Updated 06 November 2017

4 unusual symptoms of depression

Although feeling sad or having the 'blues' is a part of depression, there are a number of symptoms that are often overlooked.


Low mood, anxiety, tearfulness, changes in appetite, changes in sleep patterns, fatigue… What do all these have in common? They are some of the more common symptoms of depression

More than the blues

Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions about depression is that when you suffer from this affliction, you’re just sad (this is, of course, one very real symptom of depression). The reality is that depression often manifests in completely different ways – from physical pain to feelings of boredom and irritability. 

Health24’s CyberShrink says: “Remember, as with all conditions, what we're looking for is a pattern of symptoms occurring together, rather than just one or two.”  

1. Feeling a bit short-tempered?

For many, being short-tempered or snapping at people can actually be a symptom of depression. This symptom is often seen in men and teens, but can affect anyone.

Dr Anne Fabiny, chief of geriatrics at Cambridge Health Alliance and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, says: “Older men are more likely to present with irritability or grumpiness as a symptom of depression than women. So the stereotype of the grumpy old man could be a sign of a depressed old man.”

frustrated, annoyed, irritated, depression

2. Feeling bored? 

One of the most common symptoms of depression is a loss of interest or enjoyment in something you previously enjoyed doing. This can sometimes come across as just being bored – things you once enjoyed doing suddenly become a chore, and slowly you stop doing them and instead turn to things that don’t require much effort – watching TV, sleeping or aimlessly scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed. 

CyberShrink says anhedonia is an often overlooked symptom of depression. Quite simply, it’s the inability to feel pleasure. “It’s when whatever you usually enjoy doesn’t work anymore – hobbies, sex, sport, eating, pets, anything really. It’s also probably the underlying factor of ‘boredom’ – you feel bored because nothing gives you fun or enjoyment.”

bored, cellphone, depression

3. Experiencing aches and pains? 

An unexplained headache or back pain could also be a sign of depression. If a doctor can rule out any other cause for the pain (that is, it doesn’t respond to treatment), then it could be rooted in psychological distress.

“Depression is a great amplifier of pain from whatever cause, serious or trivial,” explains CyberShrink. “It makes any pain more sore and less bearable. And, it may render it less responsive to treatment of the pain itself.”  

headache, stressed, stress, pain

4. Having trouble making a decision? 

This happens to most of us at some point but it’s a warning sign when making what should be simple decisions becomes problematic – you can’t decide what to wear or have for supper.

“Poor concentration can often show itself in other ways, including difficulties making decisions,” explains CyberShrink.

unsure, decision, confused, depression


Read more:

How to support someone with depression

SEE: What does depression feel like?

When should you see a psychologist?


Ask the Expert

Depression expert

Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

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