Abuse Effects

33 Possible Signs of Depression You May Not Know About

Hidden Signs of Depression | Hopeful Panda

Depression is a very common effect of childhood abuse and trauma. It’s also a well-known and common mental illness that affects over 250 million people.

You likely know about the common signs of depression such as feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, sadness, and suicidality. But there are more nuances to depression than the common list of symptoms we tend to hear about.

And though there are varying levels of depression, it is still something that many people who were raised by abusive parents struggle with on a daily basis.

Learning about the other possible signs of depression can help abuse survivors better understand their mental health so they can create a plan to address those symptoms.

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My Experiences with Depression

For me, dealing with depression as a child, teenager, and adult were all different experiences. Even now as an adult, my depression still manifests itself in different ways.

As a child, I was an attention seeker, a “crybaby” as people would call me, and always desperate for friends. I begged to play with kids who said to my face that they didn’t want to play with me – and not in a polite way, either. But other than that, I was still a pretty “happy” kid. Or so I thought.

As a teenager, I was angry and irritated a lot of the time with everyone and everything. I was also a bit violent, aggressive, and rebellious which pushed a lot of people away. I also isolated myself and was often quiet in social situations to the point I was known as “the quiet girl”.

Now as an adult, I can be friendly, talkative, and cheerful if I want to be. But the depression is still there. I guess I learned to mask it better. You can read more about my current experience with depression.

1. Executive dysfunction

Executive function is a set of skills that allows you to pay attention, remember information, and multitask.

So executive dysfunction is the range of cognitive, behavioral, and emotional difficulties that often occur as a result of another disorder, in this case, depression.

Many people with depression may struggle with executive dysfunction.

They may have difficulties planning, organizing, strategizing, concentrating, and managing time.

They may have short attention spans – often spacing out and having trouble comprehending what other people are saying, what they’re reading or watching, or what they’re currently doing.

These individuals may also have trouble making decisions, big or small. And after finally making a decision, they may second-guess it.

However, it’s important to note that executive dysfunction doesn’t affect every depressed individual in the same way.

One person may struggle more with forgetfulness while another one may struggle more with concentration.

2. Psychomotor impairment

Psychomotor impairment, also known as psychomotor retardation, refers to the disruption of the connections between mental and muscle functions.

It affects regular day-to-day activities and functions like the way you move and talk.

Depression can become severe enough to physically interfere with motor functions, making tasks exponentially more exhausting and tedious.

Things you can do without thinking like showering, dressing, or brushing may now require attention and effort. Depressed people can be easily exhausted even from the smallest of tasks.

When speaking, someone with depression may forget certain words, stutter, stammer, speak slowly, or have trouble getting the words out even though they know what they want to say.

3. Unexplained physical pain

Someone struggling with depression might experience muscle pain, joint pain, headaches, stomachaches, and nausea without any apparent reason.

4. Anhedonia

Another hidden sign of depression is anhedonia, the inability to feel pleasure.

People with depression may no longer find joy or pleasure in anything, even activities they used to enjoy.

It could even cause the opposite where doing things they used to enjoy can bring them dread or irritation.

5. Apathy & Numbness

When people think of depression, they usually think about sadness.

But oftentimes, depression can take on the form of apathy, where the individual has no interest, concerns, or feelings in anything or anyone whatsoever.

They might not even want to do simple things like eating, bathing, reading, or talking to people.

Due to their lack of interest in pretty much anything, they may not be up to date on the latest trends, current events, and news.

Numbness is similar to apathy. It mostly refers to one’s emotions whereas apathy refers more to one’s behavior or state of being.

Emotional numbness is when the individual doesn’t feel any particular emotions or sensations.

This can cause a sense of isolation or emotional disconnect from the rest of the world.

Oftentimes, numbness can actually be more unbearable than sadness.

6. Lack of energy and motivation

Most depressed people usually lack the energy and motivation to do things, even simple tasks.

This may come across as laziness to themselves or other people.

They are also often tired, even after long periods of rest.

7. Reluctance to try new things

People with depression may be very reluctant to try new things, even something that’s considered minor like watching a new TV show, playing a new game, or reading a new book.

8. Dissociation

Dissociation is disconnecting from one’s thoughts, feelings, memories, sensory experience, or sense of self.

It can range from a mild emotional detachment from surroundings to a more severe disconnection from physical and emotional experiences.

During dissociation, it’s as if you’re looking at yourself from a third-person view. It also comes with a feeling of surrealism, like you’re not grounded in reality anymore.

Dissociation might occur in people with depression due to overwhelming numbness.

9. Carelessness & Neglect

Someone slipping into depression may start becoming careless or neglectful about things they used to care about.

This can refer to sentimental items, healthy habits, or even personal values.

The individual may start neglecting their treasured possessions and treat them carelessly or give them away.

Healthy habits such as diet, physical activity, and hygiene may become unhealthy or nonexistent.

They may not shower, brush, shave, change clothes, or clean regularly like they used to. Basically, any forms of self-care or essential chores may be done poorly or completely ignored.

Most people live according to a set of values that they believe in. However, someone struggling with depression may neglect those values.

For example, if someone values respect, depression may cause them to become ruder towards others.

10. Risky and reckless behavior

Someone with depression may often engage in risky and reckless behavior.

They may engage in substance abuse, smoking, drunk driving, wild partying, or spontaneous, irresponsible adventures.

This is usually a form of escapism or coping method for their depression.

11. Irritability and angry outbursts

Irritability, angry outbursts, frustration, agitation, and short-tempers are especially common in teenagers and men struggling with depression.

Angry outbursts might occur for even minor matters. It’s like any little thing can tick them off.

A lot of people with seemingly anger issues may just be depressed.

12. Low frustration and stress tolerance

One small problem or inconvenience can bring a depressed person extreme frustration and stress.

And the frustration or stress can lead to tears or even a mental breakdown.

13. Lack of patience

Someone with depression might also have a lack of patience, which can be associated with short tempers, angry outbursts, and low frustration and stress tolerance.

They might have little to no patience with things like casual conversations, advertisements, or even waiting for the microwave to heat up something.

14. Obsession with escapism

Escapism is the tendency to seek distraction and relief from reality, typically through activities involving entertainment or imagination (such as maladaptive daydreaming mentioned below).

People struggling with depression might have an increased desire or even obsession with escapism.

For example, most of their activities might consist of binge-watching TV, spending a crazy amount of time playing video games, or constantly browsing social media.

They may feel this need to constantly be distracted so they don’t have to be alone with their negative thoughts.

15. Maladaptive Daydreaming

A hidden sign of depression that’s pretty unknown but I’ve personally experienced is maladaptive daydreaming.

It is related to the concept of paracosm, but doesn’t just happen in childhood.

Maladaptive daydreaming refers to extremely vivid daydreams that distract a person from their real life.

These daydreams may have their own characters, settings, plots, and other detailed, story-like features.

Daydreams may be triggered by real-life events and cause the person to have difficulty completing their real-life tasks.

Experts are unsure of what causes maladaptive daydreaming.

However, as someone who spent my teenage years doing mostly this, I would say it was a huge form of escapism for me.

The reality was too hard to bear that living in my own made-up world made living more bearable.

16. Passive suicidal ideation

Passive suicidal ideation, unlike suicidal ideation, is thinking about dying or having a desire to be dead without actively making a specific plan to carry it out.

For me, passive suicidal ideation was very common in my teenage and young adult years.

I visualized myself dying in different scenarios like how I wished someone would push me off the bridge I’m standing on or how the passing bus would somehow lose control and hit me.

17. Reclusion

Depressed individuals might consistently avoid social interaction or going out to events.

They may generally spend long periods of time alone because any sort of interaction or activity comes across as exhausting.

They might also lack a sense of community and may not belong or feel like they belong to any specific group or social circle.

18. Trouble maintaining relationships

Someone struggling with depression may avoid reaching out to people or ignore phone calls or texts.

Other people may see it as the person neglecting or not caring about the relationship when really, they’re just too tired and depressed to deal with it.

Some individuals may intentionally or inadvertently push people away or shut them out.

Some might even purposefully say hurtful things to others just so people would avoid interacting with them.

On the other hand, some individuals may not necessarily refuse invitations or talk, but just might never initiate it themselves, which also strains their relationships.

19. Cheerful facade

Some people can hide their depression really well if they wanted to.

They might hide it behind a cheerful demeanor because they don’t want to draw attention to themselves. Or they might not want people to worry about them.

20. Hiding behind jokes

People with depression may hide it behind a jokey, humorous façade to compensate for their feelings of sadness, emptiness, and worthlessness.

They may laugh and make jokes about every little thing.

This is actually true for many comedians (a popular example is Robin Williams) where comedy is their way of coping with depression.

Someone with depression might also crack a lot of jokes about themselves.

What others see as a form of maybe healthy self-deprecation might actually be self-hate and feelings of worthlessness disguised as a joke.

21. Refusal to talk about themselves

Individuals with depression may avoid subjects about themselves.

If you ask them “How are you?”, they may divert it by asking “How are you?” instead.

They may seem secretive or vague about their personal life or about themselves.

22. Lack of contribution to conversations

When conversing with a depressed person, they may have minimal to no contribution to the conversation.

They might have a monotone, low voice, and respond using only short or one-word phrases.

Serious subjects might also make them uncomfortable they might try to divert it or make light of the topic.

23. Overly talkative

On the other end of the spectrum, some depressed individuals can be overly talkative.

This can be due to the fact that they don’t like awkward silences because they’re scared to be alone with their thoughts.

24. Self-Sabotage & Negative Self-Talk

Someone with depression may often engage in self-sabotage and set themselves up for failure.

They might create cycles that could worsen the depression such as constantly beating themselves up over little things to the point they spiral back into their negative thinking and self-talk.

Many people with depression often have a harsh inner critic that dictates who they are and why they’re unlovable, unaccepted, and never good enough.

25. Avoidance of tasks no matter what

Some people with depression might find certain tasks so dreadful that they would completely go out of their way just to avoid doing them.

They might do this even if avoiding said task actually requires more effort and suffering than simply doing the task to begin with.

26. Low libido and lack of interest in sex

Low libido and disinterest in sex are not usually talked about because it’s NSFW. But it’s a very real issue that people with depression might struggle with.

Of course, I’m not talking about naturally low-libido or asexual individuals.

A disinterest or lack of pleasure from sex only becomes a problem when an individual who used to find pleasure in sex no longer does.

This could put a strain on their confidence, self-esteem, body image, and relationship.

Depression can also cause erectile dysfunction in males, something else not often talked about.

This can further reinforce their self-doubt, insecurities, and depression.

27. Defeatist and hypercritical

People with depression might have a defeatist and hypercritical attitude.

They may be quick to give up before trying, refuse invitations, shoot down suggestions, turn down opportunities, disapprove of plans, and find flaws in everything even if there aren’t any.

28. Lack of purpose and future

One common thing depression does is create this sort of short-sightedness.

A lot of people struggling with depression can’t see past the end of the day. They might have trouble picturing the future. And when they can, it’s usually a future with no future.

A lot of individuals with depression have no desires, no goals, no dreams, and no sense of purpose.

Even if they have desires and dreams, they’re usually not considered realistically achievable to them.

Many people with depression are pessimistic.

They may tend to focus on the negatives of life, such as only seeing the worst of anyone or anything, expecting the worst outcome of a given situation, and having no hope or confidence in the future.

29. Self-hate

Some people with depression are self-loathing to the point they might not understand how other people don’t hate them, too.

Self-love or even self-acceptance can be such a foreign concept to them that they don’t know how others can ever do it.

30. Selflessness

Someone struggling with depression might prioritize other people’s well-being, interests, preferences, and success above their own even if it’s something that makes them uncomfortable or that they personally dislike.

This may be due in part to their lack of a sense of self, lack of self-love, and wanting to make up for feeling like a burden.

They may be people-pleasers and never want to inconvenience others because they might feel that their existence is a problem and a burden.

31. Life on autopilot

For some individuals with depression, it may feel like life is on autopilot.

It’s like they don’t have a sense of time.

The days may run themselves and it could be as if life is just passing them by. They’re usually not really mentally or emotionally present to experience it.

32. Fear of getting better or feeling good

Getting better or feeling good can be horrifying to some depressed individuals.

They might not be used to it and might be scared to feel any form of pleasure or happiness because they know that it’ll be taken away at some point.

33. Aware of the depression

A lot more people than you think is actually very aware of how their mind is warped by their depression.

They are aware that life isn’t actually that bad. But the issue is that they just can’t help but feel that way.

Hidden Signs of Depression | Hopeful Panda


Depression manifests itself in many different possibilities that this list of possible signs couldn’t possibly cover.

How depression affects one person might be different from someone else.

For example, one individual might constantly reject social interaction while another might go out every day as a way to distract themselves.

Also, a possible sign of depression in one person might not be a sign in another.

Someone who doesn’t like going out might not necessarily be depressed; they may just be very introverted and prefer to be at home.

So remember, whether or not you fulfill or not fulfill things on this list does not necessarily mean you have or don’t have depression.

The best way to know for sure is to reach out to a therapist who can give you a proper diagnosis and tailored advice based on your situation.

Free Resources

If you don’t have access to mental healthcare or don’t know where to start, here are some free online resources you can check out.

And here are some books about managing depression.

Sign up for a free trial of Kindle Unlimited to read some of these titles for free or at a discount. Or sign up for a free trial with Audible and claim an audiobook for free, which is yours to keep even when you cancel.

  • Your Happiness Toolkit: 16 Strategies for Overcoming Depression, and Building a Joyful, Fulfilling Life by Carrie M. Wrigley
  • Feeling Great: The Revolutionary New Treatment for Depression and Anxiety by David D. Burns
  • Maybe You Should Talk To Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb
  • Learned Hopefulness: The Power of Positivity to Overcome Depression by Dan Tomasulo
  • This Is Depression: A Comprehensive, Compassionate Guide for Anyone Who Wants to Understand Depression by Diane McIntosh

More Resources

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Hi there, I’m Estee. Having grown up with an abusive mother, I know how isolating, frustrating, and hopeless everything could feel – back then as a child and even now as an adult.

I am always trying to better understand and manage the effects of the abuse I experienced. And this journey I’m on inspired me to create Hopeful Panda. Learn more here.

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