The Body Language of Depression

February 29, 2020
Facial micro-expressions are important to the body language of depression. A depressed person shows their mood through their eyelids, eyes, mouth, and the forehead muscles.

The body language of depression includes micro-expressions, postures, and gestures. It’s worth being able to recognize them, as these states of neurotic sadness can go unnoticed at first. What the mouth doesn’t say, the body often shouts.

Depression, like all moods, has an impact on the body. It doesn’t just mold and give it a specific form, as it also affects your health. Body and mind make up one unit, and what occurs in one sphere is reflected in the other.

The body language of depression is unconscious. However, others can read it, albeit intuitively. As language communicates, it also builds a perception among others. In other words, the environment perceives that dejection and that also influences your relationship with others. Let’s delve deeper into this.

The face, a key point in the body language of depression

Facial micro-expressions particularly reveal your mood. The small movements that appear on your face never lie. They’re involuntary responses controlled by the limbic system that manifest without the person even realizing it.

In the body language of depression, the most telling micro-expressions are the following:

  • Droopy eyelids. The skin of the eyelids looks flaccid, giving the appearance of droopiness. The vortex, the place where the upper and lower lids meet, is curved.
  • Lack of focus. A depressed person’s eyes don’t seem focused on a point. Rather, there’s a certain vagueness. It’s as if their eyes were lost, even if they try to focus on a point.
  • The mouth is curved downward. The shape of the mouth is like an open semi-circle. The corners of the mouth look slightly fallen. This is probably the most common gesture in the body language of depression.
  • Furrowed brows. Usually, depressed people slightly crease the space between their eyes. However, it’s not as noticeable as if they were worried or. Their face might look surprised by something that disappointed them.
A woman looking sad, sitting on a couch and looking out the window.

The position of the head

In the body language of depression, the position of the head in relation to the rest of the body is also important. Normally, the head will be inclined down and slightly forward.

It’s also common for the head to incline to one side, almost always to the right. This mostly occurs when the depressed person is listening to someone with power or authority.

The tone of voice and way of speaking

A depressed person‘s tone of voice gives away clues to their mood. In addition to simply speaking in a low voice, there’s also a kind of cry in their way of speaking. Their voice cracks slightly or sounds a little hoarse, although this is barely perceptible.

In the same way, a depressed person is frugal with language and isn’t very emotional when they speak. It’s not unusual for them to have trouble vocalizing or articulating their words. It’s almost as if they were too lazy to express themselves.

A therapist listening to a patient showing the body language of depression.

Body posture and other subtleties

Posture is another visible aspect of the body language of depression. Normally, a person with depression will look rather flaccid. Their spine will be curved, as if they were withdrawing into themselves.

Also, it’s very common for them to move slowly and even aggressively. They might drag their feet a bit when they walk, as if it were difficult for them to move forward.

Finally, depressed people tend to breathe faster. This can happen at any time and several times a day. Others can read this as a frustrated desire to feel good about the situation they’re in.

  • Rebel, G. (2002). El lenguaje corporal: lo que expresan las actitudes, las posturas, los gestos y su interpretación. Edaf.