What Everyone Should Know About High Functioning Depression

Hollywood often portrays characters with depression as withdrawn or unable to function in society, but in reality, the symptoms of depression can vary from person to person.

While some people may find it difficult to get out of bed, others with depression can go about their normal daily routine, smiling, laughing and taking care of responsibilities. To an outsider, the person may seem like he or she has it “together.” On the inside though, the person may have signs of high functioning depression.

Here’s what you should know about this often hidden health condition.

What Is High Functioning Depression?

Sometimes called “smiling” depression, the condition occurs when you appear happy, successful and accomplished on the outside, but inside you struggle with sadness, turmoil and feelings of inadequacy. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, high functioning depression is atypical, and some people may be surprised to find out they are actually experiencing symptoms of depression.

Signs of High Functioning Depression

People with high functioning depression essentially wear a mask. They hide behind a smile, a successful career and a stable social life. They may continue to participate in extracurricular activities, maintain a job and care for their families, even though they struggle with internal turmoil.

People with high functioning depression may feel:

  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Despair
  • Hopelessness
  • Low self-esteem

People with smiling depression may also experience panic attacks, insomnia, a loss of libido, a lack of interest in hobbies and activities and in some cases, suicidal thoughts. However, loved ones, colleagues and friends may never realize there’s a problem that needs treatment.

How Is Low Functioning Depression Different?

People with classic or low functioning depression may find it difficult to work, maintain daily responsibilities and continue normal social interactions. They may lack energy and exhibit other outward symptoms that clearly indicate a problem.

Symptoms can include:

  • Feelings of sadness, worthlessness or emptiness
  • Frustration, irritability and outbursts over even insignificant matters
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Lack of energy
  • Fluctuations in appetite
  • Trouble thinking and slowed body movements
  • Unexplained physical concerns like back pain and headaches

Is There Treatment for High Functioning Depression?

High functioning depression is a very treatable condition. Counseling or psychotherapy can help some people. Others might need an antidepressant medication. Making an appointment with your family physician is a good place to start. He or she can direct you to the appropriate resources.

Some people with depression function so well that no one realizes they’re struggling on the inside. But high functioning depression is a serious condition that needs to be treated by a medical professional. Learn the signs so you can seek help for yourself or a loved one.

Advice or recommendations are for informational or educational purposes only, not a substitute for a visit or consultation with your doctor.

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