If someone is secretly struggling in life, they’ll almost always display these 12 behaviors

Have you ever heard of someone having what everyone thinks is a sudden mental health crisis?

“Wow, that came out of nowhere! You’d never guess they were struggling!”

Well, that’s the thing.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a loved one is treading water emotionally, as most of these personality changes happen over time and worsen gradually.

Like a frog in a slowly boiling pot of water, unaware of the danger until it’s a full-on crisis.

It’s also important to note that some of these behaviors serve to mask other emotions.

For example, anger can indicate depression, and isolating yourself might mean you’re suffering from anxiety

It’s helpful to know the signs that someone is struggling emotionally on the down-low.

If they’re experiencing some kind of trauma and keeping it to themselves, they could probably use some extra support. 

1) Withdrawal from usual activities 

No longer participating in your favorite activities is one of the major signs of depression.

When you’re depressed, dealing with your mental health sucks up all of your time and energy. 

When you’re suffering from depression, it’s tough to handle your normal activities of daily living.

Before you know it, you’re only doing the bare minimum in life as the pain gradually becomes too great to bear. 

Someone who’s suffering silently will slowly begin dropping one or two things from their schedule because they’re overwhelmed and hope that they can hide it by hiding themselves.

So, if you notice that a friend is becoming scarce and missing out on the things they love, it could be a sign of depression.

2) Poor personal hygiene 

Obviously, emotional turmoil affects everyone differently, which manifests in numerous ways.

One way struggling emotionally can take a toll is on someone’s physical health.

For example, changes in weight or eating habits can be a sign of depression, especially if someone also has other symptoms or has struggled with depression before.

They may not be bothered with grooming or personal hygiene because they’re using every ounce of energy just to make it through the day.

Neglecting self-care and “letting themselves go” suggest there are underlying issues to blame.

3) Secretive and evasive

People who are secretly unhappy tend to dodge personal questions and avoid sharing any details about their lives.

Oh, they’ll willingly participate in discussions about the weather, the big game, and the latest movies.

But the minute the conversation shifts towards their feelings or experiences, they skillfully deflect it or provide vague replies at best.

4) Mood swings

Mood swings are another indication that your friend or loved one is struggling emotionally.  

Maybe they’re constantly bouncing from happy to sad, and back again.

Or they could be quick to anger and have sudden outbursts. 

A highly changeable temperament, especially with a person who’s normally pretty steady, can be indicative of internal conflict.

Sometimes a struggling person will even present as chipper and cheerful to hide their underlying issues. 

Doctors call this behavior smiling depression.

It describes a person who is hiding their real feelings. 

This is a poor coping mechanism, as suppressing your emotions can have devastating consequences for one’s emotional well-being.

5) Social media addiction

Ah, social media, my favorite escape hatch from reality.

It’s like a warm, fuzzy blanket fresh from the dryer.

I can find a Tudor-related rabbit hole and be “gone” for hours.

But it’s not all bad.

It’s not much of a stretch to say that I learn the most while avoiding doing something else.

Always look for that silver lining! 

As comforting as it is to scroll through YouTube and TikTok for hours on end, it can get out of hand and end up doing you (and me) more harm than good.

I knew I needed to reassess how I was spending my free time when I knew 35325 million TikTok dances, what YouTube channel has the best pimple-popping videos, and who Matty Healy is.

Clearly, it was time for a self-directed intervention.

I’ve found picking up a book or venturing into the great outdoors is the perfect antidote to a social media addiction.

6) Hopelessness

Untitled design 20 If someone is secretly struggling in life, they’ll almost always display these 12 behaviors

When a person is struggling emotionally  they often feel hopeless, and might use phrases like “There’s no point in trying,” or  “I’m a hopeless case.”

They may admit to feelings of worthlessness, worrying that they are a burden to their loved ones. 

Most people who’ve lost all hope don’t make future plans and give up on any goals they’ve been working towards.

This is a major red flag, as chronic sadness can lead to depression and even thoughts of suicide.  

7) They’re critical 

A critical person is often perceived as holding high standards and being a Type A perfectionist. And this is often the case.

However, someone who’s secretly struggling may project their unhappiness onto other people by behaving overly critical.

For example, unhappy people are quick to point out any flaws and make catty comments. In general, they have a negative opinion of others’ actions and life as a whole.

The bottom line is that a sad person’s constant criticism reveals more about their own shortcomings than those of the people they critique.

8) Masking

Many people suffering from depression don’t want to admit it, not even to themselves. When they’re in a social setting, they’ll put on a happy face or give vague replies when asked how their life is going. 

Secretly depressed people prefer to engage in superficial conversations because they don’t want anyone passing judgment on them.

So if you happen to notice a friend has suddenly become emotionally distant or they’re only interested in mindless chatter, they may be suffering from secret depression. 

9) Substance abuse

Some people who are suffering in silence self-medicate with alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism to deal with whatever it is they have going on.

If someone who used to indulge in a drink or two occasionally increases the frequency and number of drinks they consume it could mean they’re using substances to avoid their problems. 

An increase in consumption is an obvious sign of trouble, but there’s also the possibility that someone could be drinking or drugging on the sly. 

If this turns out to be true, you’ll notice that this person is isolating themselves and neglecting their responsibilities.

Issues with substance abuse are common with people who suffer from anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. 

Unfortunately, many people are dealing with addiction on top of struggling with mental illness. Using alcohol or drugs to escape your problems is a slippery slope that can compound your misery rather than alleviate it.

If you suspect a loved one is abusing substances as a coping device and you confront them about it, be prepared for them to immediately get on the defensive and deny they have a problem.

10) Low energy

Depression is notorious for sapping all your energy.

Even just getting out of bed can be a monumental task if you’re struggling mentally.

Hopelessness, sadness, and despair coupled with anxiety, changes in eating habits, and sleep disturbances are exhausting on a day-to-day basis.

Someone who’s hiding their depression could even withdraw from their family and social circle because they simply have no energy left for people-ing.

11) Sleep disturbances

Studies reveal that 80% of depressed adults regularly struggle with falling or staying asleep.

People who suffer from chronic insomnia are three times more likely to develop depression than those who don’t have chronic sleep issues.

Because of this, many healthcare professionals believe effectively treating insomnia can reduce the incidence of depression in people suffering from lack of sleep.

So if you or someone you love begins struggling with sleep and it lasts longer than a few weeks, it’s a good idea to be proactive and talk to your healthcare provider.  

12) Working all the time

Working a lot of extra hours may not be the first thought that pops in your head as a sign that someone’s emotionally struggling, but some people use their job as a shield against their emotions.

They see their work as a perfect escape from how crummy they feel. Concentrating on their job provides a distraction from the torment they’re suffering internally every day.

If someone you know stays late at work more often than not, there’s a decent chance they could be silently depressed behind that workaholic facade.

Final thoughts

The most important takeaway here is that if you see someone exhibiting any of the abovementioned behaviors, don’t turn a blind eye.

Be brave enough and human enough to be a pal instead.

Give them an ear or a shoulder to cry on. Simple acts of kindness can do so much to help someone who’s hurting.

There are many situations in life where it’s hard to make a difference, but this isn’t one of them.

Reach out and show that you care.

Picture of Kathy Copeland Padden

Kathy Copeland Padden

Kathy Copeland Padden lives in a New England forest paradise with her cats, kid, and trusty laptop. She has been writing since age 8 and is such a pack rat she can back that up with physical evidence. Music is her solace and words are her drug, so her house is strewn with records and books. Watch your step.

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