Stacy Robertson
Stacy Robertson
January 15, 2024 ·  6 min read

20 Things to Know About People Dealing With ‘High-Functioning’ Depression

High-functioning depression (often called dysthymia) is not common, not because it doesn’t exist, but because we often don’t see it. It’s difficult to identify this problem because of the disposition of the people who are dealing with it. They are usually hardworking, high-functioning people who, from the outside, appear perfectly fine. They carry on with their daily activities as smoothly as possible – going to school, work, the mall, the club, but on the inside, they’re falling apart [1]. Many people dealing with this problem don’t usually think they need to seek treatment. They assume they are just going through a phase that will soon blow over.

In reality, there’s little difference between depression and high-functioning depression. High-functioning depression may be described as a mild form of depression, because it may seem like it does not affect their day-to-day lives [2]. However, the symptoms are similar to depression: low self-esteem, insomnia, short attention span, weight loss, fatigue, headaches, and self-pity [3]. In some ways, it could be considered more serious because of how well-masked the symptoms are from those on the outside.  It can be difficult to battle while acting like everything is fine – It’s draining, and exhausting, and can eventually lead to a major breakdown. Below are 20 problems people suffering from this form of depression usually have to deal with:

Read: Jim Carrey’s Message For Anyone Suffering Through Depression

They are always right at the edge

Tired middle aged woman lying in bed can't sleep late at morning with insomnia. Adult lady sick or sad depressed sleeping at home.

They usually find themselves nearly toppling over, right on the verge of spiraling into deeper issues. They are exhausted from trying to keep things together, and all they want to do is finally let go and fall into that dark hole, but they’ll find themselves pushing through again, no matter how painful it gets.

It takes every ounce of strength to push forward

Business woman, depression and stress in an office at night working late on deadline. Tired African entrepreneur person with hands on head for pain, burnout or regret for mistake or fail at work

They don’t just wake up and mechanically perform their activities as if on command. No. It’s more than that. They have to spend a lot of time mustering the energy to get up and face the day.

Taking a “deep breath” won’t solve the problem

Unpleasant pain. Sad unhappy handsome man sitting on the sofa and holding his forehead while having headache

People suffering from all kinds of depression and anxiety dislike it when they are told to simply “take a deep breath” to get their emotions under control. This suffocation is not the kind oxygen will clear. Sometimes the solution just isn’t that simple.  

Read: 6 Ways to Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve That May Help Manage Depression, Inflammation, and More

Today is different. They can’t always do the same things they did yesterday

Caucasian sad woman sitting at the sofa with depression

They may not have the same amount of will and determination they woke up with the previous day. Something as simple as answering the phone may seem daunting because the drive just isn’t there.

They are not sad every second of the day

Portrait of worried girl looking through the window at home

Most people assume that a person going through depression will be constantly moody. Not exactly. Sometimes, the hopelessness dissipates and contentment replaces it. Exhaustion, stress, and overthinking may cause their mood to swing again.

It comes without warning

Black guy stressting and headache

They may be having a good day, for the first time in a long time, and it could hit them from absolutely nowhere. They’ll have no idea what triggered it, but they are suddenly feeling down and emotionally exhausted.

Read: People With Hidden Depression Can Display These 12 Symptoms

They worry too much

Adult upset woman is sitting by the window. Alone middle aged female in depression is experiencing severe stress

They have to stress over everything, both mentally and physically. They are always calculating their ability to perform a specific task or just to be somewhere at a particular time. Everything has to be fussed over.

They deal with insomnia

Sad depressed woman suffering from insomnia, she is sitting in bed and touching her forehead, sleep disorder and stress concept

Depression changes a person’s sleep patterns and makes it difficult for them to relax, clear their minds, and fall asleep.

They try really hard to project the ‘perfectly fine attitude’

sad serious man.depressed emotion panic attacks alone young people fear stressful.crying begging help.stop abusing domestic violence,person with health anxiety, bad frustrated exhausted feeling down

It’s not easy feeling one thing and truly being another. Sometimes, it’s obvious they’re trying to cloak the pain they’re going through.

They are in a constant battle with themselves

Black woman feeling depression symptoms alone at home

They want to be okay. They are high achievers, they are strong, and they want to shake this thing off and live their lives happily. Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple, and it leaves them in a constant state of self-battle.

They are truly strong

woman looking over shoulder on train track

The strength is not a façade. Their bravery is what makes them strive, despite their problems.

They have their own means of easing the stress

An image of girl with headache

High-functioning depression is milder than major depression, and it allows a person to have a sort of control over their emotions. They may be able to channel their energy into doing something that will have a relaxing effect on them, such as reading, writing, yoga, running, etc. Of course, everyone is different, what works for one, may not work for another. 

Read: Recognize The Signs Of High Stress: 8 High Cortisol Symptoms

They want to get better

Beautiful mixed race biracial African American girl teenager female young woman sad depressed or thoughtful looking out of a window

They desperately wish they could get over this, but it’s not always that simple.

Asking for help is too difficult

Face of senior caucasian hoary woman looking away deep in sad thoughts feels lonely close up portrait, recollect memories and life moments, depressed grandmother alone indoors, yearning for husband

This is why it’s so important to keep up with the ‘perfectly fine attitude.’ They don’t know how to talk to anyone about what they are going through. It’s easier to carry on with life as if everything is fine rather than seeking help.

They lose a lot of energy every day

Depressed young woman sitting on sofa at home

Their daily activities may not always be strenuous or tedious, but the will to perform them comes through the expenditure of a lot of energy. They are usually feeling very drained, both physically and emotionally.

Read: 27 Foods That Can Give You More Energy

They can get really cranky at times

Sad depressive woman in train going home from work.Tired exhausted looking young lady getting away with train ride.Bored female person during commute time.Public transportation user.Using mobile phone

People often describe them as ‘moody.’ One moment, they’re being nice and keeping it together. The next, they lose the reins and get snappy with everyone.

It’s easier to support others than to support themselves

Pensive woman sitting by window looking outside. Close-up thoughtful person

It’s easier for them to channel their energy into helping out other people than to think about how to help themselves. When they look at their lives, they see a complicated maze, but the lives of others is an adventure to take on.

Even though they aren’t displaying any obvious symptoms, their illness is real

Depressed woman suffering seasonal depression, feeling blue

Most people with this problem are usually given some form of advice and a few tips on healthy living, and that’s all. Their condition is more serious than this and should be dealt with accordingly. It’s possible to spiral into a more severe form of depression if it’s not treated at this stage.

It takes everything in them to strive forward

senior man covering his face with his hands.vintage tone

The effort they put into their daily activities is admirable. Everything they do, every smile they flash, and every friendly conversation they engage in takes a lot of effort and determination.

They don’t ask for help because they may not understand what is going on with them

Portrait of a serious and sad hispanic.african american man. He sits sullenly outside on the stairs, holds his head in his hands, looks to the side.

If professional psychologists have trouble recognizing this problem, what chance does a novice stand? Often, they feel they don’t need help. They want to shake this thing off, but they don’t even know what it is. How can they explain it to someone when they don’t understand it themselves?

High-functioning depression, while not clinically defined, is real. People suffering from any form of depression, mild to severe, should consider seeking help. Depression can take a toll on our lives. It can take away your life, your joy, the very essence and purpose of your being.

Keep Reading: The One Natural Sound That Does Wonders For Your Mental Health