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10 Small Signs You May Have High Functioning Depression

When people hear the word “depression” they associate a lot of images with it. Many believe that people who suffer from depression are always crying, upset, alone or withdrawn from others.

They picture the person with depression struggling to wake up every morning and get dressed, go to work or school, have a normal meal or even socialize with other individuals. You wouldn’t picture someone who’s extremely successful in their career, the school president with straight A’s, the wife who is hopelessly blissful in her marriage and family.

The stigma around depression is such – people believe it can only be seen in extremes and nothing more. But, according to experts, there are numerous types of depression. With each type of depression, there are different characteristics and symptoms, but one of the hardest to spot in someone is what’s known as “high functioning depression.”

According to “Diagnostic And Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition”, high functioning depression is also known as dysthymia and is defined as:

“Depressed mood for most of the day, for more days than not, as indicated by either subjective account or observation by others, for at least two years. Symptoms include poor appetite or overeating; insomnia or hypersomnia; low energy or fatigue; low self-esteem; poor concentration or difficulty making decisions; feelings of hopelessness.”

The difference with those who suffer from high functioning depression is that they block most of their problems and issues with productive activities and goals, such as work, school, family and everyday life. Those who suffer from high functioning depression feel the need to always be “on,” but, once they’re “off” for a slight moment, they start to feel the signs and symptoms of depression full-throttle. Many who struggle with this form of depression internalize everything associated with the illness. While they may look perfect on the outside, on the inside they are suffering just as much as someone who externalizes their depression.

High functioning depression, according to experts, is difficult to spot in patients. This is because many patients refuse to face the truth of their symptoms as something associated with a mental illness. Many psychologists say that the societal stigmas associated with depression and other forms of mental illness are what keep individuals from seeking help – such as talk therapy or medication to combat their depression. And, they add that while high functioning depression may seem easy to manage from the start when left untreated, it can manifest into something much more severe and dangerous to an individual’s health.

However, it’s important to know from the start if you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with high functioning depression and know when it’s time to seek outside help.

10. You have difficulty fully experiencing happiness.

When you suffer from high functioning depression, you do have moments in life when you feel incredibly happy. But, you don’t allow yourself to fully experience joy to its fullest extent. There are hobbies, activities or goals you may have focused on in the past that have brought you utter relief and happiness, but eventually, they become more of a burden to you than something you find pleasure in. You begin to do the things that excited you less and less and feel as though you’re living your life half-numb.

9. You find yourself being extremely impulsive.

Many people who suffer from high functioning depression have a difficult time fully experiencing joy. To combat this, many who have this illness go to extremes to try and feel or experience any emotion. This can be something as simple as getting a tattoo or piercing to feel pain, or doing something dangerous and illegal to feel the adrenaline. If you find yourself seeking to sabotage your life with activities and events that are “extreme,” it’s a warning sign of a bigger issue.

8. You have a hard time making decisions, both big and small.

From where you want to go eat dinner, to what school you wish to attend or what job you want to take, those who have high functioning depression struggle to make decisions. This is because of the constant self-doubt these individuals deal with on an everyday basis. Those who have this disorder often find themselves questioning everything they do, and even after coming to a decision, obsessing over whether or not it was the right choice.

7. You overdo everything.

When it comes to anything in life: eating, drinking, working, studying, those who suffer from high functioning depression don’t know what a “middle ground” is. Instead, they do everything to the extreme and overdo most things in their lives. This, however, can also be something that turns into an alarming bad habit, like gambling, drinking, or drug use.

6. You don’t give yourself any time to relax.

People with high functioning depression know that when they stop, even for a moment, the sadness takes over. This is why many who have this disorder are always on the go or always busy doing something. It can be something as simple as cleaning the house from top to bottom or working 7-days a week to keep their mind occupied. Those who have high functioning depression are uncomfortable with rest or calmness.

5. You have rage issues.

When it comes to emotions and anger, those with high functioning depression often fly off the handle quicker than others. They blow up more so than others, and often times in smaller situations. This is due to suppressed emotions, or what experts call “bottling things up.” When you don’t deal with your emotions or your problems underneath, when things trigger you, you unleash them all – often at the wrong times.

4. You have low energy or problems sleeping through the night.

Those with high functioning depression often times push themselves to get things done, but it’s a challenge. They may succeed at work, meet deadlines and do well in school, but it’s a process to get there. They often times feel as though they’re struggling to get to the finish line and feel exhausted by the end of the day. They also have major changes in sleeping patterns, like insomnia or sleeping too often.

3. You constantly question your past and future.

This disorder causes those who suffer to constantly question their decisions, including those from the past and how it will affect their future. This can be things such as going to the right college, choosing the right major, entering the right career, dating the right person, etc. Worrying, while normal, is abnormal when it becomes an obsession. Those with high functioning depression often times find it hard to shake the worry and obsess over their decisions day after day.

2. You strive for perfection and push yourself way too hard.

Much like with an inability to relax and destress, people with high functioning depression find it very hard to settle for mediocre. When they push themselves, it’s because they want to push down other issues in their lives. Pushing themselves in their career may mean that they will obtain a promotion, which gives them less time off and more time to work. With perfectionism, while it seems pretty normal, it can also have a downside where those with high functioning will heavily criticize themselves when they fall short of their own expectations.

1. You feel uncomfortable in a constant state of happiness or stability.

People with high functioning depression are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. There is never a time where they are comfortable or content with things when they are “too good.” They are looking for reasons for things to go wrong, and ultimately, this can lead to them self-sabotaging their own lives, relationships, and even careers.

Like with any other mental illness and disorder, it’s important to seek help when needed. There’s nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to self-help and your own personal health. Studies have shown depression, such as high functioning depression, does get better when treated with psychotherapy and, if needed, medication.