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What Does High Functioning Depression Look Like?

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

High functioning depression has many faces, it can look like you, me, and even your best friend whom you always see with a smile on their face. On the inside, they are beating themselves up for struggling so much. The battle going on inside their heads can be invisible at the first glance. This includes themselves also, there are a lot of people out there living with high functioning depression but aren’t aware of it because they can function fine. But is functioning fine enough?


What does it mean to be functionally depressed?

"High-functioning depression" is a term used to describe symptoms of depression that don't meet the traditional definition of depression. People with high functioning depression seem like they can function well from the outside, they can continue doing their chores, and go to work or school but they still feel the symptoms of depression. Just because they are functioning it doesn’t mean they are doing it with ease.

Living with high-functioning depression can feel like a misnomer because it doesn't conform to the stereotypes of what it means to be depressed. That results in people thinking that high functioning depression is not real depression and they should just stop being depressed. Depression is as real and deadly as other diseases, being invisible doesn’t stop it from existing. Every year over 700.000 people die due to suicide because they lacked the support system they needed.

Those with high-functioning depression tend to have a personality where they are able to push through their feelings or see themselves as perfectible and unable to admit when they need help.

What are the symptoms of high functioning depression?

The symptoms of high functioning depression are similar to major depression ones but they differ in terms of being able to function. They include feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, problems with concentration and motivation, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, and thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Of course, we cannot give an official diagnosis but If you are feeling a depressed mood for most of the days and you have these symptoms it is crucial to see a doctor or mental health professional.

1. Difficulty concentrating

Depression can affect brain functions which can cause difficulty concentrating and memory issues. It makes getting things done and being productive a challenge which can result in depression getting worse. What you must keep in mind is that every day cannot be the same, one day you can get everything done but the next day your productivity can be at an all-time low. Don’t let your bad days define who you are.

2. Fatigue

Struggle with high-functioning depression often feels like you are stuck in a low mood, and that you will never get relief. You may feel tired all the time and your low mood is always present. A lot of people confuse this with being lazy but the reason you can’t function properly is that you can't summon the energy to do more than necessary.

high functioning depression insomnia

3. Insomnia

Depression can make you feel like you always need to sleep and make it hard to get out of bed. It doesn’t mean it can’t have the opposite effect. People with high functioning depression often time suffer from insomnia, which could be because of multiple reasons. In most cases anxiety accompanies depression, it could cause you to have racing thoughts of bad things that happened or could happen whenever you try to sleep.

4. Poor appetite

Just because someone seems to be functioning it doesn’t mean they are functioning well. People with high functioning depression oftentimes are able to do things that are necessary but feeding and taking care of the body is not a priority for them. They can skip meals or even forget to drink enough water. Depression is a vicious cycle; it lowers energy levels which makes eating enough feel like a chore. This results in weight loss and energy levels going even lower.

5. Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed

People with depression may seem high functioning, but their mental health is still impacted. They may not enjoy life as they used to which becomes more apparent in the activities and hobbies they used to love. This symptom is called anhedonia and it could happen for multiple reasons such as not having the motivation to do it or not getting any pleasure from it like you used to.

6. Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, and self-judgment

Some symptoms of high functioning depression are sadness, hopelessness, not being able to see your worth and pulling away from friends and family. Feeling badly about yourself and your life can take a toll on you, you may feel like things won’t ever get better or it is your fault that you are feeling this way. Never forget that you are not to blame for your depression, if you are feeling this way reach out to someone who can help you because brighter days await.


7. Suicidal thoughts

If you think a loved one is having suicidal thoughts because they are showing these signs, it is important to ask them and listen without passing judgment. If you are the one having these thoughts there are people who care about you out there and ask for help. Because you do matter even If you don’t feel that way at the moment.

8. Anxiety

Often times people who experience high-functioning depression feel anxiety as well, it manifests itself as crippling self-doubt and fear of what the future will bring. It is also the leading reason why people with high functioning depression has insomnia symptom.

How is high functioning depression different from regular depression?

High-functioning depression is a term used to describe someone who has milder symptoms of a depressive disorder but still experiences significant changes in mood. High-functioning depression symptoms are often less visible because people with this condition often seem like they function normally but there is an internal struggle.

high functioning depression

How can you treat high functioning depression?

Medication and therapy can be used to treat people with high-functioning depression. The most important thing to do is to reach out for help. It's important to work with a doctor or therapist to find the best combination for you, they will be the ones creating a treatment plan according to the severity of your depression.

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