11 signs someone is deeply unhappy in life but trying not to show it

We all know the clichés used to indicate some who has fallen from grace and into some tougher times: the sudden weight loss, the forced laughter, the canceled plans. 

But unhappiness doesn’t always show up in the ways we expect it to. It can lurk behind a jam-packed schedule, simmer beneath a carefully curated Instagram feed, or even disguise itself as a well-intentioned joke.

It’s easy to miss the subtle signals, the quiet wails for help that are often drowned out by the noise of everything else going on around us. 

As someone who has been through a good few periods of doom and gloom themselves, as well as tried to pull others out of their struggles, I can safely say that I’ve become attuned to the less obvious indicators that someone is suffering in silence.

So, settle in and let’s get started as we explore the hidden world of unhappiness. We’ll be covering some of the more surprising signs, unexpected behaviors, and subtle cues that can reveal a person’s true emotional state.

The world involves enough suffering as it is – let’s try and alleviate that, together.

1) The oversharer’s sudden silence 

Whether word-vomiting or trauma-dumping, you can likely pinpoint a friend who absolutely cannot resist telling everyone about every single detail in their life. 

A chronic oversharer, from the NSFW details about their latest Tinder hookup, to the regularity of their bowel movements, they bare it all.

But, much as you might enjoy a spot of peace and quiet, beware of when that fountain of yapping suddenly dries up. Usually, this doesn’t indicate that they’re busy (as you know perfectly well how they can be busy and still blow up your phone). 

No, sudden silence from an oversharer is a red flag, a warning signal that something is amiss.

Think of it like a canary in a coal mine. When the canary stops singing, it’s time to pay attention. 

An oversharer’s silence isn’t just a change in communication style; it’s a symptom of something deeper, a sign that they’re already retreating inward, battling demons they don’t want to share with the world.

2) Fingers itching to check their phone

We’ve all seen the glazed-over eyes of someone scrolling endlessly through social media in person. We could all probably name a few individuals who could use a lil’ social media detox (perhaps ourselves included!)

But this phone addiction is different. 

It’s the constant checking for notifications (that never arrive anyway), the compulsive pull-down-and-release to refresh inboxes and feeds. It’s a desperate grasp for online connection and virtual-soothing when the real world is too much to bear. 

The endless loop of checking, refreshing, and hoping is a lonely place. 

Algorithms work overtime to try capture and ensare your attention…

And whilst video after video can drown out the bad thoughts, in reality, it’s just a cruel trick of the mind that leaves you feeling even more disconnected.

3) The carefully curated social media

In the age of filters and curated content, social media can be a deceptive landscape

A smiling selfie, a picture-perfect vacation, a witty caption – it’s all part of the illusion, the carefully crafted facade that hides the messy reality.

But like any good detective, you should learn to look beyond the surface, to read between the lines. 

  • Are the captions overly positive, almost manic? 
  • Are the photos too polished, too staged, too airbrushed? 
  • Is there a sense of desperation, a frantic need for validation lurking beneath the surface? 

If so, it’s a sign that something is not right, that the person behind the screen is struggling to keep up appearances.

4) The lapse in grooming habits

I’m not talking a rogue nipslip or a runaway zipper. I’m talking about the subtle shift in appearances – more specifically, the gradual decline in grooming habits

It’s that friend who always dressed and coiffed themselves impeccably, but now shows up in wrinkled, three-day-old clothes and unkempt hair.

This sudden change in appearances tends not to be a fashion statement. In fact, it’s usually a distress signal. 

Sudden, dramatic changes in grooming habits and personal hygiene can often suggest that a person has lost interest in themselves, that they’re no longer putting in the effort to maintain their appearance. 

So, have some compassion for the food-stained pyjamas and unbrushed teeth. It’s likely not a fashion choice (unless you’ve got them slinking out to get late night groceries), but a cry for help.

5) The vanishing act 

If you have plenty of friends but still feel lonely these habits might be to blame 11 signs someone is deeply unhappy in life but trying not to show it

Not the crime documentary kind where someone vanishes without a trace. I’m talking about the subtle withdrawal from social circles, the gradual fading away from friendships and activities. 

Using the “I’m too busy” excuse we covered earlier, this struggling individual will vanish into thin air, presenting in the form of canceled coffee dates, skipped parties, missed phone calls.

One click of the fingers, and POOF! They’re gone, almost like they’re slowly becoming invisible.

Or maybe they’re still physically present and show up to the odd event, but emotionally, they couldn’t be more absent.

Lights are on but nobody’s home, and it’s a slow fade, a gradual retreat from the world.

6) Sudden & unexplained expertise 

Suddenly, and seemingly out of nowhere, your friend become an expert on the mating habits of the platypus. Or maybe they suddenly won’t stop talking about the intricacies of medieval falconry.

While a sudden interest in obscure topics might seem harmless and even an indication of curiosity and a love of learning, it can also be a sign of emotional distress.

When someone is struggling, they may immerse themselves in niche subjects as a form of escapism. Unable to spend a comfortable minute alone with their thoughts, they drown them out with 8-hour scrolls through Reddit forums, or Wikipedia deep dives.

It’s a way to distract themselves from their inner chaos, to focus on something that feels safe and controllable. 

So, if your friend starts spouting off facts about the history of cheesemaking or the symbolism of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, keep in mind that this might be a sign that they’re trying to avoid confronting their own emotions.

7) The “too busy” excuse 

We all have busy lives, juggling work, family, and social obligations. 

But when “too busy” becomes a constant refrain, a default response to every single invitation or request, it’s often a red flag. Sudden business can be a way to avoid intimacy, to keep people at arm’s length.

Because when you’re busy, you don’t have to justify your actions. Admitting that you’re knee-deep in depression and rotting in bed isn’t as flattering as saying you’re swamped with work and other obligations. 

Even if you are suddenly incredibly busy, this might be because you’ve actively tried to fill up every waking minute with something that keeps your mind focused and away from your dark thoughts. 

Whether an excuse or an exercised reality, being too busy to socialize becomes a protective barrier that shields them from having to engage with their own emotions or connect with others. 

It’s a way to avoid vulnerability, to maintain control in a world that feels too chaotic and overwhelming.

8) Accidental slip-of-the-tongue confesssion

Sometimes the truth slips when we least expect it. 

A seemingly offhand comment, a throwaway remark, can reveal a far deeper struggle.

“I wish I could just disappear” or “I’m so tired of everything” might sound like melodrama, but they often reveal a hidden truth that these individuals will rarely otherwise own up to.

Pay attention to these accidental confessions, these slips of the tongue that offer a glimpse into a person’s inner world.

They’re often fleeting moments of honesty, a brief glimpse into the raw pain that’s lurking beneath the surface.

9) Adamant it’s “just a phase”

When someone dismisses their obvious unhappiness as a temporary blip, a passing cloud on an otherwise sunny day, it’s usually a sign they’re not ready to face it. 

“I’m fine.”

“I’m fine.”


Pretending everything is hunky dory and that this is merely a passing storm is often a form of denial, a way to postpone dealing with the pain.

But true healing requires acknowledgment, not avoidance. 

It’s important to recognize that unhappiness, like any other emotion, deserves to be felt and processed

Dismissing it as a “phase” or pretending everything is fine only prolongs the suffering and prevents the person from seeking the help they need.

10) “I don’t want to talk about it”

When someone consistently shuts down any attempt to discuss their feelings, it’s not just stubbornness. 

It’s a defense mechanism, a way to protect themselves from vulnerability and pain. They might deflect and change the subject, crack a dry joke, or simply withdraw altogether.

While it’s important to respect their boundaries, it’s also important to let them know that you’re there for them, that you care, and that you’re willing to listen without judgment. 

Sometimes, the simple act of offering a safe space and a quiet shoulder to lean on can be the first step towards healing.

Why this matters (and what you can do)

Recognizing these subtle signs of unhappiness is not about prying or meddling in other people’s business. It’s about learning how you can best offer compassion, empathy, and support. 

It’s about recognizing that even the strongest among us can struggle, and that sometimes, the bravest thing someone can do is ask for help.

If you suspect someone you care about is secretly miserable, don’t be afraid to reach out. Let them know you’re there for them, that you’re willing to listen without judgment..

Remember, you don’t need to have all the answers or provide solutions. 

Sometimes, the simple act of acknowledging their pain and offering your presence can make a world of difference.

Picture of Liv Walde

Liv Walde

London-based writer with big thoughts, big dreams, and a passion for helping others.

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