addiction recovery

8 Surprising Symptoms of Depression

Published on December 2, 2019 by First Responder Wellness

Depression is a mental illness that is commonly associated with overwhelming sadness and an inability to experience joy.  While these symptoms may be true for some people, many people with depression experience far more subtle symptoms that may be difficult to recognize as signs of a mental illness.  Overcoming depression often requires professional mental health care, but many people living with this chronic illness are unaware that they need treatment. Additionally, it can be especially hard for friends and family to notice that their loved one needs help if they appear outwardly happy or high functioning.  Learning about some of the unexpected symptoms of depression can help depressed individuals and their loves ones know when it is time to seek treatment.


The link between mental health and physical wellbeing is complex and nuanced, and in many ways these connections are still not entirely understood.  What is certain, however, is that our emotional wellbeing can have a concrete and physical impact on our bodies. For some individuals living with depression, chronic unexplained pain can be one of the most obvious symptoms.  Many people with depression complain of back pain, joint pain and stiffness, reoccurring headaches, and pain in the digestive system. Additionally, studies have shown that as depression worsens, so does the severity of depression-related pain.  


When we think of depression, we usually think of sadness as the primary emotion.  But for some people, depression can cause constant irritability and agitation. A depressed individual might walk around with a perpetually short fuse, and even have angry outbursts at seemingly small inconveniences.  If you feel like every person and circumstance has been getting on your nerves much more than usual, and you can’t seem to calm down and enjoy the moment, you might be dealing with depression.

Rapid Weight Loss or Gain

Poor mental health can have a significant impact on appetite, and may cause you to gain or lose weight very quickly.  While some people with depression find themselves using food as a coping mechanism and reaching for high-fat and high-calorie comfort foods during stressful times, others find that their appetite disappears almost entirely.  A change of more than 5% body weight in a month without trying to gain or lose is worth a trip to the doctor to check for any physical or mental health conditions that could be causing the fluctuation.  


Depression can make even the simplest decision seem like it may have life-changing consequences.  In addition to making every choice seem dire, depression slows down cognition and can make your brain feel sluggish and foggy.  If you find you are constantly encountering decisions you can’t seem to make, or you don’t feel clear-minded enough to think logically about choices you face every day, you may be struggling with depression.

Decline in Grooming or Personal Hygiene 

While it is common to think of a depressed personal as disheveled or unconcerned with their appearance, the process of becoming visibly depressed is often slow and subtle.  Small changes usually happen over a significant period of time as a person sinks into depression. For example, a person who usually wears makeup that suddenly stops, or someone who always does their hair before leaving the house neglecting to brush or style it all anymore.  Neglecting these small acts of self-care can lead to more dramatic changes such as skipping showers or forgetting to brush your teeth for days on end. While our outward appearance is not always a sign of our mental health, failing to take pride in how you present yourself may be a sign of depression.  

Difficulties at Work

Depression can affect your work life on multiple levels, but one of the first depressive symptoms you may notice is an unusual aversion to working and interacting with coworkers.  Even people who don’t love their job can find ways to enjoy themselves and create a sense of satisfaction if they are mentally healthy and happy. For those with depression, however, even a dream job can begin to feel like a burden and suddenly require more mental and physical energy than it used to.  Someone who begins performing poorly at work or has a hard time even making it to work some days may be experiencing depression.

Substance Abuse

Depression is heavy and painful if left untreated, and many people with this mental illness turn to drugs and alcohol to numb themselves and attempt to cope.  For some people, substance abuse can appear normal to friends and family, especially when it comes to alcohol. Alcohol is often considered a culturally acceptable way to deal with stress and sadness.  Unfortunately, this behavior can lead to addiction. Those who believe they may be struggling with a substance use disorder and a co-occurring mental illness should seek treatment from an addiction recovery center equipped to provide a dual diagnosis. 

The First Responders Treatment Program at Simple Recovery uses trauma-informed strategies to cater to the unique needs of law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental illnesses.  We recognize that first responders encounter job-specific barriers and obstacles that come with the culture of their careers, and that existing stigmas may make seeking help for addiction and mental health issues especially difficult. Addiction does not have to mean the end of your career or a lifetime of struggling with your health and relationships.  By taking a holistic approach to treatment and addressing the underlying causes of addiction, Simple Recovery makes it possible for first responders to regain control of every aspect of their wellbeing. First responders dedicate their lives to protecting their community, and at Simple Recovery’s First Responder Treatment Program, we believe in dedicating our time and expertise to helping these compassionate individuals find a path to lasting sobriety and mental wellness. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call us now at 888-743-0490.