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Definition and 6 Signs of High Functioning Depression

Today we're gonna talk about the 6 signs of high-functioning depression. I've received tons of questions about it, so I'm really excited to get into it. Now the truth about high-functioning depression is that it isn't an actual diagnosis. It's just a more catchy term for the real diagnostic term dysthymia, and you can see why they would use high-functioning depression versus dysthymia. 

Now dysthymia is described in the DSM as the 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, okay? And I just want you to hear that for a second because I have an old video I'll link in the description if you want more information on dysthymia as a whole. But what this really is, is a low-grade depression that lasts for a really long time. And I say low grade not to mean that it's less deserving of treatment, but just to let you know that there aren't these extreme peaks that we can see in major depressive disorder, where people feel completely debilitated, unable to do things in their everyday life. 

Definition and 6 Signs of High Functioning Depression
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Dysthymia's more just hangin' round, making everything a little bit more difficult, and dysthymia can also include the presence of two or more of the following symptoms: number one, poor appetite or overeating; two, insomnia or hypersomnia; three, low energy or fatigue; four, low self-esteem or poor concentration or difficulty making decisions; and the last is feelings of hopelessness. 

So you can see how this is very similar to major depressive disorder but just imagine it a little more easy to manage in your day-to-day life; therefore, people with dysthymia may still be able to get up, and go to work or school. And from the outside, they'll look just fine, but inside they're exhausted, frustrated, and can feel really terrible about their situation. If you worry that you may be struggling with dysthymia or high-functioning depression, here are some of the most common symptoms.

And the first sign or symptom is avoiding social situations. Often when we're able to push ourselves to function in our daily life, it leaves no extra effort for socializing. We may find ourselves canceling plans, just wanting to be alone a lot, and completely withdrawing from those that we love and who we care for. 

The second sign or symptom is feeling extra irritable. When we aren't feeling our best, we can have very little patience for the people in our lives. We may find everyone is just getting on our nerves, and we could even start fights with those that we love. So, notice if everything people do around you and everyone around you just seems to be extremely frustrating and annoying. 

The third sign or symptom is are you constantly tired? Are you barely able to get all that you need to get completed each and every day, and then you feel wiped out afterwards? Do you feel like now you're always tired when you used to feel like you just had so much energy? That's one of the most common signs of depression as a whole, and more specifically, dysthymia. 

The next sign or symptom is do you struggle to concentrate? Often when we're reading and rereading emails still not knowing what they even said or what they need from us? Maybe it's hard for you to focus or even watch TV. 

Most of my clients who struggle with high-functioning depression tell me that they have a tough time even following a plot in a movie or a TV show and will have to go back and rewatch portions of it, like rewinding it back, so that they can actually understand what's happening. And this can be extremely frustrating and make school and work that much more difficult. 

The next sign or symptom is are you using unhealthy coping skills more and more? This can be something like drinking a lot of alcohol, if we find ourselves having a cocktail every night after school or work, or maybe we're just zoning out in front of the TV or playing a video game and not even connecting with others in our lives. This could also just be us overeating, if we find ourselves eating more just to numb out or ignore all that we may be feeling. So if you find yourself slipping back into the old, or even maybe new, unhealthy habits, please reach out and talk to someone about it. 

Getting a handle on these issues early allows us to find healthier coping skills to replace them. And when we get help more quickly, versus waiting years and years, it just makes the whole process easier because those unhealthy coping skills aren't so rooted in us and almost like a knee-jerk reaction. Instead, they're just starting to develop, and we can easily squash them and put a healthy coping skill in place. 

The next sign or symptom is constant worry about past or future, and I truly believe that this occurs because anxiety and depression are really close friends. And so this can look like you ruminating at night about the things that you said years ago that were hurtful to a friend or constantly worrying and super concerned about what may happen tomorrow or how you're gonna figure out what you're doin' with your life in the next years. It can be short-term or long-term, but we're worrying constantly about past or future. 

And some of the ways that my patients have reported experiencing this is struggling to get to sleep because you just can't stop going over and over that stupid thing that you said years ago, or maybe you can't get to sleep because you're so worried about tomorrow or maybe next week or if you always feel like you're unable to control and stop those negative worry-focused thought cycles. What that truly could be is high-functioning depression. Now on to the most important part: If any of those signs and symptoms rang true for you and you kept nodding along, thinking, yes, that's me, what do we do about it? If you worry that you struggle with dysthymia, or high-functioning depression, please, please, please, reach out for help. 

Those of us going through it often go untreated for years. Like I said, the diagnostic criteria for dysthymia is two years of low-grade depression. Don't let that be you. The sooner we reach out and get some help, the less time we will spend feeling bad. For many people, all that's needed is talk therapy. Just having a space to vent about all that we're feeling can be so beneficial, while others find medication to be super helpful. And I know not everyone's interested in medication but know that there are options available. Find a treatment that works for you. It could be talk therapy and medication together. But whatever it is, please speak up and reach out as soon as possible, because with proper care, it can and will get better. 

If you would like to support the creation of these mental health articles, leave them in the comments, let me know what's helped you. Is this something you're struggling with? Are there signs that I missed? Because I can never remember everything or mention everything, and together, we will keep working towards a healthy mind and a healthy body. Ooh, and if you want more information about depression or other mental health topics, click over to those categories and check those articles out. See you in the next article.