High Functioning Depression: Signs, Treatments and Home Remedies
Imagine an ideal person in your mind, who has a loving family, great job and a decent social life.
Everyone looks for such a life. But hey, are all those perfect looking people out there happy? The answer is a big NO. Not all the “perfect” people are truly perfect inside out.
Even the science says that the more someone appears to be perfect, the more he or she is fighting with a turmoil inside. This is where High Functioning Depression comes into the picture.
High functioning depression is quite confusing and a problematic psychological term to understand. It is a highly impactful condition that may be affecting you for years, yet you may not know about it.
So, what precisely high functioning depression mean to you? Let’s see.
What Is High Functioning Depression?
High functioning depression is a type of depression experienced by highly functioning and visibly normal people.
How is high functioning depression different from other types of depression? There are subtle signs that distinguish high functioning depression.
When it’s depression, you may start feeling uneasy and sad. You may isolate yourself from the friends and society. You may want to stay in your bed all the time.
A high functioning depressed person will be excelling in his life while struggling with a major depressive disorder in his mind. Since the person looks utterly normal from outside. It often becomes hard to diagnose this type of depression.
Let’s discuss the common signs and symptoms of high functioning depression. Let’s also see the possible treatments.
Symptoms of High Functioning Depression
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSM-5), there are nine different types of depression.
High functioning depression is not one of them. We can say that High functioning depression is a pop term of what is clinically known as Dysthymia.
In the DSM-5 dysthymia is characterized by:
“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,”
Dysthymia should include the presence of two or more of the following symptoms:
- Poor appetite or overeating
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Low energy or fatigue
- Low self-esteem
- Poor concentration or Difficulty making decisions
- Feelings of hopelessness
These symptoms of high functioning depression are diagnostically similar to the symptoms of a major depressive disorder (MDD). What differs in both of them is the severity of the symptoms.
A person with high functioning depression may not have several levels of physical and mental dysfunction when compared to a person with MDD. This makes it difficult to recognize and diagnose.
Real Life Signs That You May Have High Functioning Depression
Sometimes it is difficult to relate with or understand the clinical symptoms.
So here are some signs of a high functioning depressive person in layman terms. These signs are ways high functioning depression can manifest in an individual.
1. Difficulty Experiencing Joy
When you are suffering from high functioning depression the things that used to bring you joy often become things that you want to avoid.
They start to feel like burdens. It may be a hobby like reading, writing, painting or dancing that you used to love.
It may also be partying and meeting your friends. Not one of them feels comforting. Instead, you may prefer to stay alone.
2. A Critic to Yourself and Others
You become very negatively critical of yourself and others under the influence of high functioning depression. You start feeling about yourself as not good enough.
A constant internal conflict persists. Your attitude towards others becomes brutally critical. You only spot their bad attributes and not appreciate their good ones.
3. Constant Self-doubt
Self-Doubt is a feeling where you continuously question your decisions in life. Whether you chose the right career path or is your relationship with others going well? Are you a right person?
Are you being an ideal daughter or son and living up to your parent’s expectations. These questions are not just mere questions but something you just can’t get over.
4. Low Energy and Fatigue
Is getting through the day a big task? Does your daily routine feel like too much hard work? Do you feel like you do not have physical, mental, and emotional energy to handle your life anymore? If every day feels like climbing a mountain and back, this is a significant sign of high functioning depression.
5. Irritability or excessive anger
Are you noticing yourself exploding at trivial things like something your spouse did? Or your kid did not wake up on time?
Do you get agitated about small things like someone arguing in the grocery store? Have your anger outbursts have become quite familiar? Are they disproportionate to the event?
If yes, this may be a clear sign that you have manifested high functioning depression.
6. Stressing Out Easily
Has it ever happened that some things feel like the end of the world? It can be that your friend canceled the weekend plan you waited for. Or you cannot find a file you are sure you kept in that drawer.
Does this stress you out, and you cannot think of a way to solve it? Are your stress levels shooting up at little things?
Are they disproportionate in comparison to the event? This a prominent sign of high functioning depression
7. Too Much Guilt and Worry
Do you find yourself lost in a pool of questions such as, are you on the right career path? Will you able to pay off all those student loans? Did you choose the right undergrad program?
Are you doing well in your job? Will you able to be there for your parents when they grow old? If this is very common with you, it is possible that this is more than usual worry.
Are these questions and anxiety for the future and guilt for the past becomes dominant over your thoughts? If yes, it is possible that you are suffering from high functioning depression.
8. Too Dependent on your Coping Mechanisms
Coping mechanisms are substances or behaviors that let us escape from the reality of life. It can be alcohol, cigarettes, excessive gym, gaming, or even constant Netflix.
Have you have noticed yourself engaging with something regularly? It may be a sign that you are avoiding to think about something. It is possible that you are running away from a particular thought. You continuously feel better through these coping mechanisms. It may be a clear indication.
9. Generalized Sadness
Do you feel low all the time without any reason to pinpoint? Do you find smiling a task and have to pretend constantly in front of your family, friends, and colleagues?
This feeling can be accompanied by a general sense of hopelessness. You may feel helpless without any substantial reason. You may feel that you are not able to be happy come what may. If it is true, it may be speaking of underlying depression.
10. Desiring Perfectionism
This can be difficult to differentiate, but unhealthy perfectionism can be spotted through high-stress levels. People with high functioning depression tend to set unrealistic goals for themselves and get stressed when they aren’t able to achieve them.
This desire is a sign of psychologically beating oneself up to be the best. This can be said to be a coping mechanism to keep oneself busy and away from the reality.
11. Inability to Rest and Slow Down
Have you observed all the points above? You must have seen that it boils down to one common thing: You cannot rest. Neither your body nor your mind.
Whether it is perfectionism or coping mechanisms, an individual with high functioning depression will always be highly alert on the psychological level.
They cannot sit back and relax. It is tough for them to relax and just stop thinking for a while. This can even cause sleep disturbances or excessive dreams.
If you find yourself not being able to rest, then it can be a clear sign of high functioning depression.
Treatments for High Functioning Depression
There are many medical treatment options available to treat high functioning depression. Do you feel you fall into this category?
You should reach out for help and seek treatments that are available. Let’s have a look at some of these procedures in detail.
1. Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES)
Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation works with the aid of FDA-approved Fisher Wallace Stimulator. These stimulators are handheld pulse generators. These increase the production of serotonin.
It also stunts the creation of stress-producing hormone cortisol over time. Along with high functioning depression, these stimulators also treat insomnia and anxiety. The FDA-cleared Fisher Wallace Stimulator is also helpful to reduce bodily pain.
Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulators are comfortable and easy to use. It is backed by research on its effectiveness. You can consult your doctor if you are interested in trying out this new and unique technique to fight depression
Psychotherapy is also known as talk therapy. Here the individual works with a licensed therapist. Together you work to reach awareness of his thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
The therapist will guide you through your personal history. They help you find the foundation of your depression. Psychotherapy can be taken in various ways, such as one-on-one, group and family.
3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a therapy which aims at altering negative thought patterns in an individual. Here, the therapist helps the patient to take hold of the recurring depressive thoughts and emotions. Commonly, this therapy is used to treat substance abuse, anxiety, insomnia, and depression.
In CBT the negative thoughts are altered to positive. The therapist works with you for months to maintain the balance. They also help you refocus your emotions towards positivity and productivity.
They help you get rid of your bad habits, which are harmful to you. The therapist guides you to approach your emotional problems from different angles. They try and show you the perspective which helps you solve them.
CBT helps an individual to gain clarity towards his goals in life. It enables you to get rid of the negative emotions. So that, rather than drowning in those feelings you can work on solving your problems.
4. Drug Therapy
In many cases, depression is manifested on the physiological level. In such cases; exercise, diet, and a good sleep do not show any improvement in the symptoms.
Drugs have to be involved. These drugs include anti-depressants, mood stabilizers, anti-anxiety medications and antipsychotic medications.
These medicines help the patient to control debilitating symptoms. We should keep in mind that as these medicines are not natural ways of relief. These may come along with a broad spectrum of side-effects.
Drug therapy is used where depression is inherited. In some cases, people are naturally unable to produce the right amount of serotonin.
This leads to a depressive episode. If you feel that the self-care practices are not yielding any results, you should consult your psychiatrist to try prescription medication.
Self-Care Practices for High Functioning Depression
To fight any mental illness your willpower plays a vital role. If you notice that you are not mentally healthy, you should reach out for help.
So, to help you to get through your journey here are seven high functioning depression cures. These practices will help you take the symptoms of high functioning depression under control.
1. Sleep Right
Disturbed sleep routine is a significant symptom of high functioning depression. According to DSM-5 insomnia or hypersomnia is a vital sign of high functioning depression.
Making conscious efforts to stabilize your sleep patterns can help take control of the symptoms of high functioning depression. It reducing the effect of it on your behavior.
2. Sweat it out
Exercise is a great way to fight high functioning depression. Exercising gets our blood pumping all over our body.
This results in a proper oxygen circulation. It also produces stress-reducing and happy hormones. So, the next time you feel extremely low, a brisk walk or a quick jog is what you need.
High functioning depression often results in mental and muscle tension. This leads to uneasiness. Relaxation is essential to ease out your muscles and calm down your thoughts.
Yoga and meditation are the best ways to relax. One should practice it daily to overcome the negative thought process and depression.
4. Get Involved in Your Society
A person fighting with high functioning depression finds it very difficult to socialize.
Being an active part of a community can be difficult too. Do you see visible changes in your mood pattern and thought process? It is always beneficial to plan your social life.
You can start from the basics like volunteering or be a part of a club of your interest.
Once you meet like-minded people, it becomes easier for you to talk on common grounds. You should avoid isolating yourself.
5. Talk, Talk and Talk
Whenever you feel like you are on a roller coaster of emotions, it is a wise decision to call up a friend and vent. It is essential for you to talk about your feelings and to feel to someone whom you trust and confide in.
Talking leads to catharsis which is very important to overcome several mental illnesses. It helps you let go of your baggage and sort out your emotions.
6. Avoid Screens
Be it your phone, laptop or iPad, just keep it aside.
Don’t get too involved in the virtual world. Instead, take a book and read some soothing stories or have a hot cup of coffee. Avoid too much interaction with strangers on social media as it may lead too many other problems.
7. Go Alcohol-Free
It is a natural tendency for people to indulge in a lot of drinking and partying while they do not feel good inside. If not with company drinking alone can also be an attraction.
You should avoid consuming alcohol if you think or know that you are suffering from high functioning depression.
Alcohol takes you to a high where you are away from reality. With an unpleasant thought process, it becomes an escape. This can lead to substance addiction along with depression. It is harmful to both the physical and the mental health.
With this self-care practices, it is possible to fight high functioning depression. Though, it is advisable to consult a therapist for the best results. Stay strong and fight your battle, you will win.
Wright A., “What are the Signs of High Functioning Depression and Could You Have It?” The Mighty web site, May 17, 2017; https://themighty.com/2017/05/signs-of-high-functioning-depression-or-dysthymia/
Elkin C., “Living with High Functioning Depression,” Hi Oscar web site, Last accessed January 2, 2018; https://www.hioscar.com/blog/living-with-high-functioning-depression
“Do I Have High Functioning Depression?” Fisher Wallace web site, February 2, 2018; https://www.fisherwallace.com/blogs/mental-health-topics/do-i-have-high-functioning-depression