High-Functioning Depression is a Real Thing and Here Are the Signs and Ways to Cope With It

High-Functioning Depression is a Real Thing and Here Are the Signs and Ways to Cope With It

A person that seems to be functioning normally may also be depressed.

Image source: Getty Images

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on November 24, 2021. It has since been updated.

Depression looks different for everyone. Someone that has the brightest smile on their face may be just as depressed as someone else who's spent the entire day in bed. “Depression affects all personalities and can look very different in various people,” says Jodi Aman, psychotherapist and author of You 1, Anxiety 0: Win Your Life Back from Fear and Panic.


“A highly functioning person can be suffering invisibly too,” she says, according to Healthline

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 264 million people of all ages experience depression worldwide.




“Depression may inhibit the desire for activity and action, but high functioning individuals tend to forge ahead in an effort to succeed with goals,” says Mayra Mendez, Ph.D., a psychotherapist at Providence Saint John’s Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica, California. “The drive to accomplish often sustains action and moves high-functioning individuals towards getting things done.”


There's apparently a term for it, it's called high functioning depression. The thing is, it's not an official diagnosis, states WebMD. But, it's just as real as being diagnosed with clinical depression. And not, it's not like being upset about something trivial. “A misconception of depression is that you can just snap out of it or that something happened to cause you to feel depressed,” says Kathryn Moore, Ph.D., also a psychologist at Providence Saint John’s Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica, California.


What is high functioning depression?

High functioning depression is also known as persistent depressive disorder (PDD), which according to Mayo Clinic, says that “though persistent depressive disorder is not as severe as major depression, your current depressed mood may be mild, moderate or severe.”


People with PDD are able to carry on with their lives, like always, but there's always a looming feeling that engulfs them, which is something they can't really explain. “When you are clinically depressed, you feel very sad or hopeless for no external reason. Depression can be more of a low-grade chronic unhappiness with life, or it can be intense feelings of hopelessness and negative thoughts about yourself and your life,” Moore adds.




Mendez then spoke about how people commonly mistake sadness with depression, but it's actually two very different things. “Sadness is a typical emotion and expected in situations of loss, change, or difficult life experiences,” she says. “Depression is a condition that exists without triggers and lingers to the point of needing treatment. Depression is more than occasional sadness. Depression involves periods of hopelessness, lethargy, emptiness, helplessness, irritability, and problems focusing and concentrating.”


How can one deal with the condition?

The best way to work on your depression would be to talk to a therapist who can help you sort out your feelings. “Therapists can help a person identify the negative thoughts, beliefs, and habits that may be contributing to feeling depressed. It could also include things like medication, learning mindfulness skills, and doing activities linked to improving mood, such as exercise,” says Moore.

If the person is an overachiever, the best thing to do would be to get “out of your comfort box,” according to John Huber, PsyD, of Mainstream Mental Health.

“Although successful and oftentimes leaders in their fields, these individuals are [conducting their lives] much like running a race with a weight belt carrying 100 extra pounds,” he said. To decrease the load, Huber says, consider unplugging from devices, going outside for some fresh air, or taking up a new activity. Research has found that crafting may even have promising benefits for those dealing with depression.



Simply put, it always helps to talk to someone you trust about what's on your mind. Talk about your depression, even though it may seem difficult at first. Try and stop worrying about what people may think of you; that ought to be the least of your concerns, because talking about it will help you cope with your feelings, no matter how overwhelming. Remember, it's always best to have someone to count on, and a shoulder to lean on.






Cover Image Source (Representative): Getty Images

Disclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.