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Symptoms of High-Functioning Depression

Untreated depressive disorders can have a devastating impact on a person’s life, including high-functioning depression. Symptoms of high-functioning depression can prevent a person from doing well in school and performing to their full capacity at work. This can lead to job loss, unemployment, underemployment, financial difficulties, and a host of additional negative outcomes.

But not everyone who develops depression exhibits these external signs of struggle.

Some people are able to push past (or through) their symptoms in order to achieve what looks like personal and professional success. The informal term for what these people are experiencing is high-functioning depression. 

It is important to remember that external signifiers of success don’t cancel out the distress of depression. In the absence of effective treatment, the symptoms of high-functioning depression can cause considerable damage to a person’s health and well-being.

What is High-Functioning Depression?

High-functioning depression is an informal term. It is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is the standard reference book for clinicians in the United States.

If a person is described as having high-functioning depression, this likely means that they meet the following three general criteria:

  • They have developed a depressive disorder.
  • They have continued to meet or exceed expectations in school or at work.
  • They have not demonstrated many outward signs of depression-related distress.

Two of the most common types of depressive disorders are major depressive disorder and persistent depressive disorder (which was previously known as dysthymia).

Major depressive disorder is characterized by intense, debilitating symptoms that last for a period of at least two weeks. Persistent depressive disorder involves symptoms that are usually less intense, but that last for at least two years. People who have persistent depressive disorder may also have major depressive episodes.

Most people who have high-functioning depression probably have persistent depressive disorder. This means they have been experiencing symptoms for an extended period of time, but they have managed to find a way to function at work or in school. 

Symptoms of High-Functioning Depression

It can be difficult to recognize high-functioning depression symptoms. Most people who have this type of depression have found ways to mask their symptoms so they can continue to make academic progress or move forward in their careers.

However, the following signs and symptoms may indicate that a person has high-functioning depression:

  • They have trouble focusing, concentrating, and making decisions.
  • At the end of the day, they are physically exhausted and emotionally depleted.
  • They use alcohol or other drugs to relax or unwind.
  • It is extremely difficult for them to accept compliments or positive feedback.
  • No matter what they accomplish, they remain dissatisfied with their performance.
  • It is difficult for them to feel joy or experience pleasure.
  • If they have a setback at work, it diminishes their self-esteem.
  • They sleep either too much (hypersomnia) or not at all (insomnia).
  • They have unintentionally lost or gained weight due to changes in appetite and eating habits.

Not all symptoms of high-functioning depression are observable to others. 

For example, even though a person with high-functioning depression may continue to meet their personal and professional responsibilities, they may feel like even the smallest tasks require an incredible amount of energy and focus. 

Also, some people may use a gregarious, outgoing personality to hide the fact that they suffer from poor self-confidence and low self-esteem.

Treatment is helping this man who has high-functioning depression symptoms

Potential Effects of High-Functioning Depression

Untreated depression can have a negative impact on just about every part of a person’s life. Even if a person is able to hide their symptoms and attain what appears to be a desirable lifestyle, they remain at risk for effects such as the following:

  • Strained relationships with friends, family members, and colleagues
  • Physical health problems due to poor nutrition, inadequate sleep, or insufficient self-care
  • Onset or worsening of other mental health concerns
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • Suicidal behaviors

It cannot be emphasized enough that external evidence of success does not erase or ease the emotional distress of high-functioning depression. Even if a particular achievement brings about a momentary sense of joy, this will likely dissipate quickly. 

The best way to minimize a person’s risk for the negative effects of high-functioning depression is to connect them with effective professional treatment. With proper care, people can learn to manage the symptoms of high-functioning depression, which can empower them to experience improved quality of life and a sense of true inner peace.

Treatment Options for The Symptoms of High-Functioning Depression

Effective depression treatment in Atlanta often involves prescription medication and psychotherapy.

Medication can ease some symptoms of high-functioning depression, while therapy can help people replace negative thought and behavior patterns with healthier ways of thinking and acting.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) are examples of therapeutic modalities that can be beneficial for people who have high-functioning depression. 
  • If a person has a history of trauma, they may also benefit from eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.
  • Other services that may be appropriate include neurofeedback therapy, red light therapy, and biosound therapy.

Therapy for someone who has been living with high-functioning depression may include individual, group, and family sessions. 

Depending on the nature and severity of the symptoms that a person has been experiencing, the best care for them may include one or more of the following levels of care: residential treatment, partial hospitalization, an intensive outpatient program, or outpatient services. 

Treat High-Functioning Depression Symptoms in Atlanta, GA

Peachtree Wellness Solutions offers personalized care for adults in the Atlanta, Georgia, area who have been experiencing the symptoms of high-functioning depression. Our team is committed to providing customized services and comprehensive support within a safe and welcoming treatment environment. With our help, you can discover how truly wonderful life can be. Contact us today to learn more.