Are You Suffering from High-Functioning Depression?

Are You Suffering from High-Functioning Depression?
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It’s no longer a taboo to talk about mental illness, and more and more individuals admit that they’re suffering from all sorts of conditions. Depression is perhaps the most prevalent condition of all mental illnesses, and it’s estimated that roughly 3% of the total population in America suffers from depression at any given point of time. These figures relate to people who suffer from severe clinical depression with or without psychotic episodes that would require hospitalization (which isn’t always the case).

The symptoms of major depressive disorders are anxiety; loss of pleasure in otherwise pleasurful activities like eating, having sex, playing sports and such; recurring thoughts about death and suicide; inabillty to concentrate and perform normal tasks; feeling guilty and worthless; and suffering from unexplained pains and aches like in your back and neck.

However, a lot more people than you’d think suffer from high functioning depression - 6.7% of the total adult population. The “funny” thing about high-functioning depression is that many people aren’t even aware of suffering from it. The medical term for it is dysthymia, which translates to a persistent depressive disorder, low mood that’s occurring for two years or more with several symptoms of depression like the ones mentioned above.

The second “funny thing” about high-functioning depression is that a lot of people who suffer from it are high achievers and as the name of this condition hints, tend to function very well in life and society. That makes everyone think that there’s nothing wrong with these people. Therefore detecting dysthymia can be pretty hard.

How does it feel to live with high-functioning depression? 

Dysthymia is a chronic ongoing form of depression, and you might lose interest in daily activities, be unproductive, suffer from low self esteem and a feeling of hopelessness, and inability to feel happy even on seemingly happy and joyful occasions. You may come off as a negative person who always complains. In short, you live life normally like anyone else seems to do, but you’re unable to enjoy it. Unlike major depressive disorder, your bad mood can run from mild to severe, but you can still contain it and function.

Going untreated, high-functioning depression can progress to more severe forms of depression or other mental illnesses. In fact, it usually does, and people who suffer from ongoing dysthymia are very likely to suffer from a few episodes of depression over the course of their lives. You can take this short dysthymia test to find out if there’s a sound basis to believe that you suffer from high-functioning depression.

What are the causes of dysthymia?

Research is yet to find out what exactly causes chronic high-functioning depression. Similar to depression, genetics might be the biggest component. However, many who suffer from it won’t have a family history of depression. It’s believed that over-stressing, other chronic illnesses and pains, medication, and issues related to one’s personal and professional life are all big contributors to development of dysthymia.

How can you cure or deal with high-functioning depression?

The consensus is to combine psychotherapy with antidepressants. It’s highly advised to start with talk therapy first, and then consult your therapist about medication, as therapists will be much more knowledgeable on whether it’s needed or not, and also about the type of medication needed and dosage.

Talk therapy, whether online or in person is the first thing you should do. As many who suffer from persistent depressive disorder, you might find yourself feeling better when you keep busy (mainly at work), and think that you are lacking the time necessary for therapy. Luckily there are many online therapy platforms, and online therapists can also prescribe medication.

Medication should only be tried if you don’t see any improvement with your talk therapy sessions, as it usually takes a few weeks to gain the positive effects of it, and it can also take a few trials until you find the medicine that’ll work for you.

There are three types of antidepressants, serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Taking antidepressants can lead to numbness, erectile dysfunction, sleeping disorders, feeling sick, and more. So follow your therapist’s advice and consult him or her if you feel any negative effects. It is also fitting to see a urologist if there are problems in your sexual endeavors, professionals from Boston Medical Group would love to help you out.

Methods to keep your high-functioning depression at bay

Once you suspect that you have dysthymia, or even get diagnosed that you do, there are a few tricks, or change of habits that can help you mitigate the symptoms. It might not come as a surprise to you as most of these habits look like common sense, but they do work effectively as simple as they are:

  • Be aware - learn as much as you can about your condition, and learn to identify depressive patterns that have to do with your condition rather than reality. Self awareness seminars are a very powerful tool you could use. Meditation does wonders to your wellbeing as well.
  • Get out there - persistent depressive disorder tends to keep people isolated and inside. Go out, join a club or a social circle.
  • Do sports, ideally ones that call for group activities or involving partners.
  • Live a healthy life - eat well, and sleep well. Dysthymia tends to lower one’s self esteem, and you don’t want to start a vicious circle of neglect and self hatred.

Is there a social stigma against dysthymia?

There’s no social stigma per se, and usually it’s more of a self stigma, or people who suffer usually refuse to believe they do. It doesn’t help that society is mainly unaware of this situation and tends to waive the possibility of successful individuals suffering from depression.


There’s no reason why you should live with dysthymia, or high-functioning depression. It’s bearable in most cases but it’s not necessary. A life that can be enjoyable should be so, and also, if it goes untreated there’s a risk of worsening and lapsing. If you think that you or someone you know might suffer from dysthymia, don’t hesitate to get diagnosed or treated, or to advise the one you know to do so.