What Is High-Functioning Depression?

high-functioning depression

Depression can take many forms, and it’s not always debilitating. Some people develop a less severe degree of depression that allows them to continue behaving mostly normally at home, work or when spending time with friends. Outwardly, a person with high-functioning depression may seem as if they are keeping everything on an even keel, despite their inner turmoil.

High-functioning depression – also known as persistent depressive disorder – may not seem like a severe mental health challenge, but if you are living with this condition, you can still receive an accurate diagnosis and helpful treatment that allows you to enjoy an improved quality of life.

What Does High-Functioning Depression Feel Like?

The DSM-5-TR outlines the criteria for persistent depressive disorder as similar to major depressive disorder, including eating and sleeping too much or too little, a lack of enthusiasm, decreased self-esteem and ongoing sadness or hopelessness. However, because this milder form of depression can be challenging to recognize in yourself, you may want to ask yourself the following questions.

  • Are you fatigued all the time, even if you get plenty of sleep every night?
  • Is it hard to muster up the energy to do tasks like going to work, cooking and keeping a clean house?
  • Do you feel unworthy of other people’s friendship and love?
  • Do you frequently find ways to get out of social obligations?
  • Do you cry a lot for no apparent reason?

Problems With Persistent Depressive Disorder

High-functioning depression may cause seemingly unrelated complications like substance abuse, chronic pain, relationship difficulties and problems at work. People with this milder form of depression are also at risk of experiencing a major depressive episode at least once in their lives, during which their consistent low mood takes a more severe turn.

When someone with high-functioning depression is in the grips of a major depressive episode, their overall well-being will suffer. They may be unable to carry out daily responsibilities, skip typically enjoyable activities, become socially withdrawn or even stop doing their self-care and personal hygiene routines. Major depression can also cause extreme feelings of guilt or worthlessness and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Rarely, a depressive episode may even feature psychotic symptoms like delusions and paranoia.

Treating High-Functioning Depression

While high-functioning depression may not be as severe or debilitating as major depression, it still limits your ability to enjoy life. There is no reason to live with a constant low mood when treatment is available. The first step is to visit a doctor or psychiatrist for a depression screening, which can help you get an accurate diagnosis. Persistent depressive disorder usually responds well to a combination of therapy, antidepressant medication and lifestyle changes. It may take some trial and error to find the remedy that works best for you.

Recognizing the signs of high-functioning depression can be challenging. It is an insidious mental illness because it is self-masking. Even for people struggling to feel happy day after day, it isn’t always easy to recognize the underlying mental illness. Getting help is essential because treatment can make life more fulfilling, improve your mood and lead to a better outlook.

At New Found Life, we have helped clients living with a dual diagnosis of depression and substance use disorder since 1993. We offer a full continuum of evidence-based care that will help you get back to doing the things you love without your mental health holding you back. Contact us today to learn more about how we can serve you.