7 Signs of Depression Most People Miss, According to Mental Health Experts

Depression is the most common mental health disorder in the U.S., affecting more than 18 million adults. Since not everyone who experiences depression seeks help, this number is likely much higher.

Despite depression being so common, sometimes its symptoms go undetected. Unless you’re aware of the subtle signs, you may not realize that a friend or loved one is experiencing depression. What’s more, you might not even recognize signs in your own life as symptoms of depression. Knowing the signs of depression is the first step to overcoming it. Otherwise, you will just carry on not realizing that what you are experiencing can actually be treated, if you seek help. Here, mental health experts share the top signs of depression that many people don’t know about.

Related: 7 Science-Backed Ways to Deal With Depression

7 Signs of Depression Mental Health Experts Want Everyone To Know

1. Persistent sadness

While everyone experiences bouts of sadness from time to time, Chris Rodriguez, LPC, a licensed professional counselor with Thriveworks, who specializes in depression, stress, relationships and life transitions, says that if someone is feeling sad for more than two weeks, this is a sign of depression. While this sign may seem obvious; it isn’t always. Sometimes, someone may be so used to feeling sad that they think it’s normal to feel that way or that it’s just the way life is. But Rodriguez emphasizes that if someone is feeling sad for more than two weeks, they should see a healthcare provider or professional therapist for help.

2. Skipping out on activities you used to enjoy

Bailing on plans last minute has become so normalized that many may not realize that this can actually be a sign of depression. Rodriguez says that if someone is no longer enjoying or participating in activities they used to love, it should be considered a symptom to pay attention to.

Related: Here's What Major Depressive Disorder Actually Is—and How It Differs From 'Regular' Depression

3. Changes in appetite

“One symptom [of depression] that tends to be overlooked is changes in appetite,” Rodriguez says. He explains that a person’s appetite can either increase or decrease with a depressive episode. “If the person has a body weight change of five percent or more within a month, this is a concern,” he says, adding that the drastic change in body weight could indicate that someone isn’t getting the nutrients their body needs, and this could have a drastic effect on our mental health and could sometimes even increase other symptoms of depression.

4. Changes in sleep habits

Depression is often associated with sleeping more than usual and while this can certainly happen, Shawn Singh, JD, the CEO of mental health company Vistagen, says that any changes in sleep habits can be a sign of depression. In fact, 75 percent of people with depression have a hard time falling or staying asleep.

Related: 101 Quotes About Depression to Help You Not Feel So Alone in Your Struggle

5. Acting out of character

Singh says that changes in personality can also be a sign of depression. According to one scientific study, neuroticism and conscientiousness are associated with depression. However, it’s important to note that these changes in personality aren’t permanent. Once someone’s depression starts to lift, they will be back to feeling like their old self.

6. An increase in alcohol use

Scientific studies show that alcohol use disorder and depression often co-exist. Even though someone who is feeling depressed may drink more alcohol in an effort to feel better, alcohol is a depressant and can make symptoms even worse.

7. Negative self-talk

Negative self-talk is a pessimistic inner voice that can wear you down, making you feel less confident. It’s a liar that says you aren’t talented or things won’t get better. Singh says that an increase in these types of thoughts is a symptom of depression that people often miss. It’s worth reiterating that having these types of thoughts doesn’t make them true; in fact, they almost always aren’t true.

Tips for Treating Depression

If you are experiencing any of these signs yourself, Rodriguez recommends seeing your healthcare provider or a therapist. If you are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, he says to call a hotline such as 988, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration crisis hotline.

Rodriguez also says that behavioral activation—AKA the action of doing the exact opposite of what you want to do—can also help. (For example, getting out of bed in the morning when you would rather stay buried underneath the covers.) “This does not mean you have to run a marathon; just the act of not giving in to that desire is key to help,” Rodriguez explains.

If you notice these depression signs in a loved one’s life, Singh says to approach them with empathy and sensitivity. “Really listen to them and encourage them to seek care—everything from talk therapy to peer-to-peer counseling to medication-based interventions can help them find relief from symptoms while battling the often waxing and waning intensity of their depression,” he says. Singh says that making plans for low-pressure social activities (like taking a walk together) can also give the person an opportunity to open up about their mental health if they feel comfortable doing so. “Overall, be gentle, caring and encouraging,” he says.

Most importantly, remember that help is available. If you are experiencing depression, you are not destined to feel depressed forever. Asking for help may sound overwhelming, but it’s the first step to leaving depression behind and getting back to feeling like your true self.

Next up, here are some tips for what to say to someone who is feeling depressed.