Living with High Functioning Depression

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High Functioning Depression affects millions of people around the world. While there is much conversation about the debilitating effects of depression, it is often overlooked that some people live with high-functioning depression. High-functioning depression is a form of depression that does not prevent individuals from leading successful lives and maintaining productive careers. It is a condition that is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed but can have serious long-term effects on an individual’s life. 

What Is High Functioning Depression?

Medically called dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder (PDD), this type of depression is a chronic, depressive condition characterized by a chronically low mood. It is generally milder than a major depressive disorder (MDD) but lasts for years. People with this condition find it can affect their mood, physical health, social life, and thoughts.

This type of depression is often referred to as high-functioning because it doesn’t permanently impair your ability to work or spend time with others. However, functioning depression still negatively impacts many aspects of your life.

Signs and Symptoms of High Functioning Depression

The key identifying factor of this type of depression, that sets it apart from other types, is that it lasts a long period of time yet doesn’t significantly impair day-to-day functioning. To be diagnosed with this form of depression, you usually need to experience two or more of these high functioning depression symptoms for two or more years.

  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Feeling sad or unhappy
  • Lacking energy and excitement
  • Diminished self-esteem
  • Eating too much or not enough
  • Trouble concentrating or remembering
  • Difficulty making decisions

What It’s Like to Live With Functional Depression

Unlike MDD, PDD doesn’t usually cause intense sorrow, fear, anger, or suicidal ideation. Because you’re still high functioning, you might not notice any significant problems with the five main areas of functioning: personal health, family life, social relationships, educational success, and occupational goals.

Instead of strong, negative emotions, you may find that everything feels vaguely unpleasant or uninteresting. Here are some familiar sensations that people with PDD report.

  • You often feel gloomy, pessimistic, or cynical
  • You constantly feel exhausted, but it has nothing to do with the amount of sleep you get
  • You worry you’re lazy because you can only muster enough energy for basic tasks
  • Daily responsibilities, like cleaning the house or going to school, feel excessively difficult
  • You often feel bored and unhappy even when your life is going how you want it to
  • You often feel like no one else understands you High Functioning Depression
  • You often have negative thoughts about yourself
High Functioning Depression

Treatment Options for This Type of Depression

Both PDD and MDD have the same general treatment options. Depending on your situation, your doctor might suggest you try one or both of these ways of recovering from High Functioning Depression.


You can get medication that helps adjust your brain chemistry and reduce symptoms of High Functioning Depression. There are a variety of antidepressants, and it can take some time to find one that works for you. Since PDD is a chronic condition, you might need to be on these medications for months or even years.


The other option is talk therapy. Therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy involve speaking with a professional about your feelings. They can help you explore your feelings and find healthy ways to process them. With help from your therapist, you can develop helpful coping skills and identify issues triggering depressive thoughts.

Lifestyle Changes for People With Depression

In addition to medical care, most people with functioning depression can benefit from lifestyle changes. Here are a few ways you can decrease stress and improve mental health.

  • To manage any difficulties with planning and focusing, try to break your big responsibilities into small, manageable tasks
  • Lightening your workload can give you more space to process things. Many high achievers are prone to depression, but taking a break can help
  • Make time for others. Even if it feels challenging, it can improve mental health to be with loved ones
  • Get regular exercise each week. If possible, exercise outdoors in a green environment
  • Take care of your health and eat nourishing meals
  • Be gentle with yourself. You can’t use sheer willpower to fight High Functioning Depression, so criticizing yourself is ineffective
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol even though they provide temporary relief. They often worsen depressive symptoms

At Mind Body Optimization, we provide compassionate, effective High Functioning Depression recovery. Our outpatient facility offers a variety of evidence-based treatments and holistic therapies that can provide relief to those with depression. In addition to depression treatment, we also specialize in managing a wide range of other mental health and substance use disorders. To learn more about our services, contact us today.