024 suggests that lack of concentration and attention can worsen the social impact of depression. In other words, a lack of concentration can affect a person’s work, personal, social, or family life.  

Although lack of concentration may be seen as something that could only impact work, this depression sign can also have a huge influence on one’s relationships.  

For example, people with depression may forget their partner’s birthdays, may struggle to set boundaries, show interest in the other person, or may feel tired of hanging out regularly.  

Since these are usually hidden signs of depression, or if the person themself are unaware that they’re struggling, their action may lead their partner to misunderstand.  

Moreover, a 2018 review indicates that depressive disorders could lead to cognitive dysfunction (ie thinking, recollecting, concentrating).  

Hence, try to identify if your lack of concentration is due to something specific, like a lack of sleep that day, or if it’s something chronic that affects your productivity and social life.  

Tired person having no concentration due to depression signs

4. Vulnerability Hangover

People with hidden depression signs may struggle with a vulnerability hangover. Meaning that they may share their experience with depression but may later feel awkward, guilty, or ashamed about opening up.  

Sometimes, they may speak up about their intrusive thoughts (eg “I think I feel very suicidal”), only to cancel the therapy appointment at the last minute by saying they’re fine and nothing really happened.  

Since these people struggle to get the help they need, they may overshare their issues on social media.  

Oversharing on social media and immediately deleting the post right after could also occur for several reasons.  

For example, they may have been raised in a culture where they didn’t have space to express their feelings or perhaps didn’t want to be a burden to anyone.  

What Depression Signs Can Look Like

Depression signs can appear differently in everyone, based on their age, gender or social upbringing.  

The most common and overt signs of depression could include crying spells, physical pain, or low sex drive.  

1. Crying Spells

Crying frequently, suddenly, or for no particular reason is called a crying spell. It is different from that of normal crying, which everyone may experience time and again.  

Crying spells can be distressing and may severely affect a person’s quality of life.  

Crying spells as a depression sign could look like: 

  • Crying regularly 
  • Crying without a trigger 
  • Crying at work or school, especially when it affects the work-life 
  • Uncontrollable and unmanageable crying 

In older adults, crying spells are a key sign of depression that could help in diagnosing mood disorders. 

2. Physical Pain

Depression signs could also manifest physically. Other than common physical symptoms such as weight changes or fatigue, physical pain could include: 

  • Chronic muscle pain  
  • Headache 
  • Heartburns 
  • Digestive issues 
  • Pounding heart 
  • Tightness in chest 

3. Low Sex Drive

A 2018 study found that people with depression usually showed signs of severe sexual dysfunction.  

A low sex drive could include struggles with sexual function, desire, and satisfaction.  

Reasons for a low sex drive could include loss of interest or pleasure, low energy, or low self-esteem.  

However, it is important to note that not everyone may show signs of low sex drive or that this sign may not be deemed important in many cultures.  

For example, some people, in general, have less interest in sexual activities. Hence, if they are depressed, it would be wise to look for other symptoms like physical pain in comparison to low sex drive.  

Similarly, some cultures may have strict rules or beliefs about having sex. Hence, people in this upbringing may not even engage in sexual activities.  

How Do I Know If I Need Help for Depression?

If you relate to any of the above signs of depression and have been experiencing them for more than 2 weeks, it may be time to consider help.  

This is especially true if you struggle to find joy and happiness in life and struggle with various aspects such as work performance, maintaining relationships, or even making friends. 

Talk To Your Loved One

While the above self-care tools can be helpful, if your anxiety attack becomes so severe that you find it hard to function in your daily life, you may want to consider seeking anxiety counselling in Singapore 

Professional counselling can help you manage an anxiety attack, become self-reliant to control your anxious feelings and improve the quality of your emotional health.  

Counsellors may use interventions such as: 

All the above interventions are used exclusively or in combination to provide personalised therapy services. 

Through consistent therapy and social support, the source of your fear becomes less frightening.  

Get Counselling

Once you find a counsellor you trust and feel comfortable with, consider booking a session with them.  

Depression counsellors can help create the space for you to talk about your: 

  • Distress 
  • Intrusive thoughts 
  • Unique and distressing symptoms 
  • Low moods and energy  
  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms 

Counsellors may provide personalised and effective support. Through consistent counselling and proactiveness from your side, you will soon manage your depression and regain joy in life 

Remember: You are enough. You are worthy. You are loved. You are not alone. 

Book a session with a qualified Therapist today!

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