The Devious Trickster That Is High Functioning Depression

A Façade That Can Rob You of Getting the Help/Support You Need

What comes to mind when one mentions “depression?” I imagine a lot of us would think, “sad”, “low energy”, “suicidality”, “no appetite”, and all other typical symptoms of a Major Depressive Disorder, also known as Clinical Depression. And so, when one is presenting with high energy, euthymic mood, a healthy appetite and/or other presentations that are deemed to indicate a “healthy” individual, at least to other people, a depressive disorder is ruled out.

It is important to have conversations about High Functioning Depression as there are a lot of misconceptions about what depression is supposed to look like and how it is supposed to present in people. Most people seem to never consider the severity of depressive episodes that people present with and how that might manifest. It’s either you are severely depressed or not depressed at all, which is a shame, and quite unfair because it robs you from getting the help and support you need.

With High Functioning Depression, it has similar symptoms to Clinical Depression/MDD but less severe as one is still able to function on a day-to-day basis to some degree. Hence, it can be so difficult for it to be detected in oneself, and especially the other. This is because, externally, other people can look “fine” but internally, be struggling. That is why it is so dangerous for it to be left unaddressed/untreated because it can progress into something more severe, and ultimately fatal. Therefore, being in touch with oneself, including being able to identify small changes in one’s thought processes, thought content, mood, energy levels, motivation levels, appetite levels, sleeping patterns, etc. could help one gauge if something might be amiss, and could possibly need psychological/psychiatric help. It does help to also pay attention to the feedback one gets from those around them about how one is presenting differently than previously.

Common Misconceptions About Depression:

  1. You can just snap out of it.
  2. It is caused by something that has happened.
  3. Depression is the same as sadness.
  4. Depression will go away on its own.
  5. People living with depression cannot do anything (cannot go to school, cannot work or performance suffers significantly, etc.)

These are not necessarily true. As stated before, depression presents differently in different people, and the severity might be different as well. So, individuals who present with mild, or high-functioning depression need treatment too. Even though the individuals are able to function in life, for the most part, it does not mean that getting through each day is easy.

Common Experiences from Individuals Who Have Experienced High-Functioning Depression:

  1. Feeling like they were constantly faking to be fine to others.
  2. Feeling like they need to work extra hard in trying to convince people that they are struggling and need help.
  3. Feeling like they are able to do everything that they are supposed to do but having to put in so much effort in order to complete tasks.
  4. Struggling to focus and feeling like they are not performing to the best of their ability.
  5. Feeling like asking for help is the most difficult and strongest thing that they had to do, especially if they had no idea of how their request would be received by the other.

Support for Those Struggling with Depression/High Functioning Depression:

There are different ways one can show support to their loved ones who are struggling with depression, regardless of its severity, such as not be judgmental, being patient with them, and lending them an ear when need be. The environment one is in can have a great impact on one’s wellbeing.

One can seek medical treatment from a General Medical Practitioner (GP) or Psychiatrist, or psychological intervention from a Counselling or Clinical Psychologist, especially when the depression is quite severe. Alternatively, or simultaneously, one can try self-management strategies in trying to alleviate some of the symptoms, such as changing diet, engaging in activities one enjoys, spending time with loved ones, journaling, exercising, etc.

Normalise the notion that everyone gets affected by Depression differently. There is no one-or-right-way of presenting with Depression.

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