9 Signs of High-Functioning Depression


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Page last updated: 20/10/2022

9 Signs of High-Functioning Depression

Hey Optimist Minds!

Did you know that ‘High-Functioning Depression’ isn’t really a recognised clinical condition? The term is popularly used to describe a condition where you experience many of the symptoms of clinical depression but you’re still functional enough to not qualify for an official diagnosis.

Like all mental disorders, depression can only be diagnosed if the individual going through it is significantly impaired in important areas of functioning like school, work, social life, and self-care. If a person can still get by with these responsibilities and yet feels depressed, the term high-functioning depression may be applicable.

People often confuse this with persistent depressive disorder, also known as dysthymia. However, this is a diagnosable disorder that is a mild but long-term form of depression. Since this condition also features periods of more functionality, people mistakenly use it interchangeably with high-functioning depression.

High-functioning disorder isn’t listed in the DSM and many clinicians discourage the use of this term. Nevertheless, if you think you might have developed this condition, here are nine signs to confirm your doubts. We recommend consulting a mental health professional to figure out how to recover from it.

Let’s begin.


You have periodic phases of feeling extreme sadness.

Do you tend to have episodes that look a lot like depression? You might start feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. As a result, you’ll probably struggle to get work done. 

You might even find it hard to get out of bed. Nevertheless, eventually, you feel less awful and manage to get back to your routine. As time passes, this cycle repeats itself.


Every now and then, your sleep suffers.

Are there times when you suddenly start neglecting sleep and rest? Perhaps it begins with sleeping later than usual and gradually leads to insufficient hours of sleep on a daily basis. 

Maybe you have disturbed or broken sleep and wake up feeling not rested enough. You might even get into the habit of procrastinating sleep to do things you like because your daytime routine gives you no control over your activities.


If something triggering happens, you crumble.

Normally, you somehow manage to get through your day without too many problems. But when life throws a curveball your way, you can’t handle it. It forces you to take a break from everything and spend all your time either crying or feeling horrible. After that happens, it takes you a couple of days to get back to normal.


You bounce back to work when panicked.

Another sign of high-functioning depression is the ability to show resilience when required. Let’s imagine that you’re going through a depressive episode and you can’t function much. 

Consequently, your work keeps piling up and creates more pressure on you to perform. As the amount of panic you’re feeling keeps increasing, you find a way to snap out of it and finish all important tasks. Once it’s done, you fall back into the rut of low mood and lower productivity.

9 Signs of High-Functioning Depression


When you’re feeling blue, you socially withdraw.

Do you sometimes feel so sad that you lose all interest in other people? This is a typical sign of depression as the disorder makes it extremely difficult to connect and interact with others. In high-functioning depression, this can feel like a switch that goes on and off based on your current emotional state. On some days, it’s easier to mingle and bond but when you’re having an episode, you feel isolated and alienated from the world.


You’re angry all the time.

Anger is a secondary emotion that usually shows us as a disguise for other feelings like sadness, frustration, fear, loneliness, exhaustion, stress, embarrassment, and more. 

People with high-functioning depression have trouble processing their emotions in healthy ways. Because of that, they might react to their hidden deeper feelings with anger.


Your self-talk can get pretty negative.

When you have high-functioning depression, you might be able to come up with compliments for yourself but most of the time, your mind says very negative things about you. 

The constant commentary inside your head calls you mean names, points out your flaws and demotivates you. Sometimes you’re able to lower the volume of this narration but at other times, your inner voice uses a megaphone to bring you down.


You take substances to drown your negative feelings.

Many people who are inclined to become depressed temporarily deny their condition through addictions. You might smoke, drink, or do drugs to suppress any intense emotions you’re feeling inside. 

Coping in this way lets you feel like you’ve got it under control but that’s not true. Some people might even replace substances with food or the internet to deal with their feelings in similar ways.


You often think about suicide or self-harm.

You might tell yourself that you’re never going to actually do it but the thoughts still linger in your mind. It feels like using the fantasy of death as an escape or coping mechanism. If you’re taking things one day at a time because you can’t stop such thoughts, it’s likely you have high-functioning depression.

Were you able to relate to any of the signs we discussed here? Do you think you might have high-functioning depression? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

A link for further reading and the studies & references used in the making of this video are mentioned in the description below.

Thanks for visiting optimist minds, take care. Until next time.