High Functioning Depression

High Functioning Depression: Everything You Need To Know About It

High Functioning Depression: Everything You Need To Know About It


High-functioning depression is in many ways similar to major depression, but the signs and symptoms are less severe. Some of the most common signs a person can notice would be changes in sleeping and eating habits. Fatigue, lower self-esteem, and lack of concentration and hope. These symptoms will be present on the majority of days, causing a low mood that can last two years or even more. People who are struggling with high-functioning depression usually don’t show it externally so it’s not that easy to detect it.

Luckily, those who are dealing with this type of depression can go under treatment, which consists of medications and therapy, and it can be treated successfully. Another term that science is using to refer to high functioning depression is persistent depressive disorder (PDD). Here is everything you need to know about it. 

Definition of high functioning depression

Many mental disorders can make it difficult for a person to function as others do. Actually, it’s one of the most important diagnostic criteria for many mental illnesses. Such impairment implies that a person is not able to function fully in one or more areas of their life due to a certain mental health condition. For instance, they are not able to perform successfully at their job for long, or they are not able to ace their exam although they studied so hard for it. High functioning depression can also affect your personal life. So someone with high functioning depression will not be able to manage healthy relationships and will also avoid social activities, to name just a few examples. 

The people struggling with this form of depression will be able to function normally most of the time, yet they will experience most of the depression symptoms. That’s why it’s called persistent depressive disorder (PDD). 

High functioning depression symptoms

If you or someone in your life suspects of having a high functioning depression, or persistent depressive disorder, it’s best to reach out to a psychiatrist or any other mental health professional. High functioning depression should be diagnosed in order to be treated, and certain criteria need to be met for a diagnosis. When going through them, you will notice they are very similar to symptoms used to diagnose major depression. However, with high functioning depression, they are less severe. 

The first criteria are that the person is experiencing a depressed, low mood most of their days for at least two years. Also, this depressed mood should be present for most of the day. And it includes two of these symptoms below or more: 

  • Weak appetite or overeating
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Lack of energy and fatigue
  • Lack of self-esteem
  • Concentration difficulties and struggling to make decisions
  • The feeling of sadness and hopelessness

Besides these symptoms, a psychiatrist or another mental health professional will also check other criteria that need to be met to diagnose a PDD. These are: 

  • The person has never experienced mania or hypomania, which is what unusual euphoric and energetic moods are called.
  • There is no better way to explain the depression symptoms by another mental illness, medical condition or substance abuse. 
  • The symptoms a person has in their depressed mood have to cause some impairment in at least one area of the person’s life, including significant distress.
  • A person with PDD as a diagnosis might also meet the criteria for major depression.

Do you have high functioning depression?

As it will be difficult to respond to these questions with the help of a professional, There are other moments you might recognize in your life that might indicate you have a high functioning depression. While going through this list, if the majority of these things sound close to you, you should consider seeking adequate treatment and support. 

  • Most of the time, you feel down or depressed. Your friends and family notice it as well and they have pointed it out to you several times already.
  • When you are feeling happy, these moments usually don’t last long and you go back to your low mood. 
  • You also feel tired most of the time, although you get enough sleep and are not sleep deprived in any way.
  • When talking about energy, most of the time you feel like you lack it and that’s preventing you from even doing the things you want to do.
  • You don’t feel good about yourself. Also, you feel as if you don’t deserve happiness or are unworthy of connecting with others.
  • Your weight is changing without your willingness to change it; it’s simply a result of having no appetite or overeating.
  • You might also lack hope or you will need to cry a lot without a real, concrete reason. 
  • Your performance at school or work might be really good. Yet you are facing difficulties when it comes to concentration and focus.  
  • You need to force yourself to participate in social activities because you don’t feel the actual need of going. 

Coping with depressive episodes

When talking about high functioning depression, there are many coping mechanisms. One of the most recommended techniques is journaling. Once you start writing your feelings and thoughts onto a piece of paper or in a document on your computer. You will feel like you can manage them with more ease. This, of course, doesn’t imply that just by journaling you can achieve improvement, yet it’s a good way of documenting how you feel every day and not having to have all these emotions and thoughts bottled up inside. 

Another great coping mechanism is exercising. Besides being a great, healthy activity, exercising can also make you feel more relaxed, energized and satisfied. With a wide variety of activities, you can choose whichever one you prefer – yoga, pilates, jogging, cardio, kickbox, swimming, hiking, etc. 

For those looking for more indoor activities, the perfect option is cooking. We often overlook all the positive sides of a cooking process and skip to conversations about the importance of good nutrition, yet cooking is such a valuable activity for everyone. The feeling of achievement when you prepare a meal for the first time, the creativity of combining different ingredients, the mesmerizing smell spreading around your kitchen, … All these things can elevate your mood easily, and maybe next time, you’ll be even ready to invite your friends over for dinner. 

As much as working or studying can be productive activities for you, don’t spend your free time on it. You should have hobbies and activities that make you feel good. Improve your self esteem and decrease the fear of not being worthy of something. Once you decide what makes you feel good about yourself. Make a promise to yourself that you will always find time for it. 


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