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Symptoms of High-Functioning Depression

7 Signs You are Dealing with High-Functioning Depression

Writen By: Faiza Saifur
Reviewed By: Huma Khan
Publish Date: July 3, 2024

Wondering what could be the symptoms of high-functioning depression? In today’s world, where success and achievement are highly valued, it’s easy to overlook the silent struggle endured by those suffering from high-functioning depression. Behind the masks of fake happiness, lies a complex emotional landscape that often goes unnoticed.

High-functioning depression, also known as dysthymia, smiling depression, or hidden depression, is a form of depression that may not be directly noticeable to others. Individuals may seem to be going about their everyday lives regularly, but they are dealing with depressive symptoms that can negatively affect their mental health and well-being.

Consistent feelings of sadness, anxiousness, or loneliness, low self-esteem, trouble focusing, exhaustion, sleeplessness, and a loss of interest in once-pleasurable activities are some of the signs of high-functioning depression. Although these symptoms might not be serious enough to prevent someone from working or socializing, they can nonetheless have a significant influence on someone’s quality of life.

Get support if you believe you or a loved one may be suffering from this widespread but controllable type of depression. Discover more by reading on. We’ll examine the mental and physical symptoms of high-functioning depression.  

What is High-Functioning Depression?

According to research Clinical depression is a concept that most individuals are acquainted with. Individuals with that diagnosis frequently display symptoms that are easy to recognize as being a part of the condition. You might, however, be unhappy with yourself even if you seem fine to your friends and family. Even if you can manage to smile your way through social events, you could discover that you always feel exhausted. Although high-functioning depression is not a clinical diagnosis, the word is often used to portray someone who has less severe symptoms of depression.

While some conditions of depression cause people to lose their ability to function in their daily lives, high-functioning depression stands apart. People with this particular type of depression often manage to maintain employment, sustain relationships, and fulfill their other responsibilities. The term “high-functioning depression” means that people find it easier to conceal their mild or severe symptoms, although this type of depression still adds complexity to their lives and relationships.

Many individuals diagnosed with high-functioning depression also receive a diagnosis of Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD), which is also known as Dysthymic Disorder. This enduring form of depression manifests with mild to moderate symptoms. Individuals with PDD may experience major depressive episodes, during which their symptoms become more severe.

Symptoms of High-Functioning Depression

A mental health professional should be consulted by anyone who believes they may be experiencing the symptoms of any type of depression, including high-functioning depression. They are capable of accurately diagnosing PDD or other mental diseases if they are present in a patient. PDD, often known as high-functioning depression, frequently manifests as:

1. Persistent low mood

People with high-functioning depression frequently experience a prolonged and persistent low mood or sadness that may or may not be triggered or caused by an obvious trigger or cause. Even when things appear to be going well in their lives, they may feel down, blue, or emotionally empty for extended periods.

2. Fatigue and lack of Energy

Individuals with high-functioning depression frequently experience chronic fatigue and a lack of energy, despite appearing functional on the outside. They may feel physically and mentally exhausted, finding it difficult to muster the energy required to participate in activities or even carry out routine tasks.

3. Loss of interest

A significant symptom of high-functioning depression is a loss of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyable activities. Hobbies, social interactions, and even romantic relationships may become less appealing. The individual may no longer find satisfaction or joy in activities that they previously found fulfilling.

4. Changes in appetite or weight

Some people with high-functioning depression may experience appetite changes. They may experience a decrease in appetite, which results in weight loss, or an increase in appetite, which results in weight gain. These fluctuations may reflect their emotional state and contribute to feelings of distress or dissatisfaction with their body.

5. Sleep disturbances

Sleep patterns are frequently disrupted by high-functioning depression. Individuals may have difficulty falling asleep, awaken frequently throughout the night, or wake up earlier than desired and find it difficult to return to sleep. These sleep disturbances can exacerbate fatigue and have an impact on overall well-being.

6. Social disengagement

A common reaction to high-functioning depression is social withdrawal. Some people choose isolation above social engagement, isolating themselves and avoiding connections with others. They could feel distant from those around them and struggle to connect with or express their actual emotions out of fear of being judged or misunderstood.

7. High self-expectations

People with high-functioning depression frequently hold themselves to unreasonably high standards. They could have high expectations for their behavior, appearance, or accomplishments and become excessively critical of themselves when they don’t meet those standards. This constant self-criticism can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and feed a vicious cycle of self-blame.

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.
  • The depressive symptoms and mood must significantly upset the person and impair one or more aspects of normal functioning.
  • A PDD patient might potentially meet the criteria for serious depression.

Causes of High-Functioning Depression

  • Genetic factors: Having a family history of depression can make someone more likely to experience symptoms of high-functioning depression.
  • Environmental factors: Stressful life events, like difficult relationships, work pressure, or financial problems, can contribute to high-functioning depression.
  • Personality traits: Being a perfectionist or always trying to do more can increase the risk of high-functioning depression.
  • Coping mechanisms: Ignoring or hiding emotions instead of dealing with them can lead to high-functioning depression.
  • Societal expectations: Feeling pressured to always be successful, happy, and productive can cause internal conflicts and contribute to developing symptoms of high-functioning depression.
  • Chronic Health Issues: Ongoing health problems or chronic pain can increase the risk of developing high-functioning depression due to the constant physical and emotional strain they cause.

How Does Living with High-Functioning Depression Feel?

  • 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 if 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 have no hunger or overeat without acknowledging it, which results in gaining or losing weight without planning to.
  • You might frequently feel helpless or cry a lot for no apparent, valid reason.
  • You function satisfactorily at work or school, but it is challenging and you have trouble focusing.
  • You have to push yourself to interact with others when you would rather avoid them.
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Is High-Functioning Depression a Depressive Disorder?

According to research.

“High-functioning depression is a term used to portray someone who, despite having the signs of depression, can behave well in various aspects of life, like work, school, home, and relationships. They may have milder indications of a depressive disorder or conceal their depression entirely”.

Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)

“Individuals who are high functioning but also have symptoms of low mood may be experiencing a mild version of depression called Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD), which is diagnosable and treatable. PDD, formally named Dysthymic Disorder, refers to long-term depressive signs that seem to be constant and ongoing”.

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

“High-functioning depression may be connected to an episode of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). Even with severe depression symptoms, a person may be able to function normally for a while. However, major depressive episodes will eventually make maintaining a high level of functioning extremely difficult.”

Do you need to worry after Finding Symptoms of High-Functioning Depression?

High-functioning depression is a real condition that, if untreated, can have negative effects. Officially known as Persistent Depressive Disorder PDD, high-functioning depression is a diagnosis. PDD sufferers display many of the same symptoms as depressed people, albeit to a lesser extent. 

As a result, they 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 identify this sort of depression in oneself as well as in others. A person with PDD appears healthy to those around them. The guy is battling on the inside. Although it might not appear as harmful as major depression, high-functioning depression should still be recognized and cared for. PDD can make living difficult and reeducate quality of life, although therapy and self-management can help.

Treatment for High Functioning Depression


Psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can be effective in treating high-functioning depression. It helps individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns, develop healthy coping strategies, and improve self-esteem.


Antidepressant medications may be prescribed by a healthcare professional to help manage symptoms of high-functioning depression. It is important to consult with a doctor or psychiatrist to determine the appropriate medication and dosage.

Lifestyle Changes

Adopting a healthy lifestyle can have a positive impact on high-functioning depression. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, sufficient sleep, and stress management techniques (such as mindfulness or relaxation exercises) can all contribute to improved mood and overall well-being.

Social Support

Building a strong support network is crucial for individuals with symptoms of high-functioning depression. Seeking support from trusted friends, family members, or support groups can provide emotional understanding and encouragement.

Self-Care Practices

Engaging in self-care activities that promote relaxation, self-compassion, and enjoyment can help alleviate symptoms of high-functioning depression. This can include activities like practicing hobbies, spending time in nature, or engaging in activities that bring joy and fulfillment.

Top 5 books for coping with High-Functioning Depression.

“Feeling Good”

This book provides practical techniques based on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to overcome negative thinking patterns and improve overall mood.

“The Happiness Trap”

Exploring acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) principles, this book helps individuals break free from the cycle of high expectations and find fulfillment in the present moment.

“The Upward Spiral”

Combining scientific insights with actionable strategies, this book offers ways to create positive changes in your brain and overcome depression.

“The Mindful Way Through Depression”

Introducing mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), this book provides tools for managing depressive thoughts and emotions.

“Lost Connections”

Exploring societal factors that contribute to depression, this book offers alternative treatment approaches, emphasizing the importance of connection and meaningful relationships.


1. What is the difference between high-functioning depression and traditional depression?

High-functioning depression has symptoms that are comparable to those of major depression but are less severe. Changes in eating and sleeping patterns, poor self-esteem, weariness, despondency, and difficulties focusing are all possible symptoms.

2. What does “High-Functioning” in mental health mean?

High-functioning mental illness implies being able to go about your daily life as if there isn’t a mental battle going on or terror coursing through your body. High-functioning mental illness, like any other mental disease, is taxing, stressful, and difficult to manage.

3. How do you deal with major depression?

There are many things that people can do to help lessen the symptoms of depression. Many people find that regular exercise lifts their spirits and makes them feel better. Depression symptoms can also be lessened by maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough sleep on a regular basis, and abstaining from alcohol, which is a depressant.


High-functioning depression can be extremely difficult, even though it doesn’t always seem to affect a person’s capacity to operate. Even if someone manages their daily commitments, sadness frequently makes even routine, easy chores more difficult.

Some sufferers of high-functioning depression claim they feel pressured to hide and mask their symptoms. This may make them feel alone and worsen their problems. Some might be hesitant to discuss their issues because they believe their symptoms aren’t “that awful.”

Also, many people who suffer from high-functioning depression believe they are not ill enough to need treatment. In the end, this keeps individuals from receiving assistance for their problems. Many people experience high-functioning pressure in silence since the symptoms aren’t as visible. Yet, hiding symptoms might have a cost. Many patients discover that their symptoms get worse over time without assistance.

If you or someone you know is suffering from high-functioning depression know that help and support are available. Depression is treatable and different approaches are taken by mental health professionals to help you get rid of it.