Depressed Without Knowing It (7 ways to spot)

Today’s blog post focuses on being ‘depressed without knowing it’. We first start with a brief understanding of depression, following which we take into account the usual and obvious symptoms of depression. After this, we look into the subtle symptoms of depression which can lead a person to be depressed without knowing it. This would then be followed by the reasons for some symptoms to be subtle as compared to others and lastly, we talk about the strategies that can be used by caregivers and the people themselves to cope with depression. 

Depressed Without Knowing It:

Depression can often take a hold gradually, without the person realising that they are feeling depressed in several situations. The person may not realise that the depressed thoughts and intrusive feelings are gradually taking over their entire perspective over things making them depressed without knowing it. 

Many people tend to assume that the symptoms of depression can be identified easily, not quite realising that symptoms of depression can take several forms that may not be very obvious to the person.

Some uncommon symptoms of depression are listed below:

  • Sudden changes in weight
  • Self-esteem takes a hit
  • Low sex drive
  • Forced happiness
  • Constant state of tiredness and fatigue
  • Low optimism
  • Sudden and unexplained mood swings
  • Digestive issues


Depression is a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest in daily and previously enjoyable activities. It also affects the way a person thinks, feels and behaves and can lead to a variety of emotional and behavioural problems. It may also lead a person to believe that life is not worth living. 

It is not possible to simply snap out of depression and requires long term care and treatment. Medications as well psychotherapy, along with different coping strategies and alternative therapies have shown good results in the treatment of depression.

The usual symptoms of depression:

The usual symptoms of depression are those that are generally looked out for by people as well as therapists in general. These are also the symptoms that are usually presented in literature about depression

These symptoms are:

  • Feelings of sadness, crying spells, hopelessness, worthlessness
  • Anger outbursts, irritability and frustration
  • Loss of interest in usual activities, including those that the person likes
  • Sleep disturbances in the form of insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Appetite disturbances in the form of not eating well to eating excessively
  • Lack of concentration, memory difficulties, slow and deliberate movements and speech
  • Feelings of guilt, self-blame, rumination and worrying
  • Physical issues such as back pain, headaches, ulcers, stomach aches, joint pains
  • Frequent and recurring thoughts of suicide and death, in severe cases.

In some individuals, these symptoms can have extremely debilitating impact which affects their social and occupational functioning in terms of not being able to go to school, college or work, not being able to do the day to day activities such as having a meal, bathing or brushing teeth or meeting people. 

The subtle symptoms of depression:

We just saw the usual and obvious symptoms of depression. We now take a look at the subtle and ‘sneaky’ symptoms of depression which may lead the person to be depressed without knowing it.

The subtle symptoms of depression include:

  • Sudden changes in weight:

Because depression affects the sleep and appetite, a subtle sign of depression setting in can be sudden weight changes. This weight change can go in either direction, wherein the person may suddenly gain a lot of weight or it can also be in the case that there is a drastic weight loss. 

This unpredictability of the weight can also significantly change the appearance of the person, making the signs of depression more visible.

  • Self-esteem takes a hit:

Another symptom that can lead the person to suffer from depression without knowing it is a drastic lowering of one’s self-esteem. Self esteem is the overall sense of self-worth that a person has. It is the extent to which the person is able to appreciate himself or herself. It is the belief about one’s appearance, emotions, beliefs and values.

When depressed, the person may look down upon themselves and thereby start a cycle of rumination. It can lead to feelings of self-doubt and self-blame and the person may criticise the way they look, feel, think and behave.

  • Low sex drive:

When a person’s sex drive decreases for a prolonged period of time, without any physical factor, it could be indicative of depression. This is because depression leads to lowering of the levels of libido, which is associated with sex drive. 

Apart from a reduced sex drive depression can also be indicative by reduction of energy during sexual intercourse that is; getting tired easily and a lowering of self-esteem pertaining to sexual activites. In men, it can be associated with a reduced sperm count and in extreme cases, impotence. 

Another symptom which can indicate that a person may be depressed without knowing it is when the person feels that he has to force himself to smile or to be happy in front of others in order to avoid revealing that they are not feeling that way. When this happens persistently, it could be indicative of depression.

However, it may not be possible for the person to keep up the facade for an extended period of time and he or she may get vulnerable.

  • Constant state of tiredness and fatigue:

Although sleep disturbances, fatigue and tiredness are a usual symptom of depression, if a person feels fatigued and tired right after waking up even after a full night’s sleep, it may be a sign of depression that may go unnoticed. Also, if the person finds it difficult and feels unmotivated to get out of bed at all, it may also be an indication that a person is depressed without knowing it.

  • Low optimism:

People with depression are likely to develop what is known as ‘depressive realism’. It is a state where a person is more aware of the reality and is able to view the situations more realistically than others. 

This is often likely to decrease their sense of optimism and increase pessimism, and may have a more negative view of the future.

Another sign that a person may be depressed without knowing it is that they may have sudden mood swings and experience emotions that they may not really have a reason for. They may not be able to verbalise the reasons for feeling the way they are and may have reduced tolerance towards things around them, making them prone to anger outburst, crying outbursts and isolation, which can also turn into reckless behaviour or substance abuse.

  • Digestive issues:

Along with other physical problems, an obvious symptom of depression can be digestive issues such as stomach aches, acid reflux, indigestion, food poisoning like condition which cannot be explained to any apparent physical cause and nor can be sufficiently treated with medications.

Why are these symptoms so subtle?

There can be a few reasons that may lead  these symptoms to not be very prominent which may lead the person to be depressed without knowing it:

  • Depression can differ from person to person:

Although these signs are universal, the manifestation of depression may differ from person to person. Some people may not have most of the obvious symptoms but all of the subtle symptoms and vice versa. Therefore it is difficult to generalise the manifestation of depression in two people.

  • It tends to develop gradually:

Depression does not develop overnight but rather gradually develops in a span of a few days, weeks and months. Because there is no fixed timeline or time span for the development of the symptoms, it may get difficult to keep a track of them and at the time to collectively call them depression symptoms, explaining one of the reasons of a person being depressed without knowing it.

  • There may be a prominent reason to feel low:

A traumatic event, abuse, life changes and events can lead to a person feeling sad and low. However, the downside of this is that, because the sadness can be attributed to a concrete cause, the underlying depression may get hidden and a person may not be able to identify it. 

  • There may not be an ‘obvious’ reason to be depressed:

A person can also be depressed without knowing it as we often have a tendency to attribute the cause of an emotion to an event. However, in some situations, an emotion may get dismissed as there is no obvious reason for the person to feel depressed, as a result of which that emotion associated with depression can get sidelined.

  • The symptoms may not look like that of depression:

This is the most obvious reason for some symptoms to be subtle in nature. Symptoms such as physical issues, weight problems, lowered sex drive and fatigue are often attributed to a physical cause and it may not be taken into consideration that it can be a symptom of depression as it does noy look like one prominently.

  • We do not want to see ourselves as depressed:

Despite the fact that depression is extensively researched and talked about, there is a stigma attached to it, because of which, people may not acknowledge that they feel depressed or that they are experiencing any of the symptoms of depression. They may see it as a sign of weakness or personal failure and therefore may look out for an alternative explanation to the symptoms, which fits their identity.

What to do about it?

Here is what we can do to help a person who may be depressed without knowing it. These strategies can also be applied by a person who comes to the realisation of having depression.

These strategies are as follows:

  • Motivating the person to seek professional help is very important. Because the signs are subtle and may also not occur in a stipulated time, having knowledge about these symptoms and encouraging the person to take appropriate action becomes imperative.

If a person himself realises and suspects that they may be depressed, they should themselves seek a therapist.

  • A creative outlet such as a hobby or a group activity can be helpful. This can help the person stay active and engaged so as to avoid rumination and self-blame.
  • Social support is essential during depression. If significant others around the person realise that the person is depressed, they can initiate maintaining social contact in the form of calls, messages and spending time with him or her.

If a person suspects he or she is depressed, they can initiate contact with people they consider significant.

  • Staying away from drugs, intoxicating drinks and smoking can be of help. This also includes staying away from self- medication and taking medications more than what is prescribed.
  • Joining a support group can also be helpful. It would not only give the person a chance to socialise, but also he or she will be able to listen to others who have undergone or are presently undergoing same and similar experiences. This can motivate them to come out of the situation and try new ways to deal with it.

Frequently Asked Questions:Depressed Without Knowing It

Is it possible to diagnose yourself with depression?

A self test can be done which takes the person back to the emotions felt and to the intensity at which they were experienced. This helps the person carefully analyse their emotions so that they can take appropriate action in case they suspect anxiety or depression.

What does mildly depressed mean?

Mild depression involves more than just feeling blue. Here,  symptoms can go on for days and are noticeable enough to interfere with your usual activities of daily life. Mild depression may cause: irritability or anger. hopelessness.

How long does dysthymia last?

Dysthymia, sometimes referred to as mild or chronic depression, is less severe and has fewer symptoms than major depression.  In dysthymia, the depression symptoms can linger for a long period of time such as two years.

Is there an age limit to be diagnosed with depression?

No, there is no age limit. A person can be diagnosed with depression at any point in their life.

Is it possible to self-identify other mental illnesses?

Yes. There are self-screening tools available that help a person have an idea of a mental illness. However, it cannot be validated as a full fledged diagnosis, unless a mental health professional gives a diagnosis.

BetterHelp: A Better Alternative

Those who are seeking therapy online may also be interested in BetterHelp. BetterHelp offers plenty of formats of therapy, ranging from live chats, live audio sessions and live video sessions. In addition, unlimited messaging through texting, audio messages and even video messages are available here.

BetterHelp also offers couples therapy and therapy for teenagers in its platform. Furthermore, group sessions can also be found in this platform, covering more than twenty different topics related to mental health and mental illness. The pricing of BetterHelp is also pretty cost-effective, especially considering the fact that the platform offers financial aid to most users.


Today’s blog post focused on being ‘depressed without knowing it’. We first started with a brief understanding of depression, following which we took into account the usual and obvious symptoms of depression. After this, we looked into the subtle symptoms of depression which can lead a person to be depressed without knowing it. This was then followed by the reasons for some symptoms to be subtle as compared to others and lastly, we talked about the strategies that can be used by caregivers and the people themselves to cope with depression. 

I hope this blog post was successful in helping the readers understand the subtle signs of depression that can be looked out for and the ways to deal with it. Please feel free to drop our comments or queries below.


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