May 22, 2020 | Maria Cruz

People Share Signs That Someone Is Secretly Unhappy

We’ve all gone through some difficult times in our life. While some of us can overcome our struggles, others have a harder time coping. Though our friends and family may be experiencing tough times, it’s not always easy to spot the signs. These people share telltale signs that someone in your life may be going through more than meets the eye.


#1 Shut Down

Constantly feeling tired, not talking a lot, or when it looks like they’re trying to concentrate on themselves. That or when they focus on something and everything else seems to be annoying. A short fuse towards loved ones. No attention to themselves, how they look, how they’re dressed, what they’re eating, etc. Their eyes, too…  they look like they’re shut down.


#2 Unnatural Boredom

They're tired all the time. They say they're "fine" or "okay" with no elaboration when you ask, sigh a lot, space out a lot, seem distracted, and don't seem to enjoy anything. I'm not saying everyone who does this has clinical depression. If you feel that you might have a problem, talk to a professional. I wrote this list based off of how I act at work. I have severe depression, ADHD, and complex PTSD. I know that all of this can spring from any of those, something else, or it can be nothing except normal boredom or detachment.


#3 Immediate Response 

It took me a very long time to realize that anger is one of my first responses to depression. I feel like we imagine those gray blobs from the commercials that are listless and distracted and sad. But for me, unchecked depression expresses as anger. I can't believe the stupidity around me, I give no one the benefit of the doubt, I assume everything is a slight and preemptively expect slights.

As you can imagine, it's utterly exhausting and terrible to be around. Then I lost enough friends, realized I needed to change, got therapy out of my own choice for the first time (forced into it as a kid many times), and changed my responses to things. I got on medication and now it takes a lot to get me angry. A lot.


#4 Always Tired

Regression, isolation, and a short fuse around loved ones. Always “tired” or “not feeling well” when asked to do something. Boredom from things that used to entertain. There are lots of signs. It took a long time for me to realize that many people, even friends or family, can be having the same thoughts and emotions. I remember the first time someone basically explained myself while talking about their own issues. I was maybe 26 at the time and my co-worker was in his late 50s. He needed someone to talk to and it blew my mind.


#5 Pay it Forward

There’s one telltale sign I’ve picked up on. It’s when certain people try their best to make everyone else happy. It’s sort of a catharsis to them because they get momentary joy by making someone laugh, crack a smile or have a nice day. However, these people don’t ever really do anything to make themselves happy.


#6 Telltale Signs

As someone who is currently very unhappy, I’d say there are particular things to look out for. They want to have alone time way more than they usually do. Withdrawal from social life. Overthinking or general anxiety over small decisions. Procrastination. Not wanting to put effort into any of their relationships.


#7 In the Bubble

I don’t know about anyone else, but I call it my "bubble." I'm not going out of my bubble or making an effort out of my bubble or driving out of my bubble. I don’t allow people in my bubble. It's just my tiny life (which is in no way bad or hard. It's quite comfortable really) in my bubble. Alone in my withdrawn bubble.


#8 All the Effort

Sometimes I get bursts of motivation to just get up and start improving my life, like right now! Finish college! Hit the gym! But then I think of all the effort I'd actually have to put in to do this, and think, "Is it really worth it?" or "I don't actually enjoy working out or going to class. Will this really bring me more happiness?" I then just kind of go back to sleep or switch between Reddit and YouTube.


#9 The Worst Thing

I think sensitivity is the best way for me to recognize my depression. I’m so much more sensitive to the smallest mistakes. I can sob because my shower isn’t warming up. It just feels like the worst thing is everything. Additionally, a sudden inability to stay asleep most nights can also be a sign. It’s something I experience as well.


#10 Put on a Happy Face

They smile at you because they want to be nice and friendly, but as soon as you look away, the smile falls off their face. The reason why is that they kind of put it there, rather than it rising up naturally. Once its job is done, they let it go. Therapy can make a big difference, though, even for the most seemingly intractable problems. If your life is unhappy, I advise you to seek a therapist’s help.


#11 Full of Life

In my personal experience, I’d have to say that one of the biggest signs is lifeless eyes. When I ran into a friend after leaving my gaslighting ex, I told her that we had broken up and why. Her response was, “I knew you were being mistreated. Your eyes were totally lifeless, but now they’re so full of life.”


#12 Hiding Away

Hiding in their clothes (hoodies and jackets or with their hats pulled down) and not participating in conversation very much. Not having interests (they've given up on all their hobbies) or only having one or two interests. They’ve most likely given up on almost everything, but still need something to hide in.


#13 Keep Cracking Jokes

They're always cracking jokes, those people usually have a lot of pent up disappointment that they can't find happiness, so they try to spread happiness to anyone else. There’s no shame in discussing your problems with someone you trust or with a certified professional. But when you do get things sorted out, by all means, keep telling jokes.

You guys are the unsung heroes of the world. You'd be surprised by how much a good joke and genuine laugh can change someone's day for the better. Frankly, it's truly remarkable that despite how your personal life is, you still make it a mission to make other people's lives better. In this day and age, chances are they're dealing with something similar to you. Something to think about next time you make someone laugh and they say, "Thanks. I needed that one."


#14 Need Some Company

Here’s something pretty peculiar to keep your eyes on. When someone in your life asks you what you're doing all the time and are even a little pushy. They’re probably doing this because they just want to talk to someone. However, they never outright say that they aren't happy and that they just need some company.


#15 Off the Radar

I’d have to say that not answering emails and text messages is a warning sign for me. I start procrastinating about personal correspondence when I'm on my way into a bad depressive episode. That and, well, sometimes even when I'm just at baseline. But baseline with clinical depression is still pretty unhappy.


#16 Lifting Your Spirits

I think a lot of the time, people who are secretly unhappy do their best to make everyone else they care about laugh and feel happy. I think they do this because, at the end of the day, they know what it's like to feel so down and unhappy with the world. So, they don't wish for the people they care about to feel that way.


#17 Sighing It Off

My wife always asks me what’s wrong, I think it’s random. However, I do walk around sighing all day. And yes, I’m incredibly unhappy, though I guess it’s not so secret anymore. I thought the problem was an inability to communicate in my marriage. But, it was just me all along. Counseling just started us. We go through all these assessments and questionnaires, and it all points to me.


#18 Reaching Out

I get tired of hearing the media run adverts about helping people with depression say, "Tell someone, reach out.” I told my job counselor I was planning to end my life and the date. She just looked at me, carried on typing and talked about a job interview. It was like I hadn't spoken. I wonder how many other people don't reach out because there's no point.


#19 Getting Worse

Getting worse at a game they were really good at, which depresses them more. I have this friend who loves Mario Kart. He’s basically a god at it. We used to play a lot, (and we still do) he knows every shortcut, how much he has to tilt the stick for every turn, etc. But one time I noticed I had been winning for quite a while. I thought he might be giving me the chance to win but he actually wasn't. It seemed that for every race we had he just put all of his effort in and got no result. Turns out he was having a very rough month, and it impacted the way he was playing. The only thing I could do is just try to cheer him up and suggest other challenges that might distract him.


#20 Cry for Help

Self-degrading humor definitely has its place and can be beneficial for keeping your sense of self-awareness. Still, there is a point where it becomes too much and something’s off. For example, if you're joking about how you're a horrible person and depressed all the time, at some point it's just a cry for help.


#21 Fighting to Function

Very important: someone may appear that they aren’t putting any effort into life when, in fact, they feel so horrible that it’s taking all their energy to do what comes easier to healthier people. Depression is like an 80-pound weighted blanket for me. Literally everything is harder to do. From the outside, I may appear lazy but I’m fighting to be this functional.


#22 The Anti-Joke

Watch out for jokes about loss of life. When I was thinking about ending it, I found myself letting these jokes slip out when talking to people. Nobody would have known I was in that deep. I hid it really well. But, those jokes were like an involuntary clue that my subconscious was trying to give to people around me, I think. No one picked up on it because people really weren’t paying attention to me or my mental state at the time. Everyone was busy in their own worlds. If your friends ever start joking about that kind of stuff, it might be worth a check-in, even if they otherwise seem fine.


#23 I’m Fine

Looking down a lot and spacing out a lot. That and when you ask them how they’re feeling, there’s a very high chance they’ll just say, “I’m fine” or “I’m okay.” They will also be often tired and they might fiddle with something, something like a sleeve of a shirt. Those are two of the major examples I’ve noticed.


#24 Losing Interest

They start becoming more irritable, maybe they snap a little more often. When this happens, they'll usually apologize later and sound either truly regretful or tired. They zone out more and lose interest in things they used to love. They never want to do anything. If you ask them if they're okay, they say that they're fine.


#25 An Apathetic View

People are pretty good about picking up small, minute signals on people's moods, even if they don't realize they are doing it. It's very obvious when someone is showing life complete apathy, anger at the smallest slights, or talks about wanting to end capitalism. There are no "secret signs" that are 100% accurate. Some people agree to more, some shut themselves off from the rest of the world. Most people are somewhat unhappy to an extent anyway. There is always something that will upset each individual.


#26 Stockholm Syndrome

After a while, you don't necessarily become married to your depression, it's more along the lines of Stockholm Syndrome. I've got nothing going for me since Halloween, not even a dime or a place to stay. But I refuse to give up. Absolutely, stubbornly refuse. Why? Because everyone loves a good slow-motion trainwreck.


#27 Trading It In

The weird part for me is that anger seems to be my replacement for depression. The meds I'm on do actually feel like they help. I don't get that muted sense of life where I'm floating through it meaninglessly and constantly questioning why I bother. Now, instead of getting upset or sad, I just get frustrated and angry. I think it's because I was depressed for most of my life and I just don't know how to cope without it. It sucks because I spent years getting my anger under control and I had to trade that control to get rid of my depression.


#28 Putting on a Front

For me, I’d have to say it’s when someone is or slowly becomes morbidly obese. I don't care how happy a 450-pound person seems to the outside world. I also don't care how much they embrace or own their sexuality. If you’re that large, probably you're miserable when you're alone and don't have to put on a front.


#29 Giving Up a Dream

My boyfriend loves music. For five years I've supported him in his music as a vocalist, drummer and guitarist. His passion for metal music is genuine and he loves it so much I swear you could never take that away from him. Over a year ago, he started a job working in an office building where he sat at a desk and worked on the computer. He told me since he was 18 that he never wanted to give up his dream to work behind a desk.

Now we're living together and he gets up at 5:00 a.m. every morning and gets home at 5:00 p.m. I swear, I see the light in his eyes fade a little more each day and it breaks my heart. He's not happy. He's miserable and he's depressed. I love him dearly. He's my best friend. It’s the unhappy I see every day that hurts me.


#30 Case by Case

I think it would honestly just depend on the person. In a relationship, the effort that is put into the relationship drops way off. Unhappy people tend to retreat in some way. They’ll turn to substances or some kind of personally destructive behavior. They may also begin to sleep way more and are quick to anger.


#31 Back to You

When in conversation, they always flip the questions onto the other person. They don’t really feel like sharing what’s going on with them. For example, if asked how their week went, they would say “good” and then bring up something about your week. They try to keep the conversation about you and not about them.


#32 Letting Apathy Drive

They tend to stay in bad situations much longer than a well-adjusted person would, which leads other people to believe they're at least somewhat content. They might hate their job, spouse, weight or their life in general, but depression is mentally exhausting. Even thinking about taking steps toward getting out of that situation is daunting, especially when you can just stay on autopilot in your current circumstances.

And when you can finally muster the mental motivation to act, then you realize how physically exhausted you are. And if it's that overwhelming to try to get rid of whatever makes you unhappy, sometimes you just stop trying to be happy at all. You stop trying to feel anything and let the apathy drive for a while.


#33 Reaching Out

I can't speak for anyone else, but I've been reaching out to anyone and everyone I haven't talked to in forever. Oh, person I was friends with in middle school, how have you been? Old friend who you really only met like three times but they seemed like a nice person and for some reason you're friends on Facebook, what have you been up to? Desperately trying to just make any sort of connection with someone is usually a pretty good sign.


#34 No Motivation

They're always tired or have no motivation to do anything. Anytime you ask them how they are, without a doubt, they'll say, “Alright, okay, fine,” etc. They also get exhausted doing the simplest things (like going out with friends for example. I personally can't even handle texting them sometimes for a few hours a day or so.)


#35 Keep Smiling

Maybe this is just me but, if someone seems to be happy about everything . Like, every little thing can get them excited, but they don’t have any hobbies, or any excitement for anything else. The ones who always seem to be the happiest could have some things going on, and they’re just good at hiding it from you.


#36 Hot and Cold

Even if this person looks very happy, you can easily put them down or make them sad and even cry. They become very upset when someone is even a little bit rude to them. They can be very loud and happy at one moment and quiet at another. It's my own experience, so I don't know how it works with any other people.


#37 When You Know

The way a smile or laugh fades away. When you’re genuinely happy, let’s say laughing at something, the face and eyes have a natural way of transitioning back to a neutral face when the moment is done. If you pay attention, sometimes people’s smiles will just shift into this 1000-mile stare as the moment passes. It’s like they’re exerting so much effort just to look happy. That’s when you know…


#38 Just Content

They chase highs and constantly try to distract themselves with entertainment. They don't have a very vibrant inner life, so they can't be content just sitting still by themselves with their own mind. They also don't often have deep conversations with their inner-group. You can also sometimes tell by the company they keep. They’re constantly trying to get into things that’ll make them happy and may even seem happy a lot. They are rarely, if ever, just content.


#39 Struggling Artist

I’ve always been a creative person, but I don't have the urge to write, or draw, or play my guitar unless I'm terribly lonely or depressed. It sucks because I love all of those things. But forcing myself to do any of them without the proper inspiration (depression) usually results in garbage that I'm not proud of.


#40 Getting the Message

Them joking about dark stuff going on in their life. I know from myself. At times, I wasn't okay. If me and my friends were chatting and the topic came to our problems, I would tell the cause of depression, anxiety, unhappiness, stress etc. in just a sentence while smiling as if it was funny. They never got the message. If someone is telling you something that sounds dark, but they’re laughing or talking really shortly about it, please stop them and ask them to talk more about the topic. Make them feel like they can open up to you.


#41 Lack of Interest

I think it’s when someone shows a total of interest in things that they normally are really hyped for. Please don’t ever feel uncomfortable talking about your emotions and feelings with people you care about. Everyone is going through something, we’re all in this ride together and have to look out for each other.


#42 You Decide

They constantly make others pick what to do and don't form an opinion. They stop doing the things they enjoyed before, they seclude themselves in a room of people, or try to stay home more often but won’t come out and say it. They always try to focus on things in others’ lives to feel good about since they don't find a purpose in it all at the moment. The best you can do is just try to get them engaged with you in things they truly enjoy again. But, don’t push too hard to the point they will feel worse for not wanting to do something that was so obvious they enjoyed.


#43 Making Up For It

There is a whole other faction of people who are secretly unhappy that act very happy all the time. All smiles and jokes and fun. Most people have some sad or downtime, no matter what situation you usually see them in. Even the most outgoing people want to be left alone sometimes naturally. I think healthier people can express it.

So people who always act one way when you see them are the ones I worry about. They force out all the happy gestures there and go home and feel terrible. It just seems unbalanced. I know people are on different ends of different spectrums, but in a real way, we’re all quite similar. People who seem incredibly far in one direction in public often make up for it in private.


#44 Stop Functioning

It isn't a secret to anyone. I know that I'm unhappy but I can't do anything about it and no one can help me. I've almost completely stopped functioning. I wake up because I have to. I take the kids to school and go to work. After that, I literally do nothing. I just sleep mostly. My house is a mess and I'm gaining weight. It's miserable. The only time I feel better is when I party.


#45 This Game We Play

They act like life doesn't have bumps in the road. Like, I don't know about you, but I had to travel over a bunch of potholes, then a wreck plus an earthquake, but it all boils down to performance. Like how did you own a truck, a boat and a 350k house. Jeez, man. I wish I was winning at this game we call life. Only I get fired because, you know, I suck at this game we play.


#46 Feeling Guilty

Apologizing a lot and talking about guilt when they have nothing to feel guilty about. A lot of depressed people have developed strategies to hide obvious symptoms rather than better coping strategies. So, these signs can actually be hard to read sometimes unless you’ve known that person for a long period of time.


#47 Taking a Toll

Not talking. A lot of times, it’s just that they are introverted. But the majority of the time, they are dealing with something that they just can't or don't want to talk about. Whether it's something they were previously going through, or something they are going through currently, it's taking a toll on their social life.


#48 Common Coping Mechanism

You know that one guy who’s constantly cracking jokes? Like constantly ? They come off as insensitive and even just straight mean sometimes because they literally make a joke about everything? They’re sad, that’s one of the most common coping mechanisms. It’s a combination of using humor to negate and dismiss issues and also getting momentary joy by making other people laugh and smile.


#49 Putting on the Mask

For me, I tend to act overly happy towards co-workers and friends. But, when they leave the room I instantly go stone-faced and show no emotion. It freaks them out if they see it happen when I don’t see or hear them approach me. The fake mask is to avoid them asking how I really feel. Just another wall put up to add to the loneliness and sadness.


#50 Bailed Plans

If someone constantly cancels on their plans! That's a big one I notice in a lot of my friends when they start getting really down. Honestly, even if they always refuse, make sure you always invite them out. The fact they’re being invited lets them know you’re there for them and that you want them to come along.




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