Maybe It’s Something Else: 10 Things That Can Look Like Depression But Aren’t

Medically Reviewed by Carmelita Swiner, MD on July 18, 2022

Do You Have Depression?

Depression is a common mood disorder that affects around 280 million people worldwide.

Have you been feeling sad, hopeless, or low energy? Have you had difficulty sleeping or concentrating? While these are common symptoms of depression, they could be a sign of something else. Health issues like vitamin D deficiency, anemia, or an undiagnosed condition such as autism can look a lot like depression. Learn how to better understand your symptoms.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS)

Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) and depression can both leave you exhausted and struggling to concentrate. Other common symptoms of ME/CFS include dizziness, muscle and joint pain, and headaches.

ME/CFS typically affects young and middle-aged adults, with women diagnosed more often than men.


Fibromyalgia is often misdiagnosed as depression because depression can be a symptom of fibromyalgia. This musculoskeletal disorder causes your brain and spinal cord to process pain signals with more intensity. Women are at a higher risk than men.

Other symptoms of both fibromyalgia and depression include: 

  • Sleeping problems
  • The trouble with memory and concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping 

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is called the “great imitator” because it shares symptoms with so many other conditions. Lyme disease can cause overwhelming fatigue and cognitive symptoms that can look like depression. Other symptoms include headaches, fevers, and a skin rash called erythema migrans. This rash appears as a distinctive bullseye shape.

If you’ve recently been bitten by a tick — or in an area with a heavy tick population, including states like Minnesota and Maryland — you may want to check with your doctor about testing for Lyme disease.

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