Back to All
January 7, 2019

Depressions – Subtle Signs

By Nakalya Leggett, MSW, LCSW


“You are too “HAPPY” to be depressed!”


Have you or someone you know ever opened up to others about your mental health struggles and the response went a little something like this, “You are too happy to be depressed”? Was it your daily smile, your ability to meet deadlines at work, or follow through with household obligations that gave them that impression?

There are many different forms of depression and everyone can have a different combination of symptoms and responses. In my therapy office, I like to break down depression symptoms a few different ways. First, I share insight on Billboard symptoms vs. Fine Print symptoms and then discuss functional vs. non-functional conditions.

Billboard Symptoms vs. Fine Print Symptoms

Billboard symptoms are symptoms that are easily recognizable and normally highlighted when you hear someone describe depression. Some of these symptoms are as follows:

  • Deep sadness/low or depressed mood
  • Isolation from loved ones
  • Hopelessness
  • Suicidal Ideation/attempts
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Anger/emotional outbursts

These symptoms are easily detected and linked to depression, just like blown up words on a billboard. That is why I refer to them as billboard symptoms.

However, have you ever looked closely at a billboard? Well if you do, you can zoom in close enough to some fine print. This will easily be missed if you are moving too fast. Likewise, there are some depressive symptoms that sometimes get overlooked and ignored until it spirals out of control. These symptoms can include some of the following:

  • Disruption of sleep patterns
  • Change in eating habits, e.g. eating too much/too little
  • Easily irritated
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Less motivated
  • Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed doing
  • Impaired self-confidence/worthlessness
  • Excessive negative thoughts
  • Inability to focus or concentrate


Functional vs. Non-Functional Depression

Another aspect of depression that is not often highlighted is functionality.

Non-Functional Depression

Let’s start with non-functional depression, since it is one of the most well-known forms. When someone suffers from non-functional depression, it normally affects his or her ability to function in one or more settings. The settings may include but not be limited to home, work, school, and/or social environments. Additionally, the individual’s symptoms have worsened to the point that major responsibilities are being neglected and it is affecting others around them from functioning due to shifted dynamics. The changes are easily detected by the person and others around them; even if they do not know exactly what is happening, they know something is wrong.

Functional Depression

On the opposite side of things, there is also a form of depression that is not so easily detected, functional depression. Functional depression means that a person may be experiencing some symptoms, and they do a very good job masking them on a daily basis. These individuals normally function across settings or where they may think a spotlight could shine on them, such as social settings, work, and/or school, as well as publicly displayed parts of the home. Below you will find different scenarios of functionally depressed individuals.

Sometimes the person musters up just enough energy to present and function well in the public eye. It comes at the cost, however, of crashing at the turn of the key to get into the house.

Sometimes the person may go through weeks of functioning and doing household chores. Then a shift suddenly happens and they are so emotionally drained that they cannot even fathom doing a simple task, such as putting the dishes in the dishwasher.

Sometimes the person goes to social events despite feeling “crappy” and returns home suffering from sensory overload and the individuals in the home get the “joy” of enduring the abrupt moodiness or easy irritation of the person.

Those are just three of many examples of a person functioning with depression. My hope is that this blog will give those suffering the understanding that they are not alone. I also hope it will also give some insight to supporters of those who suffer from depression, so that they may better understand what is like living daily with depression, whether it is a non-functioning or functioning type.

Just as there are many different appearances of depression, there are many different forms of treatment for someone suffering from depression. These can help to increase his or her level of functioning and quality of life. I hope this blog has encouraged you or someone you love to seek the needed mental health treatment.



“It is hard wearing a daily mask and it is hard embracing your authentic self in public. However, a masked personality become more difficult to maintain overtime, while embracing the authentic you becomes easier with time.” — Nakalya Leggett

Don't delay the care you need.

Open 7-days a week with same-day appointments.