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High-Functioning Depression

High Functioning Depression

According to the University of Kentucky, in 2021, residents of The Bluegrass State had the 9th poorest mental health rating in the United States. You might wonder who these people who suffer from poor mental health are. You might think you don’t know anyone who suffers from a mental health condition. The truth is that many people suffer quietly without letting anyone know. High functioning depression is a condition where a person suffering from depression can appear outwardly healthy to the casual observer, but inwardly they are struggling with the symptoms of depression. People suffering from high functioning depression could be your friends, family, and co-workers. The good news is you can find quality treatment at a depression treatment program. Depression is a severe condition, but many people learn to manage their symptoms and achieve mental wellness.

What Is High Functioning Depression

Depression is a mental health condition characterized by negative emotions such as sadness, hopelessness, and loneliness. Depression can cause a person to struggle to function at home or work. Low energy often accompanies depression. Someone with depression will often lose interest in activities they once cared about.

People with high functioning depression feel these symptoms, but they are masking them to continue functioning. For example, someone with high functioning depression may realize that their friends and family depend on them; therefore, they try to push through and accomplish what needs completing. The problem with someone doing this is neglecting their mental health needs. Over time and without treatment, a person with high functioning depression will find it increasingly difficult to maintain a high level of functioning.

What Are The Common Symptoms Of High Functioning Depression?

Those who suffer from high functioning depression often appear to be fine to someone not close to them. They may show up to work on time and handle their finances well. The symptoms they experience will be most evident to those who know them well. These symptoms include:

  • Hopeless or sad feelings
  • Angry outbursts over small matters
  • Loss of interest in activities that once brought enjoyment
  • Decreased energy
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Physical problems with no medical explanation

What Are The Uncommon Symptoms Of High Functioning Depression?

Some people who struggle with high functioning depression will experience brain fog. This means a person is experiencing reduced cognitive functioning. For example, someone with depression may feel like their ability to accomplish tasks has slowed down or they have difficulty remembering details.

Substance use disorder is a possible symptom of high functioning depression. When a person has high functioning depression, they do not always realize they need help. Then, instead of seeking mental health treatment, they might turn to alcohol or other substances to boost their mood. While substance use can provide temporary relief, increased substance use over time can negatively impact a person’s mental health.

Individuals with depression sometimes experience physical pain. During depression, certain biological factors can cause inflammation or decrease the body’s immune response. In addition, the production of brain chemicals such as serotonin are affected during depression. Along with contributing to mental health difficulties, this can affect how a person feels pain.

7 Signs Of High Functioning Depression

  1. Someone with high functioning depression might find success at work or school. They do this because they can continue to function despite their mental health difficulty. It is not uncommon for people with high functioning depression to get promotions at work or receive recognition for academic achievement. However, this success is often coming at the expense of their mental health and their success may be driven by a fear that they are not good enough, causing them to push themselves while their mental health continually worsens.
  2. People with high functioning depression care for their loved ones just like all of us do. You will likely see them taking their kids to play at the park if they are parents. Those with elderly family members can make time to check in with them. However, they are exhausted by the effort and often feel like they’re not good enough. They also feel that their depression is a burden on their family and may even have thoughts that the family would be better off without them.
  3. It is likely that someone with high functioning depression will keep their home in order. A stereotype about people with depression is that they don’t prioritize cleanliness, but in an attempt to feel like things are going fine, someone with high functioning depression will likely work hard to keep their home and lawn presentable. This often comes from the fear that someone will discover that they are inadequate so they strive to present as successful.
  4. Similarly, someone with high functioning depression will practice good hygiene. Many assume that those with depression will relax their standards on personal care, but often those who experience depression continue to prioritize their physical needs. This is done to convince others and themselves that everything is fine. The simple act of taking a shower may feel exhausting and can drain their energy for the entire day, making it hard to get through the rest of the day.
  5. A person with high functioning depression might stop participating in hobbies and other activities that bring them joy. This is due to the decreased energy level of a person struggling with depression. So, while they may be getting all of the essential tasks of their day done, someone with depression may quit the extra activities that were once enjoyable to them.
  6. High functioning depression also causes appetite fluctuations. This will cause weight fluctuations in many people. A person’s weight may decrease when their appetite is low and increase when their appetite is higher. If you or someone you love have frequent weight fluctuations, it may be due to depression.
  7. Those who struggle with high-functioning depression may be in denial about their mental health condition. Because they can manage most of their day-to-day tasks, people with high-functioning depression might think like “I don’t have a problem” or “this is just a phase.” Unfortunately, if they do not recognize their condition and get treatment, their depression may become severe and difficult to manage alone.

What It Feels To Go Through High Functioning Depression On A Day To Day Basis

Larry is a 42-year-old married father of 1 who works in graphic design. He also suffers from high functioning depression. Every day when his alarm clock goes off, Larry hits the snooze twice because he does not want to get out of bed. He feels a sense of dread about the coming day but he knows he must start his morning. Eventually, he gets up and starts to get ready. He skips breakfast because he hasn’t felt much like eating, but he ensures his daughter has something she can eat in the car during their morning commute. Larry drops off his daughter and drives to his office. He masks his feelings with a smile as he tells her goodbye, but inside Larry is dreading going into the office.

Once he arrives at work, Larry can accomplish his daily tasks. He used to find joy in his work, but now he just goes through the motions. He used to enjoy collaborating on projects but now he avoids his co-workers unless it is absolutely necessary. Larry is able to be polite in his interactions with those he works with, but his withdrawal is starting to be noticed by those he used to make a point to connect with throughout the day.

When he returns home, Larry pushes through his feelings of tiredness and sadness to make dinner for his family. Larry eats with them, but struggles to engage in conversation. After dinner, they ask if he would like to go for a walk at the park, but Larry is tired and low on energy. He spends the evening scrolling through different applications on his smartphone until he finally decides to go to bed.

How To Manage High Functioning Depression

If you struggle with depression, there are practices that you can adopt that will help manage your depression today! Of course, none of these practices are a substitute for professional treatment, but they will be part of your journey toward mental wellness.

Your physical health will contribute positively to your mental health. For example, proper diet and exercise can increase your brain functioning, making you feel more mentally well. In addition, setting small goals can improve mental wellness.

Examine your thoughts. You can do this by keeping track of negative or reoccurring thoughts in a journal. This will help you see patterns in your thoughts and help you to address the roots of these negative thoughts.

Replace unhealthy behaviors with healthy behaviors. This process can happen gradually over time. For example, it’s common to withdraw from social activities in favor of being alone. Instead, you could aim to engage in one social activity per week.

Risk Factors Of High Functioning Depression

There is no single cause of depression, including high functioning depression. The development of depression is related to several risk factors. The presence of one of these factors does not guarantee a person will develop depression, but they do contribute to the condition. Some of these risk factors are:

  • Trauma
  • Stress
  • Family history of depression
  • History of mental health disorders
  • Substance use
  • Serious illness

Can High Functioning Depression Can Be Treated

High-functioning depression is highly treatable! At SUN Kentucky, depression treatment starts with talk therapy. During talk therapy, a mental health professional will listen to your personal experience of depression. They will then be able to offer insight, education, and coping strategies. In addition, some people benefit from medication, which can give a person relief from many depression symptoms, giving them the clarity needed to implement life changes.

How And When To Seek Help For High Functioning Depression

If you find yourself just “getting through the day” instead of regularly experiencing happiness and fulfillment, you may need treatment for high-functioning depression. Treatment for this condition can help you stop merely existing and start thriving. In addition, treatment for high functioning depression can prevent you from developing more severe depression and allow you to achieve mental wellness.

Get Help For Depression Today

If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, SUN Kentucky can help. Our team of mental health professionals is ready to provide you with quality treatment.

For more information on treatment for depression, call 859-429-5188 today!


FAQs About High Functioning Depression

What is a high functioning mental illness?

High functioning mental illness is when a person is struggling with a mental illness, such as depression, but they can complete their essential tasks. A casual acquaintance may not notice the symptoms of mental illness, but a close friend or family member may see the signs of a person needing mental health treatment.

What is a high functioning person?

A high functioning person is not like it sounds. Generally, this term is used to describe someone who struggles with a behavioral health condition but can complete most of their essential tasks. They perform at a higher level than others with the same condition, hence “high functioning.” They may appear mentally well to people they come in casual contact with, but they are struggling and need intervention to achieve mental wellness.

What are some different kinds of depression?

There are many kinds of depression. A few examples are major depression, anxious distress, persistent depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder, and situational depression.

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