I once had a dear friend who seemed to have her entire life figured out.
Now, I’ll admit, I was even a wee bit envious of her! Her Instagram feed was a colorful, beautifully crafted arrangement of exciting trips abroad, elegant outfits, career wins, and smiles.
One night, we ended up having an impromptu deep and meaningful over a glass of wine in town—and that’s when the immaculate facade began to crack, revealing a deeper truth beneath it all.
Turns out, this friend of mine had been dealing with a whole lot.
While the world admired this woman for being someone who seemingly had it all, I (for the first time) finally saw someone grappling with the huge weight of big expectations and the relentless pursuit of external validation.
Behind the scenes, her marriage was falling apart, she had lost one of her jobs, and she wasn’t sure what the future held in store for her.
Is there someone in your life like this? If so, you might be wondering about the surefire signs they’re struggling with deep unhappiness.
Here are eight to help you navigate this potential emotional crisis, beginning with a fixation on a certain hobby.
1) They might have developed an obsession or fixation in a short period of time
Ever notice that one pal who went from zero to one hundred on their hobbies?
Doesn’t matter whether it’s model ship building, crochet, or even racquetball—this obsession might just be a sign that something deeper is going on.
Perhaps you have a friend who used to love weekend cookouts and Netflix binges.
Fast forward a few weeks, and they’ve transformed into a complete and utter gym junkie. Seriously, they must be there at least six times a week.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Picking up a new hobby can be fantastic for personal growth and change, it’s just that the problem arises when it turns into a sudden and all-consuming escape from reality—and potentially even an emotional crutch.
If this friend of yours is spending every waking moment at their gym, skipping out on social stuff and forgetting about their other priorities in life, it might be time to be a bit concerned.
This is because intense fixations can sometimes be a cover for deeper emotional struggles.
I’m not saying every gym junkie, or anyone else who has suddenly disappeared into their hobbies, is secretly grappling with unhappiness, of course not.
But if this person transitioned from being a well-rounded person to obsessive overnight, it could be signaling that something quite dramatic has come up in their personal life, and it might be a secret cry for help.
2) They aren’t looking after themselves physically—from eating healthy to bathing
On the other side of obsessive hobbies like being a gym junkie, is the person not looking after themselves very well.
Sometimes, the way we take care of ourselves—or don’t—can be a peek inside deeper issues.
As we all know, our bodies need nutrients to function and perform well. So, when someone consistently opts for unhealthy foods over a balanced meal, it could be a sign of something being wrong.
But there’s more. This particularly unhappy person might also be neglecting their personal hygiene by not showering or changing their clothes.
When life gets tough, even the simplest tasks can feel daunting and almost impossible.
So, if you notice someone consistently overlooking these basic rituals of self-care, it might be their way of saying they are not holding up too well.
3) They are perfectionists in life and work
Perfectionism and unhappiness are inextricably linked.
The fixation with striving for perfection, whether in personal or professional areas, often comes from a need to take control.
Those with perfectionist tendencies set exceptionally high standards for themselves because they are driven by a deep fear of failure or judgment.
They might also equate their self-worth and value as a person to their accomplishments.
This kind of impossibility can cast a dark shadow over every positive thing in their life. And as they strive to be flawless, they can in turn sacrifice their mental health.
In time, it can become a frankly exhausting journey.
4) They aren’t able to cry
Think about the last time you felt that undeniable sense of relief after having a good cry. It felt good, right?
I’m a huge fan of American psychologist Dr. Margaret Rutherford.
On her podcast, Selfwork, she explores the signs of what she refers to as “perfectly hidden depression.”
One of the recurring signs she lists is an inability to cry.
Crying is a kind of emotional expression—-a natural release for pent-up emotions. Not being able to cry hints at a breakdown in this system of expression, resulting in suppressed emotions which can build and build.
Not being able to fully express one’s emotions can lead to heightened levels of stress, anxiety, and you guessed it, depression.
A person who is deeply unhappy might have this unseen well of emotions—one that desperately requires release and careful acknowledgement.
5) They believe taking time for themselves is selfish
According to Dr. Rutherford, another sign of perfectly hidden depression is that this particular person is unable to take time for themselves.
Think about it. Why do we plan trips away, go to yoga, or carve out “me time” on a chillaxed Sunday morning?
It’s not just about indulgence, it’s more so about topping up our physical and emotional reservoirs when we need it.
If someone views these simple acts as selfish, it raises a bit of a red flag.
The underlying issue might actually be a lack of self-compassion. If someone struggles to prioritize their mental health, how are they navigating everything else life is throwing at them at the moment?
It’s possible that they have even internalized the idea that their needs are less important than the needs of others.
In a world where burnout is rampant, let’s celebrate the idea that self-care isn’t selfish—it’s a necessary and often life-saving ritual of self-love.
6) They are dependent on or addicted to a certain substance
When alcohol or drugs become a security blanket in a person’s life, you’ve got to wonder—what void are they trying to fill, or what emotional issues are they trying to shove away with that bottle or pill?
Addiction can be a major coping mechanism, where that person is chasing after the highs to dodge all lows coming their way.
It’s like they’ve lost precious foundational elements of their happiness, and they’re settling for a toxic substitute.
So, the next time you notice someone you love leaning hard on a substance, don’t just brush it off as a wild night on the town. Dive deeper.
Because sometimes, that dependence or addiction is a glaring sign that bears the message: “I’m not doing okay.”
7) They avoid making future plans
So you’re casually chatting about upcoming social plans with a friend, maybe a music festival or a spot of morning pilates.
You toss a “What are your plans for next month?” their way and suddenly, you’re met with a pause: they’re avoiding the question.
Their lack of not wanting to make plans might be a clear indicator of unhappiness.
Why? Well, making plans for the future requires a certain level of optimism, a belief that there’s something worthwhile coming up.
When their present is clouded with discontent, the thought of future planning becomes a difficult task.
If you clock onto someone avoiding future plans, it might be time to ask some thoughtful questions, and reassure them that they are not alone—and that they deserve a future of promise and potential.
8) They withdraw from others when prompted to talk about themselves
Ever encountered someone who, when you ask about their life, becomes as tight-lipped as a free-diver trying to conserve their last oxygen reserve?
Well, they might be building up a strategic barrier so that they don’t share their deep emotional struggles with the world.
Like my friend with the perfect social media feed, they might be secretly juggling a lot of pain and uncertainty.
Of course, sometimes we all just need a little dose of privacy, but if this particular person is regularly checking out of personal chats and avoiding opening up, they might be going through a very tough time indeed.
To sum things up, a person may be privately struggling with deep levels of unhappiness, as shown by a number of worrying behaviors.
These include them not making time for themselves, skipping out on personal hygiene, steering clear of personal talks, and finding it hard to shed a tear.
They might even be withdrawing from self-care and social opportunities, too.
If you notice these signs in yourself or someone else, don’t hesitate to seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional.
Opening up about these feelings, or prompting someone else to, can be a positive first step towards healing and finding support.
Feeling Adrift? Pinpointing Your Values Guides You Home
Do you sometimes question what really matters most in life? Feel unclear on the principles that should steer your decisions and path ahead?
It’s so easy to lose sight of our core values. Those essential truths that align our outer world with profound inner purpose.
That’s why life coach Jeanette Brown designed this simple yet illuminating values exercise. To help you define the 5 values most central to who you are.
In just a few minutes, this free download leads you to:
- Discover what matters to you more than money or status
- Clarify the ideals your choices should reflect
- Create a guiding light to inform major life decisions
With your values crystallized, you’ll move through the world with intention, confidence, and meaning.
Stop drifting and download the Free PDF to anchor yourself to purpose. Let your values direct you home.