woman with depression sitting near the window

How to Deal with High-Functioning Depression

High-functioning depression, also known as dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder, is a mental health condition that affects many people, yet few understand its complexities. People with this condition may appear to be functioning well in their daily lives but may feel emotionally and mentally drained.

Individuals struggling with this form of depression may have difficulty acknowledging or expressing their emotions, leading them to hide their suffering from others. This can make it challenging for healthcare professionals to diagnose the condition and provide appropriate treatment.

Signs and Symptoms of High-Functioning Depression

People with high-functioning depression often feel like they are able to “function” in their everyday lives, and thus they can be less likely to seek help or even recognize their own symptoms. As a result, it is important to be aware of high-functioning depression symptoms to ensure that it is recognized and treated properly.

Signs and common symptoms of high-functioning depression may include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Lack of motivation, and/or difficulty starting tasks
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of interest in activities that used to bring pleasure
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and/or making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakenings, or hypersomnia
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Irritability, restlessness, and/or agitation
  • Low self-esteem
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Individuals with high-functioning depression may also experience physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach problems. They may also have difficulty expressing their emotions or seeking help due to fear of being seen as weak.

man with depression tucked in his bed

Who Is at Risk of Developing High-Functioning Depression?

High-functioning depression is a mental health condition that affects individuals of all ages, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds. However, certain groups may be at a higher risk of developing high-functioning depression, including:

• Women: Women are twice as likely as men to experience high-functioning depression.

• People in high-pressure jobs: Professionals with high levels of job stress and responsibility may be more at risk of developing high-functioning depression.

• People with a history of mental health issues: Individuals with a history of different forms of depression, anxiety disorders, or other mental health issues may be more likely to experience high-functioning depression.

• People with a family history of depression: People with a family history of depression are more likely to develop high-functioning depression.

Causes of High-Functioning Depression

The exact cause of high-functioning depression is unknown, although there are several theories. It is believed to be related to a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors. Biological factors may include genetics, hormones, or brain chemistry. Psychological factors may include low self-esteem, difficulty managing stress, and difficulty regulating emotions. Social factors may include family dynamics, relationships, and social support.

Some causes of high-functioning depression may include constant stress, pressure to succeed, traumatic life events, genetic factors, and chemical imbalances in the brain. Individuals who experience chronic stress from work or personal life may have a higher risk of developing high-functioning depression. The constant pressure to perform can cause feelings of being overwhelmed and exhaustion, which can lead to signs of depression and depressive symptoms. Moreover, people who have gone through stressful life events and emotional traumas like abuse or neglect may develop high-functioning depression as they try to cope with their experiences.

woman with depression crying and wiping her tears with a white handkerchief

Genetic factors also play a role in the development of this type of depression. Studies show that individuals with a family history of mental disorders such as anxiety or depression are more likely to experience these conditions themselves. Additionally, chemical imbalances in the brain caused by changes in serotonin levels can trigger depressive episodes in some people.

High-functioning depression is often confused with, or seen as a milder form of, major depression. While it is true that the symptoms of high-functioning depression can be milder, they can still be debilitating and interfere with the individual’s quality of life. This type of depression tends to be more chronic, with symptoms lasting for months or even years. It is also associated with a greater risk of suicide.

Treatments for High-Functioning Depression

It’s important to recognize that high-functioning depression is a serious mental health condition that requires attention and treatment. People affected by this type of depression can benefit from therapy or counseling as well as medication if recommended by a doctor. Seeking support early on can help individuals manage their symptoms more effectively and improve their overall quality of life.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that can be effective in treating this type of depression by helping individuals identify negative thought patterns and replacing them with positive ones. Medication such as antidepressants may also be prescribed by a healthcare professional.

Lifestyle changes can also play an important role in managing high-functioning depression. Physical activity has been shown to boost mood and reduce symptoms of depression. Eating a balanced diet can help ensure the body receives the necessary nutrients for optimal brain function. Additionally, practicing stress-reduction techniques such as meditation or yoga may also prove beneficial in reducing symptoms of high-functioning depression.

In addition to these practices, it is crucial to prioritize activities that bring joy and relaxation. This may include hobbies such as painting or reading or spending time with loved ones. Mindfulness techniques like meditation and deep breathing exercises can also help individuals cope with the symptoms of high-functioning depression.

While it can be challenging to prioritize self-care when dealing with depression, incorporating these practices into a daily routine can make a significant difference in overall well-being. By taking care of oneself both physically and mentally through treatments such as therapy and medication coupled with implementing self-care practices into one’s lifestyle, those struggling with high-functioning depression may find relief from their symptoms over time.

man with depression during a psychotherapy session

Conclusion: Empowerment to Seek Treatment

It is important for those who suspect they may be experiencing high-functioning depression to seek support from a healthcare provider and address these symptoms before they worsen. With proper treatment and support, individuals with high-functioning depression can learn to manage their symptoms, learn to control extreme feelings, and build healthy relationships.

Many people who suffer from this type of depression often neglect seeking help, mainly because they feel that their symptoms are not severe enough or that they can handle them on their own. However, seeking treatment can be the first step toward recovery and living a fulfilling life.

It is essential to understand there is no shame in seeking help for your mental health. Seeking therapy or medication does not mean you are weak; in fact, it shows strength and courage to admit that you need assistance. You deserve to live a life free from the burden of depression, regardless of its severity.

Therefore, if you suspect that you might have high-functioning depression or any other mental illness, seek professional help immediately. Remember that early intervention leads to better outcomes in treating mental health issues.