High functioning depression, also called persistent depressive disorder, is similar to major depression, but the signs and symptoms are less severe. It causes a change in sleeping and eating habits, fatigue, hopelessness, difficulty concentrating, and low self-esteem. A person with high functioning depression struggles almost every day and will experience constant low moods.
With this persistent depressive disorder, people function normally for the most part. They will still go to work or school, perform well at their tasks, handle responsibilities, and engage in social activities. Many times, people close to them don’t even realize they are struggling as they do so internally.
While the signs and symptoms of high functioning depression aren’t as severe as major depressive disorder, it can still have serious consequences. If left untreated, persistent depressive disorder decreases the quality of life.
Five Signs Of High Functioning Depression
Knowing the signs of high functioning depression can help you decide on a therapeutic approach to feeling better again soon.
1. They Are Extremely Critical
When someone is highly critical of themselves and others, it’s a sign of high functioning depression. Sometimes they will disguise the criticism as a joke, but it still hurts well-being. This negative mindset causes them to view everyone, including their boss, partner, and friends, critically and judgmentally.
It will seem like nothing is good enough for them and that the world is against them. The person doesn’t typically notice their criticism because they’re trying to suppress their emotions. This behavior often develops as a result of lacking self-confidence and a cycle of negative self-talk.
If you struggle with being extremely critical, you can make a beneficial life-long change. Start paying attention to your thoughts and the way you criticize others. As you recognize this behavior in yourself, make a conscious decision to change your thought process.
Practice positive affirmations and eliminating negative thoughts to help change your mindset. Every time you have a negative thought, replace it with a few positive ones. After a while, it will become a habit, and you will become less critical.
2. They Immerse Themselves in Work
Someone with high functioning depression might look like they are sailing through their work, but that isn’t truly the case. People with depression often beat themselves up over their work efforts and workload. They tend to be overachievers as they go through the motions and find comfort in the next task.
A depressed person often feels like work is a distraction from negative thoughts and feelings. They can ignore the issues going on in their life when they consume themselves with work-related tasks. Eventually, though, this unhealthy coping mechanism leads to stress and burnout.
How To Fix It
Start by considering how much time you spend at work. If it has been an extreme amount, think about the reason for working so much. Maybe it was just that you had too much on your plate, but if that isn’t the reason, it could be due to high-functioning depression.
To remedy this unhealthy coping strategy, you must assess and reflect. Once you realize that you’re running from your emotions, you must address those problems before moving forward. By handling the issues, you can work to overcome your depression.
3. They Turn To Unhealthy Survival Strategies
People that turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms to survive likely have high functioning depression. Sometimes they use narcotics or alcohol to help numb their depression. Other times, they become addicted to online games, gambling, or other distractions from their pain.
Depressed people might also gain or lose weight as overeating or restricting food could be a survival strategy. Anytime someone begins turning to methods that don’t improve the situation, it is an unhealthy survival strategy. These methods can come in any form, even being as simple as binge-watching movies or shows.
How To Fix It
If you find yourself doing any activity to numb the negative emotions, it could be an unhealthy survival strategy. When you feel that temptation, don’t give in. Instead, address your emotions head-on and work to figure out the cause.
As you address the reason for your depression, you can make beneficial changes in your life. These changes will lead to life-long improvement and overcoming your depression.
4. They Are Often Angry And Irritable
When someone gets angry or snaps over a small mistake, it could be a sign of depression. Minor inconveniences such as a change of plans often trigger anger in a depressed person, too. They will seem cranky all of the time and are prone to angry outbursts and disproportionate reactions to events.
How To Fix It
If you struggle with this, you can easily make a change. Anytime you feel like you are going to explode, take a deep breath and walk away.
Give yourself time before you react, and you will likely have a more reasonable reaction. When you respond appropriately, you won’t experience feelings of guilt or rumination later, helping to decrease your depression.
5. They Are Always Doing Something
Even when they have accomplished everything they aimed for that day, a depressed person will still feel like they are wasting time. They can’t pause their mind or spend time relaxing.
A person with high-functioning depression might feel the need to always stay busy. This habit is a sign that they are trying to avoid dealing with the real issue and having unpleasant thoughts. Depression causes them to be uncomfortable with slow periods because of the mindset that follows.
How To Fix It
Rather than filling every second of your day with activity, force yourself to experience downtime. As you do, allow your thoughts and feelings to flow freely, even if it is painful at first. When you permit yourself to recognize your emotions, you allow yourself to heal.
After you spend time feeling your emotions and thinking things through, switch your mindset to positive thoughts. Remind yourself that you can do anything you set your mind to, including overcoming depression. Then, create a plan for what you can do to fix your triggers.
6 Healthy Habits to Prevent High Functioning Depression
Adopting some of these positive new habits can help you beat the blues.
This gentle exercise incorporates meditation and physical movement. Yoga focuses on deep breathing and stretching and relieves symptoms of depression.
Not only does breathing and stretching help, but yoga can lead to an increase in serotonin levels, helping you feel happier. Plus, it leads to a decrease in monoamine oxidase, an enzyme that breaks down cortisol and neurotransmitters.
Meditation is a mental exercise and involves deep breathing or repeating an affirmation with a benefit in mind. While the Buddhist tradition of meditation focuses on spiritual enlightenment, there are other benefits, too. Now, meditation practice can focus on stress relief and relaxation, resulting in fewer symptoms of depression.
3. Healthy Eating
A healthy diet is a sure way to improve your overall well-being, including preventing high functioning depression. Start by cutting out junk food and limited foods with high levels of refined sugar and saturated fats. Implement more foods into your diet rich in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants.
Include foods rich in omega fatty acids such as fish, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and olive oil. Other foods you should regularly eat include:
- meat (or another source of amino acids)
- dairy products
- whole grains
4. Exercise Regularly
Regular exercise helps prevent depression as it increases your body’s natural production of antidepressants. Studies show that exercising three to five days each week for at least 30 minutes can alleviate depression symptoms without medication. Not only does it increase the release of mood-boosting chemicals, but it also helps you sleep better, furthering the benefits.
5. Implement a Healthy Sleep Routine
Getting enough sleep is essential to preventing high functioning depression. Create a bedtime routine that makes you feel calm and helps you unwind before laying down. Follow the same schedule each night to help your body naturally develop good sleeping habits.
It is important to mention that you shouldn’t include technology as part of your bedtime routine. The lights from electronics can disrupt your sleep routine and the quality of your rest.
6. Spend Time with People You Love
Spending time with the special people in your life can help prevent depression from setting in. Even when you feel like isolating yourself, enjoying time with your loved ones will boost your mood. Make sure the people you choose have a positive mindset and are supportive of you.
Be open with these people and keep an open mind if they give feedback. Their insight can help you cope with or address your life situations.
While the symptoms of high functioning depression aren’t as severe as other forms, it still poses a serious problem. When left untreated, the depression can manifest into something even worse, hindering a person’s ability to function. Additionally, there is also always the risk of suicide, so treating depression right away is essential.
If you notice any of these signs in yourself or someone close to you, don’t ignore them. Even if it doesn’t seem to interfere with life goals, it is doing more damage than you might realize. Seek help, and then try some lifestyle changes to ease and prevent depression.