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Hidden symptoms of depression can often make it difficult to diagnose, putting your loved one at risk. Here are 7 such symptoms that you must look out for.
Depression can strike even the most resilient of us and can have devastating effects if left unattended. You may already be aware of the some of the well-known symptoms of depression, such as:
But there are some hidden symptoms of depression – symptoms and signs that are not commonly associated with depression, that may be masking the illness and reducing the chances of getting the right kind of help. Here is a list of some such symptoms that can suggest an underlying depression, especially if they have been unresolved for a long time:
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Men often present with anger as a symptom of hidden depression, mainly because it’s a lot harder for them to talk openly about emotions of sadness, but also because anger is more culturally accepted. In today’s world though, it is not uncommon for women also to present with angry outbursts, especially if they have been victims of verbal abuse themselves.
But there are some hidden symptoms of depression that are commonly missed: irritability or bitterness that tends to develop in those who’ve suffered with depression for a long time. They may have a tendency to expect the worst out of others, feel that they’re always the ones who are wronged, and are dismissive of any positive gesture or kindness advanced towards them.
While seen in men too, this is among the commonest hidden symptoms of depression in women, who often present with non-specific pain.
For many people, who may not be able to express their distress in words, depression gets expressed as pain that arises without obvious injury and doesn’t respond to the usual treatments. The most common types are chronic headaches, neck pain or back pain. But other symptoms can be stomach ache, irritable bowel, pains in the joints, or various non-specific aches and pains over different parts of the body.
While sleep can often be disturbed or reduced in depression, a tendency to oversleep may also develop to avoid social interaction or face the daily challenges of a tough life.
The common perception is that a depressed person loses appetite, but this is exactly what makes binge eating one of the most hidden symptoms of depression.
Frequently eating for comfort, or bingeing larger than usual quantities of forbidden foods, especially while alone, can suggest underlying depression.
Think of the person who seems to be all the time on social media, putting up frequent updates. You wouldn’t think she could be depressed, right? After all, she seems to be having a great time. But you could be wrong. This could be a case of hidden symptoms of depression, that makes it very difficult to diagnose sometimes.
It is well known that reliance on alcohol or illegal drugs can often arise from depression. But frequent use of social media, to the neglect of other activities, can also be hiding depression underneath. The instant validation and apparent social acceptance can be very alluring to a depressed person not having those needs met in the real world.
Frequently watching high intensity videos, TV series or movies can help to either forget one’s own problems or get bursts of happiness vicariously. Gaming addiction is another problem on the rise amongst younger people struggling with depression.
What may appear as a healthy strategy, can be taken too far if generated by underlying depression.
Depressed people may rely heavily on accomplishing tasks to feel good about themselves, and hide underlying insecurities. Over time they may find themselves wanting to do more and more, but not feeling satisfied or content with anything. This can also lead to buying more things and focusing on physical objects to make them happy.
Some people can be at a real risk, as they hidden symptoms of depression are not evident to anyone, and we can underestimate the depth of the problem.
These people never talk about their own feelings in depth and often avoid conversations that may be touching on a sensitive topic or on unresolved issues from their past. They may switch to deep philosophical statements about life and death which are generalised and never too personal. Or they may have ready responses and strategies that can quickly deflect on to others and focus on their problems instead. They may go out of their way to help others, with a hope that somehow it may bring relief to them. They may not feel comfortable showing their emotional side and always appear upbeat and cheerful.
There are many reasons why people develop hidden symptoms of depression, one of the biggest one is the stigma that is still associated with open discussion of mental health issues in our country. People working in helping professions (counsellors, psychologists, doctors, social workers, lawyers, NGO workers) are at a higher risk, because they often find it hardest to seek help for themselves, and have some strengths to mask the depression effectively. They may not have a trusting confidant that they can share their stress with, and may be caught up in meeting the needs of everyone around them.
If you or someone you know maybe suffering from any of the above symptoms, please reach out. The right kind of support can help you overcome depression and enable you to lead a fulfilling and enriching life.
If you or anyone you know is feeling suicidal, here are some of the helplines available in India. Please call.
Aasra, Mumbai: 022-27546669
Sneha, Chennai: 044-2464 0050
Lifeline, Kolkata: 033-2474 4704
Sahai, Bangalore: 080–25497777
Roshni, Hyderabad: 040-66202000, 040-66202001
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I'm a Psychiatrist & Family Psychotherapist specialising in maternal mental health and attachment disorders. Apart
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