When you think of someone who is experiencing depression, you might think of someone who is visibly sad and cries often, can’t hold a job, or stays in bed all day. Although some people with depression do experience these symptoms, there are other ways that depression can manifest. Someone with high-functioning depression can appear to have everything together on the outside, while they struggle internally with challenging symptoms that can greatly diminish their overall quality of life.

While high-functioning depression is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) as a separate disorder, it is described by Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD), or Dysthmia. PDD is a long-lasting, less severe form of depression that includes feelings of depression most days, for most of the day and has lasted over a period of at least 2 years. Other symptoms include:

  • Lack of Energy and Fatigue
  • Insomnia or Oversleeping
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Overeating or Decreased Appetite
  • Feeling Sad and Hopeless
  • Difficulty Concentrating and Making Decisions
  • Social Isolation
  • Irritability or Anger
  • Feelings of Guilt

Because those who experience high-functioning depression are able to function normally, it can be difficult to recognize. Someone experiencing high-functioning depression might not get help as family and friends may not really see their suffering and doubt the seriousness of it. The person may believe that with enough willpower they can fix themselves. This belief can lead to worsening symptoms if they don’t seek proper care. Left untreated, high-functioning depression can develop into more challenging mental health issues. Below are some signs that you might be experiencing high-functioning depression.

1. You Are A High Achiever

If you experience high-functioning depression you can be quite successful in your career. You might even have more than one job, excel at your hobbies, and maintain good grades and relationships. However, you may be a perfectionist who feels the need to constantly achieve. You could be very hard on yourself if you fall short of your own expectations.

2. You Are Self-Critical

Your thought process tends to be quite negative when you have high-functioning depression. The internal dialogue you use is highly critical and you have a tendency to focus on everything that is wrong. You’re fixated on the ways you are not measuring up and your shortcomings. The self-critique leads to crippling self-doubt as to what you are doing with your life and if it will ever be good enough.

3. Irritability Can Be An Issue

Your reactions might be over the top. A seemingly small issue can feel like a very big problem. You might become upset about a small thing and have difficulty letting it go. Although you might be able to seem controlled most of the time, you could snap unexpectedly. Things that never bothered you before can easily annoy you when you are experiencing high-functioning depression.

4. You Experience Feelings Of Guilt And Worry

Quite often, feelings of guilt and worry can lead to anxiety and panic attacks. The constant worry that you experience is perpetuated by your strong feelings of inadequacy. You may worry about saving enough money, reaching your goals, or living the life you want. Guilty feelings about past decisions can weigh heavily on your mind. This is especially true of past failures in achievement, when you didn’t meet your very high expectations.

5. It’s Difficult To Slow Down

When you are experiencing high-functioning depression, you can have difficulty resting or slowing down. After working all day, you might come home and clean the house all night, exercise excessively, or work another job. Resting when you are not thoroughly exhausted can bring up a lot of uncomfortable thoughts and feelings that you would rather avoid.

6. You Feel Exhausted

Dealing with high-functioning depression can be physically and mentally exhausting. Sleep patterns can be interrupted which can include periods of insomnia and oversleeping. Overall energy can be greatly diminished and getting through the day can require a great deal of effort. The energy required to complete tasks and deal with negative thought patterns can be depleting. Putting on a happy face when you are feeling low can also be tiring.

7. It’s Difficult To Feel Joy

When you are dealing with high-functioning depression, you can feel a sense of hopelessness and have difficulty experiencing joy. Things that you used to enjoy no longer bring you the same sense of pleasure. You may believe that it will be impossible for you to be happy. Maybe you avoid social activities as they feel like a burden and require too much effort. Perhaps you isolate yourself and feel quite lonely. You may even turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with your symptoms.

Anyone who is suffering deserves appropriate care. There are effective treatment methods that can benefit you if you are experiencing high-functioning depression. Psychotherapy and medication, or a combination of the two, can be useful in treating all types of depression. When you receive effective treatment, your outlook and quality of life can drastically improve.

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