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 Many believe that people who suffer from depression are always crying, upset, alone or withdrawn from others.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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.