How To Recognize High-Functioning Depression

Like other facets of mental health disorders and conditions, understanding high-functioning depression can be tricky. Since people experience symptoms differently, it might be difficult to understand if someone is just having a bad day or going through a difficult bout of depression. And since depressive episodes can last anywhere from a few days to several months, the situation can be even more confusing. But recognizing signs of high-functioning depression, whether we recognize them in others or in our own behavior, is one way to improve the situation. I’ve put together a list, based on personal experience and the advice of others, about some of the ways high-functioning depression can show up in our lives.

Before I continue, I want to note that while these are symptoms or actions that can be connected to high-functioning depression, just because someone shows them doesn’t mean you should diagnose them or confront them with labels. Just because someone ‘seems’ down or looks ‘sad’ doesn’t give us the right to decide what they’re going through. Instead, I want to look at situations that people can recognize so that they can receive help, love and support however they need – because it’s what we all deserve.

Possible Signs of High-Functioning Depression

There are some symptoms of depression that are easier to spot than others, but a lot of that ability to recognize depends on how educated we are to look for them. Exhibiting these symptoms in the long-term can have debilitating effects on a person’s psyche and lower their quality of life. These signs and symptoms include:

You feel a little down most of the time. Other people may refer to you as gloomy, cynical, or a downer. There is a difference between being called gloomy because of a previous event, and being referred to as the one who is always a ‘downer.’ If that’s the case, maybe it’s time to figure out what’s going on.

A low mood is almost always present, and it feels like you never get relief. My depressed thoughts are dormant in my mind, but they’re always present. If this is a new feeling, you feel like you can never escape it. If someone expresses that they never feel like they have relief, it’s important to find a way to get that feeling out in the open.

It may seem like you are lazy, but you just can’t summon the energy to do more than is necessary to function at a normal level. This seems complicated, but when a simple task feels like it’s the most difficult in the world, there’s usually a reason for that.

Doing everything you’re ‘supposed to do’ in life seems like a monumental effort. As a friend once told me, ‘existing is hard.’ For a long time, I assumed that everyone struggled with day-to-day tasks because it’s so hard to do when you’re spending all day thinking negative thoughts. Now, I know that’s not the case, and I can adjust accordingly.

Having difficulty concentrating or making decisions. Since this is one of my most prominent symptoms, I feel more confident speaking on this. There are plenty of reasons for why people have difficulty concentrating, and depression isn’t always the reason for that. But if someone continuously can’t remember things, or making decisions is terrifying, that reflects a thought pattern that exists and might need to be explored.

Doing ‘Well Enough’ Is Not Enough

Another important thing to note about high-functioning depression is that people’s internal struggles are often explained away by a person being told (or a person telling themselves) that whatever is going on is not a big deal because they’re doing ‘well enough’ in life. The more I learned about mental health, the more I understood that what I see and experience other people doing is only a small part of their story. You never know what’s going on in someone’s head, and thinking that they ‘seem’ fine can’t cut it anymore.

I seemed fine for years. People I know seemed fine for years. But we were struggling, hurting, feeling pain every single day. Most of us still are. But asking someone how they’re doing and being able to listen based on actions you’ve seen in someone – or what you’ve seen in yourself – is a place to start. It’s easy to fall into thinking that once you talk to someone, you have a responsibility to solve their problem. It’s an easy thought to have. But I want to challenge you to break out of that mindset. When I talk with people about my mental health, I’m not looking for you to solve my problem. I’m just hoping you’ll listen. And when people listen to what you have to say, you feel a little less alone.

Have you noticed symptoms of high-functioning depression in others? How did you respond? Let me know in the comments. Signs and symptoms for this post were inspired and used from Bridges to Recovery and Medical News Today. Thank you for writing about this important topic!


7 thoughts on “How To Recognize High-Functioning Depression

  1. Mentally Ill In America August 27, 2020 / 1:54 pm

    I think it’s quite easy to label people, and more difficult to actually spark a more meaningful conversation with them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. August 27, 2020 / 2:40 pm

    I agree that being able to listen is the best skill we can have when someone we know is experiencing depression. Just listen (actively), and be there for the person, without judgment or expectation! Great post Nathan and thank you for sharing your personal reflection and insight.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nathan @ MBNB August 28, 2020 / 2:53 pm

      Thanks for that! It helps to hear from people who understand how important it is to listen because I know so many people who don’t want to do that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • August 28, 2020 / 6:13 pm

        I know what you mean – it winds me up no end when people don’t/won’t or can’t listen and just talk over others!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. quietpersonloudthoughts August 30, 2020 / 1:50 pm

    Such a good point about how asking someone how they are can often feel like taking on responsibility for solving their problems. I love having conversations about mental health so I do usually ask how people are, but I think I do also then feel a burden and the need to help them do something to feel better, which is not always actually helpful. Thank you for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Roshni September 28, 2020 / 8:56 am

    A very informative post on such a sensitive topic 👍


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