3 Things People With High-Functioning Depression Wish Others Understood


What is depression? It is a serious mood disorder. It makes doing everyday things difficult. There are different levels of severity of depression. Some people find it almost impossible, if not impossible, to function on a day to day basis. Others might function well in most situations but can have a depressive episode triggered by anything. Whether it is if someone criticizes your work, disagrees with you or even raises their voice. Some people, like me, have high-functioning depression.

What do you think depression is? Most people think of depression as a state of sadness and that’s it. Depression is so much more than sadness. Depression can take many forms of emotions, sad, irritable, angry, inconsolable or anxious. Depression is so much more than a general definition you might find online.

But, there is such a thing as high-functioning depression. What is high-functioning depression? My definition is being in a depressed state but able to live your life in a “normal” way. It is when someone is depressed, but they are able to get out of bed. They are able to work full time or go to school. It is being in a depressed state but able to function well. People just deal with depression differently. What do people need to know about people with high-functioning depression?

First, high-functioning depression seriously concerns psychiatrists. If someone has a great life, why would they kill themselves? They have no reason to, right? Their life is wonderful. Wrong. People with high-functioning depression need others to know that:

1. We are extremely hard on ourselves.

We are constantly fighting an internal battle of self-hatred. If we mess up, even on something small, we beat ourselves up for a long time. We think of ourselves as the worst person in the world. We don’t always think about things logically.

Someone with high-functioning depression might go shopping, buy a small something for their personal enjoyment and then beat themselves up about it for the rest of the day or even days after. Why? Well, usually we don’t think we deserve anything for ourselves. We have a low view of ourselves and we take it out on ourselves. Loved ones can tell us how great we are but we don’t believe them. We can always find something wrong with ourselves.

2. We feel that we waste a lot of time.

If someone has high-functioning depression, then we feel the need to be busy all of the time. There is a problem with that. We can not relax. We do not allow ourselves to relax. Some of us don’t even know what relaxes us. Maybe nothing does. People like this might sit down and watch their favorite show but are thinking of all the things they could be doing instead of “wasting time.” We feel like time spent not working is not good for us. We are constantly “fixing” things that do not need to be fixed.

3. We thrive at work and/or school.

We might be depressed, miserable and have a crippling hatred of ourselves, but we can perform as well as anyone else. Many people with high-functioning depression find they are top-notch employees or students. People tend to overlook people like this and never think they might have a severe internal struggle going on.

There is such a stereotype of depression that people only look for people who are constantly sad. They never think the employee who “has it all together” would ever be depressed. The student that makes all A’s in school couldn’t be depressed. We function well in situations and are constantly looked over.

The problem with people like this is while we might be doing fantastic, we think we could always be doing better. We are always looking to improve ourselves. We beat ourselves up over a 98 on a test because we didn’t get a 100. If we are told by our bosses that there is something we could improve upon, then it destroys us.

High-functioning depression is a dangerous disorder. People who struggle with this get looked over a lot and people do not realize the seriousness of it. People might not understand why someone who has a “great life” would struggle with depression. Just because we don’t show it on the outside does not mean we are not just as depressed.

Depression has a stigma already we need to fight. We need to inform people of the different types of depression. People with high-functioning depression want people to know we are struggling too, whether or not you understand why. Please, don’t overlook us.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Related: Mental Health on The Mighty Podcast


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