High functioning depression (2024)

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported in 2015 that an estimated 6.1 million adults in the United States who are 18 years of age or older had at least one major depressive episode in the previous year. This figure corresponded to 6.7% of all adults in the United States. Additionally, anxiety disorders—which affect 40 million persons in the US who are 18 and older, or 18% of the population—are the most prevalent mental ailment in the country. (Source)

While less severe, the high-functioning depression signs and symptoms are similar to those brought on by major depression. Changes in eating and sleeping patterns, low self-esteem, exhaustion, despondency, and difficulties concentrating are a few examples. Most days, symptoms continue, resulting in a practically constant state of depression that lasts for at least two years. Most people suffer internally but perform nearly normally. High-functioning depression may be treated with both medication and therapy.

High-functioning depression is a real condition that, if untreated, can have negative effects. Officially known as persistent depressive disorder, or PDD, high-functioning depression is a diagnosis. PDD sufferers exhibit many of the same symptoms as depressed people, albeit to a lesser extent. As a result, they are able to carry out daily tasks like going to work or school, doing well, taking care of their domestic duties, and participating in the majority of social activities.

It might be challenging to recognize this sort of depression in oneself as well as in others. A person with PDD appears healthy to those around them. That guy is battling on the inside. Although it might not seem as bad as major depression, high-functioning depression should still be identified and treated. PDD can make life difficult and reduce quality of life, but therapy and self-management can help.

So what is High Functioning Depression ?

Several mental diseases are serious enough to make it difficult for a person to carry out daily tasks. Significant impairment is actually a diagnostic requirement for many mental health problems. A person who is impaired is unable to completely perform in one or more aspects of life. This may entail avoiding social events, struggling academically, being unable to maintain a career, or having trouble managing meaningful relationships, among numerous other possible sites of dysfunction.
When a mental disease is less severe, a person may still be able to function normally, or at least almost normally, the majority of the time even while they feel symptoms. A high-functioning individual or mental disease is what is meant by this.
It’s critical to keep in mind that high functioning differs from complete functioning. There is still some impairment with this kind of depression. Persistent depressive disorder is what happens when a person can function but yet has severe depressive symptoms. Previously known as dysthymia, this mental disease is still regularly alluded to by that name.

How Living with High-Functioning Depression Feels

Clinically speaking, high-functioning depression is precisely defined by the diagnostic criteria for PDD, however this is not always how it actually manifests. It might be more helpful to think about how this mental disorder feels:
  • You frequently have a negative attitude. This may cause others to think less of you or label you as pessimistic or cynical.
  • You virtually never feel happy, and it seems like there will never be any improvement. Happiness is fleeting when it does occur.
  • Even whether you get enough or too much sleep, you could still feel weary all the time.
  • You may appear to be unmotivated, but you simply lack the energy required to perform more than what is required to maintain your current level of functioning.
  • You experience feelings of self-doubt, unworthiness, and the notion that you are unworthy of happiness or popularity.
  • You go to school and maintain a clean home, as is required of you, but it always seems like a huge effort.
  • You either lack appetite or overeat without realizing it, which causes you to gain or lose weight without intending to.
  • You might frequently feel helpless or cry a lot for no apparent, valid reason.
  • You function satisfactorily at work or at school, but it is challenging and you have trouble focusing.
  • You have to push yourself to interact with others when you’d rather avoid them.
  • PDD may result in consequences that appear unrelated, such as substance misuse, persistent pain, troubled relationships, and issues at work or school.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of High-Functioning Depression

A psychotherapist or other mental health specialist should make the diagnosis of high-functioning depression, often known as PDD. For a diagnosis to be determined, certain criteria that characterize the symptoms must be satisfied. They are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Conditions and work like a high-functioning depression test (DSM-5). Though often less severe, many of the symptoms are comparable to those used to diagnose serious depression.
The first need for PDD is that a person has had a low mood on the majority of days and for the most of the day for at least two years. Two or more of these signs of depression must be present:
  • Reduced appetite or excessive eating.
  • Sleep apnea or excessive sleep.
  • Weariness and a lack of energy.
  • Decreased sense of self
  • Having trouble focusing and making decisions.
  • Sad and hopeless feelings
There are a few more requirements that must be completed in addition to these symptoms, which typically result in depression:
  • The above symptoms of depression must be present on the majority of days for at least two years without a break in depression lasting more than two months.
  • The person has never gone through a phase of mania or hypomania, an unusually upbeat and happy state of mind.
  • There isn’t a medical diagnosis, substance abuse, or another mental illness that can explain the symptoms of depression more effectively.
  • The depressive symptoms and mood must significantly upset the person and impair one or more aspects of normal functioning.
  • A PDD patient might also fit the bill for major depression.

Depression with High Functioning Can Be Treated

Although PDD may not be as serious or crippling as major depression, it nonetheless impairs function and reduces enjoyment of life. Anyone should not have to endure ongoing depression when there are viable solutions available. Getting a diagnosis is the first step in receiving treatment for high-functioning depression. If a person is unaware that their poor mood is genuinely a mental disorder that may be treated, it might be challenging to do this. It is helpful when close family members can see potential problems.
PDD can be treated with a mix of medication and treatment once it has been identified. While it takes a few weeks for antidepressants to start working, they can assist improve mood. Finding the right medication could also require a few trials with several ones. Through teaching patients how to identify and actively change harmful thought patterns, therapy aids in the treatment of PDD. Even though outpatient therapy can be helpful, residential treatment programs’ intensive, targeted, and comprehensive therapy are better suited to the needs of many PDD patients.
It can be difficult to spot the symptoms of high-functioning depression. It is a sneaky mental disorder that hides underneath one’s capacity for functioning. It is difficult to acknowledge that there is a genuine, underlying mental illness, even for the person experiencing these feelings. Receiving treatment can increase quality of life, mood, and functioning as well as improve outlook and general quality of life, making it imperative to seek help.

Signs of a Major Depressive Episode

PDD patients are also susceptible to spells of significant depression. In reality, the majority of PDD sufferers will experience one such episode at least once in their lifetimes. Some PDD sufferers may feel as though their chronic, mild depression could suddenly turn severe at any moment. Despite the similarities and possibility of co-occurrence between the two illnesses, there are several notable variances.
Duration and severity are two crucial variations. While major depression occurs in bouts that are shorter-lived but still last at least two weeks, PDD endures for at least two years. When a major depressive episode is present, the symptoms are comparable but more severe.
The distinction between functioning is also important. When a significant depressive episode occurs, a person with PDD will no longer operate at a typical level. They might start to perform worse at work or school, be unable to finish specific tasks, forego activities they usually take part in, retreat socially, or even neglect self-care and personal cleanliness.
Finally, there are a few extra signs and symptoms that can show up during a significant depressive episode. Major depression can also result in lack of interest in activities typically liked, intense feelings of guilt, changes in emotional affect, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors in addition to many of the same symptoms that are only more severe. A depressive episode may, in rare instances, even result in psychotic symptoms like paranoia.


There is a lot we don’t understand about mental health. But what we do know is that there are simply too many people who suffer from anxiety and depressive illnesses for our society to continue to be in the dark about them.
I’m not lazy, antisocial, or a horrible friend or mother because I’m depressed. And even though I’m capable of a lot, I’m not unbeatable. I am aware that I require assistance and a safety net.
And That’s fine too.

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