Can You Be Depressed Without Being Suicidal?

Depressed young boy feeling empty, numb, and alone.
Depressed young boy feeling empty, numb, and alone.

Depression and suicide are serious issues in today’s world. Some people may panic if they suspect that they or someone they know might be clinically depressed. After all, most of us have heard plenty of stories on the news about depression ending in tragedy.

Can you be depressed without being suicidal? People with depression don’t always develop suicidal thoughts. There are different types of depression, and even the most serious forms don’t always lead to suicide. It’s possible to have depression without feeling sad at all.

Because of the many forms, it can take, depression can be difficult to spot. There are also plenty of myths going around about it, making things even more confusing. It’s important to be aware of these myths and to be familiar with all the symptoms of depression so that people with the disease are more likely to get help.

Different Types of Depression

Every type of depression has one thing in common: the list of possible symptoms. These include depressed mood, changes in weight, insomnia or sleepiness, feeling restless, and a loss of interest in regular activities. Thoughts of suicide are also on the list, but just like the others, these thoughts are just one possible symptom. They may not be present in every depressed person.

Major Depressive Disorder

A person has major depression if they have five or more of the symptoms on the list. But the symptoms they have must include either a depressed mood or a loss of interest in activities, or both. These two symptoms have to be present almost every day for two or more weeks. If a person doesn’t experience either of these key symptoms, it’s not depression.

Bipolar Disorder, or “Manic Depression”

Bipolar disorder is not quite the same as depression, but its old name was “manic depression” because a key part of the disorder involves depression symptoms. BPD is when a person experiences dramatic swings between extremely high and low moods.

During times of high mood, the person feels excessively happy or energetic, to the point where it disrupts their lifestyle. During the low times, the person has some or all of the symptoms of major depression.

Psychotic Depression

This type of depression also shares a list of symptoms with major depression. Someone with psychotic depression has some or all of those symptoms, along with hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia. One of these has to be present for the depression to be considered psychotic.

Atypical Depression

Despite the name, atypical depression is not all that unusual. It’s a fairly common type that shares symptoms with major depression. What sets the two apart is mood reactivity. A person with atypical depression will become happier after a positive event, while a person with major depression probably wouldn’t.

Atypical depression also involves excessive sleeping, an increase in appetite or weight, physical feelings of heaviness, and intense reactions to criticism. At least two of these have to be present in atypical depression.

You Only Need Some of the Symptoms

There are even more types of depression than the ones listed above. With so many types and so many symptoms that come with each one, there are a lot of different signs that can indicate when someone is depressed. But here’s the key: depression looks different in everyone. For each type of depression, you only need some of the possible symptoms to be diagnosed.

This means that one person with depression might maintain a perfectly normal appetite, while another person starts skipping most of their meals. A third person might feel numb toward life, without any signs of happiness or sadness, while a fourth might be constantly sad but still able to enjoy some activities.

And while some may contemplate suicide, others may not. Once again, a depressed mood and lack of interest are the only two symptoms required for a diagnosis. Any case of depression will always involve one or both of these, but the rest of the symptoms can be very different from case to case.

It Can Change Over Time

We often like to believe that we know ourselves well. Even if a person has the symptoms of depression, they might not be that concerned, because they can’t imagine themselves considering suicide. They might decide they’re not “that type of person” and simply brush off the possibility.

But like most things in life, depression isn’t a static thing. It might start out mild and become severe, or vice versa and the change could happen slowly over many years. This can make it hard for a person to notice their own condition getting worse.

It’s a bit like growing up with a good friend. They change a lot over the years, but if we see them every day, we probably won’t notice the changes. But if we move away and meet them again years later, they almost look like a different person. In the same way, the severity of depression can change so slowly that we don’t notice it happening.

Just because a person with depression isn’t suicidal now, that doesn’t mean they won’t become suicidal in the future. The slow, subtle way that depression can develop makes it crucial to track the disease and treat it as soon as possible before it’s too late.

Myths About Depression

There are a lot of misconceptions going around about depression. For instance, some think it’s just a mood and not a real illness. Many people also see it as a sign of weakness, or believe that it’s something you can simply “snap out of.”

With something as serious as depression, it’s critical for people to have all the facts. Myths like these don’t help anyone—in fact, they make it harder for many people who have depression to admit they have it, especially when they think someone close to them might look down on them because of it.

Depression is a very real mental illness. If you hear anyone say that it’s just a mood, remember there are a lot of trained professionals who disagree with them. Having depression doesn’t mean you’re weak; just like with the cold or the flu, it simply means there’s something wrong that needs to be taken care of. And you can’t always “snap out of” depression. Many cases require treatment from professionals.

These are just a few of the common myths about depression. If you know anyone who believes them, why not try to clear things up? Maybe the next time they meet someone with depression, they’ll understand a little better.

How to Know If Someone Is Suicidal

If someone talks openly about killing themselves or thinking about death, it’s a major warning sign that shouldn’t be taken lightly. While this is one of the more obvious signs that someone is suicidal, there are also times when the signs aren’t so clear.

A more subtle sign of suicidal thoughts is when a person begins to act strangely, in a few specific ways. For example, they might update or start working on their will or begin giving away their possessions. This suggests they’re making preparations for death.

A person who has been acting sad, anxious, or moody for a while might one day seem perfectly calm, or even relieved. This is a warning sign because it might mean they’ve decided to go through with suicide, and have made peace with it.

Another possible sign is when someone starts to act more recklessly than normal. They might drive drunk or perform dangerous stunts. Behavior like this can mean that the person no longer cares what happens to them, or that they’re hoping to die in an accident without needing to “officially” commit suicide.

It Never Hurts to Get Help

Depression can take a lot of different forms. It can be hard to know whether someone else is depressed, but it can be even harder for a person to detect it in themselves. If you’re wondering whether you or someone you know might be depressed, remember that it never hurts to get help. You never know when you might save a life.


About Kasia Ciszewski 48 Articles
Kasia is a licensed professional counselor servicing the Charleston area. She helps individuals heal, better understand their emotions, energize & become more aware of their inner strength. She specializes in helping teens, adults and seniors and has been able to regularly achieve impressive results for her clients throughout South Carolina.

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