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What Is High-functioning Depression and How to Recognize Its Symptoms?


Mental illness does not always have to be recognized and the person itself may be completely unaware that he/she has it. It is especially difficult to diagnose people with high-functioning depression, precisely because of that functionality. They are persons who will do everything the way it is expected, do their jobs, dedicate time to children, partners, friends, themselves, be active on social networks, gamble on Peruvian online casinos… Everything will seem to be completely fine. However, a person with depression is deeply unhappy, although the symptoms are not so noticeable.

These are the people you would never think are depressed, who do not have those typical depressive phases when functionality is reduced, and who smile and seemingly live the most normal life. The thing is, this depression does not fit into the picture we have built of mental illness. First of all, because mental illnesses are still taboo in many parts of the world so if you do not behave in a certain way – so it is obvious that something is wrong with you – then everything is fine with you according to that logic. Problems are being swept under the rug, especially mental problems. And then as a result we have is a handful of people who do not even know how to recognize the symptoms, who avoid going to therapy and diagnosis because it is considered that nothing in the world is worse than an “F diagnosis”.

There Are Symptoms That You Cannot Hide From Yourself

People suffering from high-functioning depression wear a ‘mask’. They hide their feelings and invest enormous effort in convincing others and themselves that they have no problem. And they often do it very successfully.

Although it is not a recognized professional diagnosis, high-functioning depression is a term used to describe persons whose depression is so well-hidden that it has no impact on their day-to-day functioning.

High-functioning depression is medically referred to as dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder (PDD). According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, it is a less severe but persistent form of depression that occasionally includes episodes of profound depression. Despite the fact that dysthymia is typically not as serious as major depression, people who have it might encounter most of the same symptoms at different times, ranging in severity from mild to severe.

The symptoms of dysthymia differ from those of major depressive disorder (MDD) in that they fluctuate according to the individual’s circumstances. High-functioning depression does not raise the same outward caution flags as MDD, which is why it might be difficult to identify.

But even so, this type of depression has certain symptoms that you cannot hide from yourselves if you really reconsider:

  • Feeling hopeless. You do everything you normally do, but you find no pleasure in it. The hobbies you had no longer make you happy, you are not happy at work, with your partner, or in a relationship with children. Of course, dissatisfaction does not have to be in all spheres of life, but it prevails. You feel that there is no point in doing what you are doing.
  • You do not want to be a burden. You do not share your feelings, your dark side, because you do not want to burden others, you think that you are alone in your suffering, that no one can understand you. And that cannot be further from the truth because there are a lot of people going through the same thing as you. If you do not have people in your immediate area to whom you could turn for help, try to do it online, and above all, be sure to start psychotherapy.
  • You pretend everything is fine. But nothing is. You do all the tasks automatically, everything is straightforward for you, and from the outside, it looks like you are a happy person.
  • Suicidal thoughts. All previous symptoms are a red-alert, and suicidal thoughts are the most. Do not allow them to accumulate, consult a psychiatrist and/or psychotherapist immediately.
  • Changes in appetite. Depression can also affect your appetite. Some overeat to bury their emotions, while others completely lose it and have no desire for food.
  • Alcohol and drug abuse. Ask yourself if you have a problem if you have to drink a glass of beer every day and what is it that you are running away from. It is the same with narcotics. These substances are used when you do not like your reality and want to escape from it.
  • You have trouble focusing. You notice that now you cannot do what you used to do without difficulty. There is no way you can concentrate and it has been going on for a long time, and there is no obvious reason why it is happening.
  • You have distanced yourself from close people. You no longer want to see dear people, avoid and postpone socializing and deep conversations, and claim that everything is fine.

Other than contacting a clinician, self-care is crucial for managing dysthymia. Changes in lifestyle to take into account include:

  • rising up and going to bed at roughly the same times each day
  • creating art, meditating, or keeping a journal
  • scheduling daily physical exercise
  • fueling your body with fruit and vegetable-rich diet
  • getting in touch with family members to ask for support and let them know you’re having trouble


You know best how you feel. And know that everything you feel is completely normal and valid. You are not alone, no matter how you feel, someone has gone through it and someone will understand you. And believe us, there are far more people struggling with depression than you think.

Lastly, it is important to go to a psychotherapist and a psychiatrist. It is possible that your problem is of a physical nature, that you lack a certain vitamin, and that it is possible to improve the condition with supplements, as well as antidepressants.

Dysthymia is fairly treatable even if it may not seem to be as bad as major depression. When there are excellent medicines that are easily accessible, there is no cause why someone should endure persistent depression. Talking to your primary care doctor or another healthcare professional should be your first course of action if you encounter any of the listed symptoms.

Read more: Depression and Anxiety: Symptoms and Treatment

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Read more: How To Convince A Loved One To Get Help For Their Anxieties And Fears

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