Surprising Signs of Depression: 4 Early Clues to Watch For

Man sitting at laptop looking bored.

Summer’s over, but COVID isn’t. And here we all still are, navigating uncharted, yet familiar, pandemic life and its added stress and worry. Sometimes it’s hard to remember a time when things were ‘normal’ and that can be downright depressing. 

So much has changed in the world around us, that the changes within us can seem relatively insignificant. 

“It’s difficult to recognize in yourself how you are feeling,” says Robert Althoff, MD, Ph.D., Acting Healthcare Service Leader for Psychiatry at the University of Vermont Health Network and Acting Chair of Psychiatry at UVM’s Larner College of Medicine. The onset of depression can take time: weeks, months, maybe even longer. 

“We live with ourselves everyday so we may not see a change over time,” he says, adding that it’s much more likely that people around you will notice these changes first and, hopefully, say something or check in to make sure everything is okay. 

Dr. Althoff points to four early warning signs of depression that you may not immediately recognize.

1. Up All Night, Sleep All Day 

Changes in your sleep patterns could be an indication of depression. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I having trouble falling asleep when I need to? 
  • Do I sleep too much? Too little? 
  • Am I nodding off in the middle of meetings?
  • Am I unable to get out of bed to get the kids to school or make it to work on time? 

If you answered yes to any of these now and wouldn’t have a few weeks, months or even a year or two ago, these changes are something to pay attention to. 

2. Not Interested 

Another warning sign is a lack of interest in things that used to bring you joy. Everyone’s interests may change over time, or get replaced with other things, but if you find yourself no longer interested in most activities that you used to enjoy, this could be a sign that you are depressed. 

3. A Short Fuse 

If you’re experiencing depression, you may notice changes in your mood and resiliency. Frustrations and irritations may feel more pronounced and less manageable than you remember. Ask yourself: 

  • Do I feel increasingly irritable? 
  • Do I snap at people I care about, like family or co-workers? 
  • Am I bothered by seemingly small things? Do small annoyances trigger feelings of intense anger? 

All of these feelings could be the onset of depression, especially if you feel differently than you have in the past. 

4. All By Myself 

When people feel worse and worse, they spend less time around others. Everybody needs time to themselves, but if you increasingly choose to be alone when you used to spend significant time with friends or family, it could be another warning sign. 

“None of these things by themselves are specific indicators,” Dr. Althoff says. “We look for these signs to run together, and if they do that’s when we start to get concerned.” 

Like most health-related problems, early intervention is best to avoid more serious issues, says Dr. Althoff. A first step is to contact your primary care provider who has resources and treatments available and will know how to proceed. 

If you are in crisis and need help NOW, call crisis services. If you need the number for crisis in your area, you can always call 211 or visit the 211 website

Always call 911 first if you or someone you love is experiencing a life-threatening medical emergency or may be a danger to themselves or someone else.