Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


7 Subtle Signs of Depression You Shouldn't Ignore

Exhaustion and recklessness could each be a sign of a deeper problem.

About one in 10 Americans experience depression at any given time, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many people with depression don't even know they have it. Depressive symptoms may range from mild to severe and they can vary greatly; symptoms are often attributed to fatigue, stress, or the aging process.

But here are 7 subtle signs you shouldn't ignore, in yourself or someone close to you:

1. Irritability

Most people think depression leads to overwhelming sadness. Sometimes, people with depression experience anger and irritability rather than hopelessness and misery.

If you've noticed increased irritability—or it seems like the people around you feel like they need to walk on eggshells—don't ignore it. Don't blame your impatience and anger on your stress level or workload. Take a moment to consider the possibility that you may be depressed.

2. Sleep difficulties

While an occasional restless night or two isn't necessarily a cause for alarm, persistent sleep difficulties or insomnia can be a symptom of depression. Many people with depression struggle to fall asleep, or stay asleep, despite feeling exhausted.

Other people with depression sleep too much: They struggle to wake up in the morning, can't wait to go to bed at night, and often take naps during the day as well. If your sleep habits have changed, it's important to address the possible underlying causes.

3. Aches and pains

There's a powerful link between your body and your mind. When you're struggling with mental health issues, you're likely to experience physical problems.

Many people are tempted to dismiss unexplained aches and pains as part of the normal aging process, but back pain, headaches, and sore muscles can be signs of depression.

4. Decreased energy

Depression can zap your energy and cause you to feel lethargic and tired most of the time. Many people dismiss their exhaustion, thinking, "Well, I haven't been sleeping lately," or, "My workload causes me to be tired all the time."

But consider how your energy level may have shifted over time. If small tasks now tire you or take longer to complete, you may be depressed.

5. Guilt

Unnecessarily blaming yourself for the events in your life isn't healthy. If you feel guilty about everything, from your divorce all the way back to a fight you got into as a kid, you may be depressed.

Many people with depression also feel worthless. Pay attention to your inner monologue: If it's overly harsh and critical, it could be a sign of depression.

6. Recklessness

People who look like party animals on the outside may be suffering on the inside. Frequent gambling, risky sexual behavior, and substance abuse may all be attempts to mask unpleasant emotions.

If you or someone close to you has started indulging in new risks lately, it could be a sign of trying to cope with inner turmoil. Unfortunately, these types of unhealthy coping skills will only provide momentary relief—and can actually make depression worse in the long term.

7. Concentration problems

If you're struggling to stay focused, or you feel like you're in a fog, it could be a sign that you're depressed. People with depression are often forgetful and frequently misplace everyday objects, like their keys or paperwork.

Although today's digital world leaves most of us feeling a bit distracted, concentration problems may also stem from mood disorders. If you've noticed a decline in your productivity or you're having difficulty staying on task, consider the possibility that you may be depressed.

How to Get Help

If you think you may be depressed, talk to your doctor right away. Depression is treatable: Therapy, medication, or a combination of the two can help reduce symptoms. And struggling with depression doesn't mean you're weak; people with incredible mental strength experience mental health problems.

Learn more in 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do.

This article also appears on

LinkedIn image: Supagrit Ninkaesorn/Shutterstock

More from Amy Morin
More from Psychology Today