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Dealing With High Functioning Depression

Updated: Sep 13, 2023

Dealing with high-functioning depression is a unique challenge to most people. Though you may fear that you are the only person in the world who has experienced this, there are actually many across the globe who suffer in silence due to concerns about how they are perceived by the people around them or how they might be treated.

Dealing With High Functioning Depression

Mental illness can have a profoundly damaging effect on one's quality of life. In some cases, those suffering from severe depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses may decide to end their own lives to escape the pain. Sadly, this is not uncommon. Many people suffer through mental illness without confiding in close friends or relatives about the severity of their condition, and without getting the help needed to deal with these issues. If you know someone who is suffering from high-functioning depression and has been experiencing these problems for an extended period of time, encourage them to speak with a therapist who specializes in treating mental illness. Aside from getting the professional help they need, it may also be beneficial for such individuals to work through potential underlying issues through regular psychotherapy treatments.

Persistent depressive disorder, or high-functioning depression, is a real condition. It can have serious consequences if not addressed and treated. A diagnosis of persistent depressive disorder can be tricky because sufferers are able to function normally: they go to work or school, perform well, keep up with responsibilities at home, and engage in most social activities.

People with poorly differentiated depression may not seem sad to observers, but they are struggling internally. These individuals should be diagnosed and treated. Living with poorly differentiated depression can be a struggle and lowers quality of life, but treatment and self-management can help.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of High-Functioning Depression

The first criterion for PDD is that an individual experiences a depressed mood most days and for most of the day, for a minimum period of two years. The depressed mood must include two or more of these symptoms:

  • Decreased appetite or overeating

  • Insomnia or oversleeping

  • Lack of energy and fatigue

  • Lowered self-esteem

  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions

  • Feeling sad and hopeless

Living with High-Functioning Depression

The diagnostic criteria for PDD define the disorder in clinical terms, but this is not necessarily how it feels to suffer from the condition. It may be more useful to consider how it feels to have this mental illness:

  • You feel a little down most of the time. Other people may notice this and refer to you as gloomy, cynical, or a downer.

  • Your low mood is almost always present, and it feels like you will never get relief. When you do feel happy, it doesn’t last long.

  • You may feel tired all the time, even if you get enough or too much sleep.

  • It may seem like you are lazy, but you just can’t summon the energy to do more than is necessary to function at a normal level.

  • You feel bad about yourself, unworthy, and as if you don’t deserve to be happy or to be liked by others.

  • You do everything you’re supposed to do, like go to school, or keep the house clean, but it always seems like a monumental effort.

  • You gain or lose weight without meaning to, because you either have no appetite or overeat without thinking about it.

  • You may feel hopeless often, or cry a lot without any real, concrete reason.

  • You do well enough at work or school, but it is a challenge and focusing on tasks is difficult.

  • You have to force yourself to engage in social activities, when you would rather withdraw.

  • PDD may cause complications that seem unrelated, like substance abuse, chronic pain, relationship difficulties, and problems at work or school.

Treating high-functioning depression

If you find yourself feeling low and unmotivated more days than not, but you're still able to hold down a job and take care of your responsibilities, you might be suffering from high-functioning depression. While it's not as debilitating as major depression, it's still a serious illness and one that many people go undiagnosed. In order to get help for high-functioning depression and start feeling better, the first step is to get a diagnosis by talking to your mental health professional. I can help you in this case.

People with PDD can be treated with a combination of medications and therapy. Antidepressants may help lift mood. They typically take several weeks to begin working. Patients may need to try different types of antidepressants before finding one that works best for them. Therapy helps people with PDD by teaching them ways to recognize negative patterns in thoughts and to actively change them. Outpatient therapy is often not enough for these patients; many benefit from the intensive, focused, and well-rounded treatment offered in residential treatment programs.

High-functioning depression disguises itself as normal behavior, making it difficult to recognize. Even people who struggle with these feelings often fail to realize they are a victim of an insidious mental illness. Treatment is essential, because it can make life more enjoyable, improve mood, and improve functioning.

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