10 subtle signs someone is struggling in life (even if they hide it well)

Navigating life isn’t always smooth sailing. Sometimes, people around us are going through tough times, but they’re so good at hiding it, we don’t even notice.

Often, the signs are subtle. They’re hidden in nuances of behavior and minute changes in routine. Understanding these signs can be the key to offering help when it’s truly needed.

In this piece, we’ll be delving into 10 subtle signs that someone might be struggling with life, even if they’re putting up a brave front.

Let’s enlighten ourselves and be that pillar of support for someone who needs it most.

1) Change in behavior

Behavior is a big tell-tale sign that someone is going through a tough time, even if they’re trying to hide it.

We all have our routines and habits, our ways of doing things that make us, well, us. When these patterns start to change, it could be an indication that something’s up.

For example, someone who is usually punctual might start showing up late. Or a very social person might start withdrawing from social activities. They might even change their eating or sleeping habits.

These shifts might seem minor or inconsequential at first glance. But if you observe a consistent change in behavior, it could be a sign that the person is struggling with something.

Don’t jump to conclusions or pry. Instead, offer your support and let them know you’re there for them, without being intrusive.

2) Increased irritability

Now, we all have our off days. Days when even the smallest things can ruffle our feathers. But when someone starts snapping at the slightest provocation, it could be a sign of underlying stress or worry.

I remember when my best friend, John, went through a rough patch a few years ago.

John was normally the most easy-going person you could meet. But during that time, he would get irritated at the smallest things – a slow internet connection, a slight delay in plans, even his favorite football team losing a match.

It was so out of character for him that it made me realize something was wrong, even though he never said anything outright about being unhappy or stressed.

3) Frequent illness

Physical health and mental health are closely linked.

When someone is emotionally distressed, their immune system can take a hit, making them more susceptible to infections and diseases.

You might notice that they’re frequently fighting off colds, suffering from headaches, or just generally feeling under the weather more often than not.

This could be a result of their body responding to the stress and emotional turmoil they’re experiencing. 

4) Neglect personal care

Personal hygiene and self-care are often among the first things to slide when someone is struggling. You may notice that their appearance is not as well-kept as it usually is or that they’re neglecting basic hygiene routines.

This might be because they’re finding it hard to muster the energy or motivation for these tasks, or they might be so consumed by their worries that they’re forgetting to take care of themselves.

It’s a gentle reminder to us all that sometimes, taking care of someone can simply mean reminding them of the importance of self-care.

5) Avoid eye contact

Eye contact is a powerful form of non-verbal communication. It shows confidence, interest, and honesty. When someone starts avoiding eye contact, it can sometimes indicate that they’re going through a tough time.

It can be their way of distancing themselves or hiding their true emotions. They might feel overwhelmed and are trying to cope by limiting their interaction with others.

Noticing this subtle sign can give you the opportunity to gently broach the subject with them, offering support and understanding.

habits that are secretly sabotaging your sleep quality 10 subtle signs someone is struggling in life (even if they hide it well)

6) Loss of enthusiasm

There’s a certain spark that lights up a person when they talk about something they love, something that truly excites them.

When someone’s struggling, that spark can dim. The enthusiasm and passion they once had for their hobbies or interests may wane or disappear completely.

I’ve seen this in people close to me, and it’s heartbreaking. It’s like watching a light gradually fade away.

Loss of interest is often a sign that someone is dealing with internal struggles. Try to engage them in conversation and offer your support. Sometimes, all a person needs is someone willing to listen.

7) Difficulty concentrating

When someone is going through a challenging period, their cognitive functions can take a hit. They might have difficulty focusing on tasks or struggle to remember things.

Perhaps they’re frequently losing track of their thoughts or they seem more forgetful than usual. Maybe they’re having a hard time finishing tasks they normally handle with ease.

This shouldn’t be dismissed as mere forgetfulness or lack of attention. If it’s out of character for them, it could be a sign that they’re dealing with emotional or mental stress.

8) Unusual sleep patterns

Sleep, as we all know, is crucial for our physical and mental wellbeing. When we’re struggling, our sleep patterns can take a hit. This could mean sleeping a lot more than usual or having trouble sleeping at all.

Did you know that almost every mental health disorder is associated with some form of sleep disturbance? It’s true. Issues like depression, anxiety, and stress can significantly affect sleep quality and duration.

So, if you notice someone constantly yawning throughout the day or mentioning how they’re up all night, it could be a subtle sign they’re navigating through some tough times.

9) Withdrawal from social connections

Humans are inherently social beings. So when someone starts pulling away from their friends, family, or social commitments, it could be a sign that they’re struggling.

Whether they’re declining invitations they would usually accept, or they seem distant and disengaged during conversations. Maybe you notice they’re spending an increasing amount of time alone.

Of course, everyone needs some alone time to recharge. But if this behavior becomes a pattern, it could be a red flag that they’re dealing with something tough.

10) Emotional outbursts

One of the most telling signs that someone might be struggling is sudden, uncharacteristic emotional outbursts. This could manifest as fits of anger, sudden crying, or even laughter at inappropriate times.

These outbursts can be a release for pent-up emotions they’ve been trying to keep under control. It’s a cry for help that shouldn’t be overlooked.

It’s okay to not have all the answers. Sometimes, all they need is someone who will stand by them, listen, and offer a comforting presence.

Final thoughts: It’s about empathy

Understanding human behavior isn’t just a study of actions, it’s also about delving into emotions and vulnerabilities.

Emotional pain often masks itself cleverly, hiding behind subtle signs and minute changes. Recognizing these signs is an act of empathy, a testament to our capacity to connect with the feelings of others.

The American novelist and poet, Maya Angelou, once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

When we recognize someone’s silent struggle and extend our support without judgment or pretense, we make them feel seen, heard, and less alone in their battle.

Remember, your small act of kindness can be the beacon of hope that illuminates someone’s dark times.

Picture of Eliza Hartley

Eliza Hartley

Eliza Hartley, a London-based writer, is passionate about helping others discover the power of self-improvement. Her approach combines everyday wisdom with practical strategies, shaped by her own journey overcoming personal challenges. Eliza's articles resonate with those seeking to navigate life's complexities with grace and strength.

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