The word “depression” brings to mind a certain set of images. You might think of someone crying, isolated, or confining themselves to their bed, room, or home rather than going out and meeting other people. Certainly, all of those could describe someone with depression, but depression doesn’t always look like you think it should, either.
A person with depression could look like the person you see in the gym every time you go there, working their hardest to maintain their shape. They could look like the stay-at-home mom who never has unfolded laundry or dishes cluttering her sink. They could look like your coworker who is always ready to take on a new project or help you meet a last-minute deadline. In short, they could be anyone, doing anything. Depression affects different personality types differently, and some people develop high-functioning depression.
What Is High-Functioning Depression?
Living with functional depression is perhaps more difficult because it looks so little like the stereotype of depression. People with high-functioning depression struggle just as much as other forms of depression. But unlike the more obvious forms of depression, people with high-functioning depression may also struggle to have their feelings acknowledged and validated.
Those around them may believe that they can’t be depressed because they don’t look or act in ways that fit the stereotype of depression. They may be told to push through it or get over it by friends and family who think they must only be describing a minor case of the blues because their loved ones don’t think they look or act depressed enough. They may have trouble getting diagnosed or getting referrals to mental health professionals because they don’t present with obvious signs of depression. They may even begin to question themselves, wondering if they’re struggling as much as they think.
All types of depression put sufferers at risk for suicide, and the extra layer of difficulty that those with high-functioning depression experience may add additional risk. Whether you’re a person with high-functioning depression or care about somebody with high-functioning depression, understanding the symptoms can help ensure that whoever is suffering gets the care, help, and support they need.
Symptoms of High-Functioning Depression
Some of the symptoms of high-functioning depression are the same as those of other forms of depression. People with high-functioning depression may feel:
- Loss of interest in regular activities
- Lack of energy
- Low self-esteem
- Difficulty concentrating
- Guilt and worry
- Difficulty eating or sleeping
- Avoidance of social activities
They may also seek perfection in their look or activities. For example, they may always have their hair or makeup looking just right, choose the right outfit for any occasion, keep their inbox at work empty because they’re always on top of their projects, and have the cleanest kitchen floor on the block at home.
What separates those with high-functioning depression is that their symptoms don’t incapacitate them. They get up and go to work, take care of the kids, or clean the house, or do whatever else they need to do with their day. A person with a different form of depression might be so incapacitated by the feelings that they can’t bring themselves to get out of bed or leave the house, or if they do, they might be sad, angry, or struggling. A person with high-functioning depression might be able to hide their suffering completely – even if they don’t necessarily want to.
Getting Treatment for High-Functioning Depression
Again, many people find it challenging to get treatment for high-functioning depression. The “high-functioning” part of the disorder can be a barrier to treatment. But high-functioning depression, like other forms of depression, doesn’t resolve itself. And it can become a death sentence if left untreated. Therefore, it’s important for people who recognize high-functioning depression in themselves to reach out for help, and if you recognize it in someone you care about, it’s important to support that person in their effort to get help.
Functional depression is typically treated with a combination of therapy and medication. Of course, different cases may require different medications or combinations, but it’s usually not recommended for patients to take medications for depression without the therapy, and it’s the therapy that tends to be associated with lower rates of a resurgence of the depression later.
People being treated for high-functioning depression need to understand that medications may take some time to kick in, and the dosage or the medication might need to be adjusted before they find the one that works best for them. In the meantime, therapy and support from their loved ones are crucial parts of a successful treatment plan.
Supporting Someone With High Functioning Depression
Often, one of the most important things you can do to support someone with high-functioning depression is to believe them when they tell you they’re depressed. Don’t tell them that they can’t be suffering when they say that they are.
Educate yourself about depression and high-functioning depression. Understanding the condition and symptoms can help you give your loved ones better support.
It can also help to find specific ways to offer support. Instead of saying, “I’m here for you if you need me,” say, “I can bring you dinner tomorrow,” or “I’m available to go with you to your doctor’s appointment next week.” You’ll need to understand what kind of help works for them to offer this kind of support, but people who have high-functioning depression may not naturally want to ask for these kinds of things, even if you offer more generalized support, so telling them that you’re prepared to do a specific thing to help can make a difference.
With the right support and treatment, people suffering from high-functioning depression can recover the happiness and contentment that should be part of their lives. To find out more about how to help yourself or someone else through depression or a different affliction, contact The Heights.
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