Can You Be Depressed Without Feeling Sad?

At the age of 27, Marcus found himself newly single after being in a relationship for nearly six years, and he didn’t take the news very well. His friends and family were concerned about him because he had stopped taking their calls. When one of his best friends went to check on him, he was shocked at the state of his apartment!

His place, which used always to be clean, was a complete mess–the trash can was overflowing, and there was trash on the floor, he hadn’t done the dishes for weeks, the kitchen counter was full of half-eaten take-out containers… worst of all, Marcus didn’t look like himself! He was unkempt, unshaved, and had dark circles under his eyes. He looked older and weak. 

Jared, too, found himself recently single after a five-year relationship at 26. Right after the breakup, he started hanging out with his friends more, and he set up his profile on dating apps and started going on many dates.

He also began to work more and would be the first to arrive at the office and the last to leave. After work, he would go right to his best friend’s house (where he had moved in) and have a few drinks before falling asleep with the TV on.

Most people would think that Jared was taking the breakup pretty well, while Marcus was probably depressed because of the breakup. 

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But, that’s untrue as both Jared and Marcus show signs of depression. 

Depression is highly misunderstood as most people associate it with sadness or melancholy. 

This is why most people would believe that Jared was probably doing much better than Marcus at handling the breakup. The truth is that while Marcus showed some of the classic signs and symptoms of depression, Jared showed the less well-known signs of the disorder. 

So, can you have depression without feeling sadness? 

The short answer to this question is yes. Sadness is not the ultimate indicator of depression. Though it can be a symptom or even the cause of early symptoms, you can have depression without feeling any sadness whatsoever. That is not to say you will not have different symptoms in its place.

Knowing the difference between sadness and depression is essential, so you know how to treat them. When considering the symptoms of depression, it will become clearer that it is a much more complex condition than you might think. Additionally, everyone experiences it differently. Some people may feel sad and down, others will be energized and always moving. It depends on who you are and how you cope with things.

Since most of us are familiar will the classic symptoms of depression, I would like to go over some of the lesser-known symptoms of the disorder in this blog post. This will help you identify signs of depression within your behaviors and that of your loved ones so that you can recognize when one might need help. 

Can You Be Depressed Without Feeling Sad? Depression and Sadness

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Though there are many indicators of depression, this list is by no means all you may experience. 

As I mentioned before, depression can look like many things, and not everyone reacts the same way. Sadness can be a symptom, but it does not mean it is the only indicator. Spotting depression without sadness can be a little more complicated because human emotion is so complex, but it is not impossible. 

There is such a thing as depression without sadness.

Feeling Empty and a Lack of Purpose

Feeling empty can mean several things. It can mean that you feel like you lack a purpose in life for starters. This is extremely common in just about everyone for some portion of their life, but when depression is involved, it can get a little complicated. By feeling a lack of purpose, you may begin to act destructively to fill that void or to find your purpose. The danger of this symptom is the negative action you may take due to your feelings.

Another way you can feel empty is the lack of emotion. 

One of the many symptoms of depression is being numb or isolated. It is easier to spot when you are expected to express happiness or excitement. The lack of emotion felt and expressed is easier seen by friends and family.

Fatigue or Restlessness

Depending on the type of person you are, this symptom of depression can go one of two ways. You can either feel sudden fatigue or extreme restlessness. 

If you feel fatigued, you must know that it is not simply feeling tired. Fatigue is more like the feeling of not getting out of bed in the morning because you are so exhausted. It is the extreme fatigue you cannot seem to get rid of no matter how much you rest or sleep

It is the same idea for restlessness. 

When depression is involved, everything seems to be felt in extremes. So, when you show symptoms of restlessness, it is usually the feeling of always needing to be on the go and getting something done

The idea of sitting down to read a book or watching television will likely seem like torture for someone that is feeling this way. If not taken care of, restlessness because of depression can lead to even more symptoms.

Feeling Worthless

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This is one of the more extreme symptoms of depression. 

If you find yourself saying sorry and feeling guilty more than usual, you may be suffering from depression. Sometimes, it may manifest itself as you feel like you might be bothering your loved ones. 

The feeling of worthlessness usually plays a large role in this symptom and can often lead to even more severe symptoms such as delusions.

It might not seem like it at first, but this symptom can do a lot of damage. If you are experiencing any excessive guilt, then it is best to seek treatment.

Lack of Interest

You might stop doing the things you loved doing in the past due to depression. You’ll find yourself making excuses to avoid going out with friends, indulging in your favorite hobby, or just getting yourself out of the house. Life starts to feel more grey and bland. 

And if left untreated, you may begin to feel as if nothing you do can be enjoyable because you are not interested.

Changes in Your Sleeping Pattern: Insomnia or Sleeping Too Much

Changes in your sleeping pattern can be another sign of depression. This can go two ways: 

  • Insomnia: Insomnia or the inability to fall asleep has been associated with depression for a long time. You might find yourself tossing and turning in your bed at night, thinking about the things that could go wrong, worrying about your past mistakes, stressing about something, imagining scenarios that are highly unlikely to happen, etc. Even if you can fall asleep, you might not be able to stay asleep for as long as you’d like. 
  • Hypersomnia: Sometimes, you can experience the opposite of insomnia when you’re depressed. Hypersomnia means sleeping too much. You might find yourself exhausted at all times and want to take a nap whenever you’re stressed. You might find yourself sleeping up to 18 hours a day! And no matter how many naps you take in a day, you might find yourself feeling exhausted.  

Changes in Eating Habits

You’ll also notice changes in your eating habits and behavior when you’re depressed. 

  • Overeating: You might find yourself eating and snacking more than usual. Some people start to have bigger meals, some binge food or sweets at a particular time (usually at night), while some don’t have proper meals but snacks throughout the day. In a few weeks, you might start noticing an increase in your weight. 
  • Lack of appetite: Some people completely lose their appetite and start eating less as they report feeling full or nauseous. You might find yourself eating one or two meals a day or forgetting to eat at all because your mind is occupied. 

Lack of Concentration or Inability to Make Decisions

You might feel foggy and not able to concentrate on the task at hand. Some people automatically report zoning out of conversations or day-to-day tasks–even if they did not intend to do it. 

This naturally can take a toll on your work and your relationships with your friends and family. 

You might even find yourself unable to make simple decisions and needing to call your friends or family members for their input due to the lack of trust and confidence you may have in yourself. 

Suicidal Thoughts

Suicidal thoughts are among the more serious and scariest symptoms you might experience with depression. 

It often starts with thinking and fantasizing about what the world (and the lives of your loved ones) would look like if you were not there. These thoughts can turn more serious and include planning your suicide or even attempting suicide. 

This is a severe symptom that should not be taken lightly. It is essential to seek help immediately if you find yourself going down the rabbit hole of these thoughts. If you are currently having suicidal thoughts, you always have the option of seeking help through the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Over-Confidence, Fearlessness, and Recklessness

Over-confidence and fearlessness may fall under the same category regarding depression. 

If you feel like you have nothing to live for, you tend to feel like you do not need to feel afraid of harm or death. This can encourage reckless behavior and even push away those you care about most. 

Confidence is not a bad thing. 

But when you feel as if you never need to question your actions and words, it can get you in a world of trouble.

Increased Alcohol Intake

Alcohol is all fun and games until you start relying on it. 

When you go from having a few drinks with friends to drinking every night in hopes of not having to think about the things stressing you out, that is when you know you have a problem. 

Alcohol is a depressant, and when you have depression, it is only a matter of time before it leads you to trouble. It can cause many horrendous things, including the loss of your life.

If you find that you have a problem with increased alcohol intake, you should seek help for depression. It is essential to do this before life-altering mistakes are made and words you do not mean are spoken. 

Once you begin to have a problem with alcohol, it will be a struggle for you for the rest of your life. Alcohol and depression are trouble waiting to happen.

Change in Libido

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Healthy sex life is important. Sex has been shown to have massive benefits on your overall health and mood. It can even help decrease depression and anxiety

So, when you begin to feel like you have no drive to get it on, you could very well be suffering from depression. Sex is important for your physical and mental health, but it is also important for the health of your relationship.

A curbed libido might not immediately affect your overall health, but it can have some significant effects on your relationship. To increase your libido, you will need to treat your depression first. There is a connection between your brain’s chemistry and your libido. And if your depression is interfering with that, it will need to be dealt with first.

Laughing or Crying in Inappropriate Situations

This is one of the least well-known symptoms of depression. You may find yourself reacting to situations unconventionally. You might overreact in highly upsetting situations and underreact when you should be incredibly upset. 

Psychologists call this “inappropriate affect” because your emotions do not match the situation. This symptom can make you feel like you do not control your feelings or reactions, making you trust yourself less. 

Quick to Anger

People with depression often find themselves quick to anger. You’ll start noticing that you’ve started to become somewhat of a short fuse and will be easy to anger and agitate. 

The anger that you may be feeling is a coping mechanism that helps you put under the rug all the other complex emotions you may be feeling. 

Anger might seem like the answer to avoiding all of your issues, but it can quickly rule over your life. Allowing anger to put a band-aid over your depression will quickly push away those you love.

Feeling Like You Can’t Be Alone

When you find yourself in an episode of depression, being on your own can seem extremely overwhelming, and you might take to relying on your inner circle for emotional comfort. 

Healthy socialization is good, but never spending time alone to recoup and unwind can quickly lead to problems. And if you are struggling with depression, your company will likely see that. Filling up your free time to always be busy is not the answer; treatment for depression is.

Can’t Accept Compliments or Support

Depression causes you to have low self-esteem, which is why you might not be able to accept compliments. You might also feel that the people offering you compliments may have ulterior motives. 

You are inadvertently leaving yourself in a bad situation by turning down any help when you might need it. Most people would not offer support unless they thought you needed it. So, if the situation ever presents itself and someone lends you a hand, take it.

Suddenly Letting Work Take Over Your Life

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Work, work, work. If that is all you live and breathe, you are likely trying to fill some unpleasant or hard to handle part of your life. 

Depression is funny that way. 

Sometimes it might make you feel like you cannot get up out of bed to work. Other times you might feel like you can’t do anything but work. Work tends to work as a great distraction from any life struggles or emotional pain you might be feeling. 

But it is not how you should deal with it.

Depression Starts Slow

Depression really does work in mysterious ways. One day you might feel like you are just a little stressed over some things going on in your life, and the next thing you know, you can’t eat, can’t sleep, and can’t get any work done because you can’t focus. 

The symptoms of depression develop so slowly and sneakily that you barely notice that it is happening until it is too late. If you have dealt with depression before, you will have a better shot at spotting it.

For those new to these depressing feelings, it can sneak up on you. 

Depression is nothing to joke around about or sweep under the rug. It might be easy to deal with initially, but if you let it sit and fester, it will easily take over your life. Stress is a killer, and depression is its best friend. 

So, be on the lookout for the symptoms of depression, and when you begin to notice a change, seek help.

You Don’t Need a Reason to Feel Depressed.

In some cases, life throws you a curveball, and something terrible happens that can trigger your depression. In these instances, you might be more likely to have support from loved ones because they expected a depressing reaction. 

In other cases, nothing needs to happen in your life for you to feel low. Depression does not need a reason to attack you. It finds those that are susceptible and attacks slowly and a little bit at a time.

Depression that does not have an apparent reason for affecting you can make it harder for those around you to lend a shoulder. 

They may not realize anything is going on with you, or they might see that you are acting off, but they do not understand why. When this happens, it is easier for the depression to develop further because you will not have that outside support you would have in a more obvious situation.

Are You More at Risk for Depression?

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Depression is a condition that can affect anyone, but some people are more susceptible to getting it than others. 

Those who are more susceptible to getting depression usually have some kind of environmental factor playing a role in their lives. This means that people affected by some abuse, poverty, or neglect are more likely to develop depression.

Additionally, those with a sensitive personality, such as being easily overwhelmed or anxious, pessimistic, or low self-esteem, are also more susceptible to developing depression. 

Depression can affect everyone and usually does at some point in their lives. But some families have depression that runs in the family. Like some types of cancers, genetics plays a role in people’s likelihood of developing depression.

The biochemistry makeup of your brain might also have something to do with your likelihood of getting depression. If even one chemical is off-balance, you are more susceptible to developing depression. This can cause an imbalance in the chemicals in your brain. 

Lastly, a different way people develop depression is due to seasonal changes. This form of depression is called Seasonal Affective Disorder, and it usually rears its ugly head in the winter. This is when the change in season affects your emotions and can cause depression. 

Treating Depression

Several treatment options are available to address depression. These include: 

  • Self-help resources: These work well when you have a mild case of depression and can refer to a self-help manual and address your condition yourself. These usually use a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. You can even use mobile phone apps like Woebot, Moodfit, etc. 
  • Therapy: If you’re experiencing moderate to severe symptoms of depression, seeking the help of a mental health professional can be extremely helpful in navigating this challenging and tumultuous time. 
  • Medication: Since depression does have a physical basis, seeking a psychiatrist’s help can help you address the neurotransmitter imbalance and other physical symptoms. 
  • Alternative treatments: This includes lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and exercise, peer support, yoga and mindfulness, art therapy, etc. 

The Difference Between Sadness and Depression

If you have recently experienced a death in the family, the loss of a friend or relationship, or you just got out of a long relationship, then it is entirely natural to experience some grief or sadness. 

When you are experiencing feelings of grief or sadness, it will usually be paired with pleasant feelings of good memories. These feelings will come in waves, whereas with depression, they will come and stay. 

Sadness is a natural reaction to unpleasant circumstances in your life. It is okay to feel sad from time to time. 

Depression, on the other hand, is a mental health disorder that is characterized by: 

  • Depressive mood most of the day (or nearly every day). 
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that you enjoyed earlier.
  • Changes in your weight and appetite. 
  • Changes in your sleeping pattern. 
  • Difficulties concentrating. 

These symptoms usually significantly affect your life and cause impairment in your social, family, and occupational life. 

Depression Is Nothing to Be Embarrassed About

Depression is one of the most common mental health illnesses in the world. About 9.5% of adults in the United States will suffer from depression each year. So, it is unlikely for everyone to experience the textbook symptoms of depression. 

Acknowledging that you have depression and seeking treatment for it doesn’t make you weak. In fact, true strength comes from acceptance of the fact that you have a problem and addressing it. 

It is also essential to know that depression has a physical basis, with neurotransmitter imbalance, genetics, and outside forces playing a role in causing the condition.  

Acceptance of mental health issues in society is also increasing, making it easier to get social support for depression. 

Because of this, people are more open to sharing their stories. It makes it easier for you to see that you are still accepted and not alone. You might even be able to find groups on social media websites where you can connect with people that are struggling with the same issues. This will help immensely in your journey to healing.

Conclusion: Can You Be Depressed Without Feeling Sad?

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While sadness is one of the most defining features of depression, it isn’t a necessary symptom you need to have to be diagnosed with depression. 

Depression works on a deeper level. You can think of it as a condition that changes how you experience life on a neurotransmitter level. It physically affects your body and causes changes to how you think, feel, behave, and react to situations. 

Depression suppresses your emotions and clouds your rational thinking and judgment.

This is why it is integral to seek treatment for depression, even if you may not feel sad all the time. How you may experience depression will be different from how someone else might experience it. 

Written by Kasia Ciszewski, LPC on

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. Instagram - Facebook - Pinterest - Twitter - Linkedin

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