5 Unexpected Symptoms of Depression

In pop culture and the media, depression is often equated to sadness. Depressed people in movies and on TV seem fairly one-dimensional. They’re overwhelmingly despondent, they cry frequently, and they constantly want to be sleeping in bed.

unexpected depression symptoms

While these attributes may be true for some, depression manifests itself in numerous different ways. Depression for one person may not look the way it does for another. On top of that, it can be hard to tell if someone is depressed. For instance, even though they appear jovial when in social situations, on the inside they may feel hopeless and alone.

To better understand its complexities, we asked a few experts about the unexpected symptoms of depression.


Particularly in men, anger and high irritability are two lesser-known symptoms of depression, noted Melinda Olsen, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Inviterra Counseling in California.

“Trying to function with depression takes up a huge amount of emotional, physical, and mental effort,” she said. “That means you have less bandwidth overall to navigate everyday difficulties in a calm manner.”

Muscle aches and pains

“Persistent stress causes shifts in the nervous system which makes physical pain and depression worse,” said Dana Hall, a clinical therapist in Illinois. She pointed to the connection between the mind and body and recommended a holistic approach to treatment.

Rumination and negative thinking

“When we get locked on a thought or image it can be an indication of depression,” Hall said. Negative thinking — like using words such as “should” or “if only” — can lead one into a toxic shame cycle.

“The constant barrage of negativity that emerges through all-or-nothing thinking shuts down motivation and fuels depression,” she added.

Feelings of low self-worth

Having hopeless thoughts like “My life will always be depressing” or “Things will never get better” can be a sign of depression, according to Carla Manly, a clinical psychologist in California.

Increased use of substances or behaviors

Live Free Psychotherapy‘s Alex Ribbentrop, an EMDR trained clinician, pointed to this symptom. A few examples include sex, exercise and shopping.

What should you do if you’re experiencing these depression symptoms?

If you find yourself experiencing any depression symptoms, whether well-known or lesser-known, what should you do?

“If the symptoms seem new or chronically ongoing, it’s important to make notes of the signs and timeframe,” said Manly. She suggested keeping a journal to keep track of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

When it comes to finding help, Manly recommended resources such as NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), which can be reached at 866-960-6264, as well as the National Suicide Hotline, whose number is 1-800-273-TALK.

Identifying a qualified therapist is another option. Hall noted that Psychology Today‘s website offers a list of providers searchable by state. “Due to COVID-19, some plans have extended their coverage to include online mental health services,” she said.

No matter how you decide to proceed in obtaining help, know that you are not alone.

“Depression is extremely common, and it’s always important to take any warning signs seriously,” said Manly. “Whether you reach out to a friend, family member, psychotherapist, or hotline for assistance, you deserve to be supported.”

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About Erin Dietsche

Erin ran track from an early age, but it wasn’t until her parents “forced” her to join her high school cross country team that she fell in love with running. Since then, she’s become an avid runner and learned how to balance her running with her interest in eating chocolate. In recent years, Erin has embraced other forms of fitness like lifting weights. When she’s not working out, she enjoys anything theatre-related, writing plays, reading, listening to rap music, and playing the piano.