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Blues Qs: Can You Have Depression Without Being Sad?

Managing Depression

July 27, 2022

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by Sam Dylan Finch


Medically Reviewed by:

Vara Saripalli, Psy.D.


by Sam Dylan Finch


Medically Reviewed by:

Vara Saripalli, Psy.D.


Blues Qs is an advice column covering all things clinical depression, written by Bezzy Depression community guide Sam Dylan Finch. Diagnosed with clinical depression over a decade ago, Sam has seen it all — from medication mishaps to grippy sock “staycations.” He’s here to help you navigate your own depression journey with a little humor and a lot of heart.

Dear reader,

Depression can be so sneaky.

Not only can it creep up on you, slowly and quietly making itself at home, but it also shows up to the party in a different costume now and again.

Depression may be known for its soul-crushing sadness, but you can be living with depression without “feeling sad.” In fact, many people with depression will experience numbness and emptiness before they ever feel anything resembling sadness.

My last depressive episode was a lot like that. I spent most of my time sleeping — literally hours upon hours sleeping — but when I was awake, I was checked out.

The stuff that used to excite me was empty and uninteresting. I withdrew and avoided the people I loved, convinced I had nothing to offer. My life felt tedious and being alive was like a chore I reluctantly fulfilled.

I wasn’t really sad in the typical sense of the word. I just felt… empty. It was like someone had sucked the color out of life and I was left with a monochrome existence.

“The truth is, depression isn’t just ‘being really sad.’ It’s a complex mental health condition that can manifest in many different ways.”

More than anything, I experienced dread, which to me was so much worse. This dread touched everything until eventually, it was the only thing I really felt. I started wishing that tomorrow wouldn’t come — which was the red flag that finally told me I needed to get help.

That being said, I don’t recommend waiting until you’re at the end of your rope to get support. There are a lot of signs that I missed, which became clear only in hindsight.

If you’re wondering if you might be living with depression, keep an eye out for some of these signs:

Pessimism or hopelessness

A common sign of depression is a futile, hopeless attitude. “What’s the point?” is a refrain that comes up quite often.

If you’re struggling to see the point in life, or if things seem especially despairing, it may be a result of major depression.

Feelings of guilt or worthlessness

“I’m a terrible friend/partner/parent/employee” is another one-hit wonder brought to you by depression. Depression can chip away at your self-esteem in ways you may not even notice at first.

Irritability and anger

If every little thing is getting on your nerves, it’s possible that depression is the culprit. Pay close attention to sudden bursts of anger or irritability — they could be a sign of something deeper.


If you find yourself “checking out” or “numbing out” emotionally, this could be connected to depression or trauma.

Loss of interest

Are the things you cared about before seeming less and less important? Are there hobbies or activities you used to do that no longer feel fulfilling? Do the TV shows that made you laugh no longer seem quite as funny?

Depression has a way of sucking the joy out of things that used to matter to us.

Lack of motivation

Does the thought of having to work or complete daily tasks fill you with unspeakable dread? Does it feel like you’re having to drag yourself through your day? Is it hard to get yourself going in the morning? These can all be connected to depression.

Sleep or appetite changes

Sleeping too much or too little can be an early warning sign of a depressive episode. You might also notice an increase or decrease in your appetite for food.

Persistent anxiety

While anxiety isn’t a symptom of depression, anxiety often co-occurs with depression. If you have an uptick in your anxiety, you could be at risk of having an uptick in your depression, too.

Sudden or intense changes to your mood (aka mood swings)

I like to think of this more as “emotional reactivity.” Do you find yourself more easily provoked? Are you quick to anger or sadness? Do the lows feel especially low? Is it hard to find where your baseline is? These can all be connected to depression.

Reckless behavior

“Reckless” is subjective, of course, but it’s important to note if there’s an increase in your risk-taking. This can include an increase in drug use or alcohol consumption or a lack of care for your own safety (like driving without a seatbelt when you typically would).

Having a “death wish” and behaving accordingly can be a form of suicidal behavior.


This might seem like an obvious one, but it isn’t always obvious to the person experiencing it.

Are you having thoughts that the world would be fine without you? Do you wonder who would take care of your pet(s) if you were gone? Do you sometimes wish you wouldn’t wake up or that a terrible accident would happen and take your life? Even passing thoughts like these can be a sign of suicidality.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, you’re not alone. Help is available right now:

The truth is, depression isn’t just “being really sad.” It’s a complex mental health condition that can manifest in many different ways.

As a general rule, if you’re wondering if you’re depressed, there’s a high probability that you are. You know yourself best. If something doesn’t feel right, it never hurts to connect with a mental health professional.

There are plenty of people who experience very little emotion or reactivity when they’re depressed, so even if you are not experiencing sadness or mood changes, you should still tell someone you trust that you need extra support.

Regardless of what depression looks like for you, you deserve empathy, connection, and resources.

Don’t hesitate to seek out a little extra guidance if you find yourself feeling low, empty, or numb. While it may not look like depression “typically” does, that doesn’t mean it isn’t depression!

And please learn from my mistake: Don’t wait until things become absolutely unbearable before reaching out. You don’t have to wait until the metaphorical piano is about to drop on your head.

You deserve help now. You deserve support now. Don’t hesitate to sound the alarm and get the help you need sooner rather than later.

Medically reviewed on July 27, 2022

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About the author

Sam Dylan Finch

Sam Dylan Finch is a writer and content strategist based in Seattle, WA. You can say hello on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or learn more at

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