Recognizing High Functioning Depression

Scrolling through Facebook, we see images of our friends glowing about recent trips or safe gatherings, see a perfectly plated food, beautiful children, and glorious vistas. “They’re doing great,” we assume. But what lies beneath the photographed smiles? Is everyone who posts genuinely happy? Unfortunately, the Facebook façade may not reveal what some folks are really feeling.

It has been challenging at home, work, plus topping it off with a global pandemic hasn’t made it any easier. During late June 2020, a full 40% of US adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse.

When we talk about depression, there’s a stereotypical image of a person unable to function, paralyzed by the weight of the diagnosis, overcome with sadness, and unable to push forward. However, just as each person is different, so are the capabilities of someone suffering from depression. In fact, many people with depression can be categorized as “high functioning.”

“Depression and anxiety can mean different things to different individuals,” Jim Denning, Founder of the Denning Center, explains. “At the Denning Center we see high functioning depression in various forms and length. The question is: how much does it interfere with our daily lives?”

Suffering in Silence

Those diagnosed with high functioning depression are often suffering in silence. They might appear quite healthy and put-together on the outside, but their outward appearance often hides the truth of what’s happening inside. They may still be able to accomplish tasks and goals, but their depression is always living beneath the surface, often with the sadness breaking through only in a moment of solitude.

As noted on Psycom, the Catch-22 of high functioning depression is that sufferers often believe that since they can push through their sadness while barely missing a step, it would be indulgent to seek help. But that’s like believing one’s own happy-on-the-surface social media status updates.

Sometimes people suffering from depression feel the need to “fake it” by putting on a smile, getting the work done, meeting goals. Outwardly, they’re making it all happen, while inside they may be suffering deeply. Unfortunately, the people around them may not recognize the pain they’re in.

Many cities in the US have limited mental health programs and gaining access to services can present an additional hurdle. If you’re getting through the day, maintaining relationships and employment, it might be more challenging to access mental health services.

For many people with high functioning depression, there are good days and bad days. On a good day, you feel energized and able to handle your workload, relationships and coping strategies. Bad days, however, can be crippling and exhausting, requiring an enormous amount of energy to get through. In addition to trying to maintain focus, you’re also trying to maintain the façade and constantly questioning your ability to deliver and perform. Days are often spent just trying to get to the time and place to release all that pent-up emotion.

For people who are used to putting on a happy face, admitting that they’re struggling can be difficult. But reaching out for help is the first and most important step towards recovery. Many people with depression do recover once they receive the support they need.

Finding a Functioning Solution

Depression recovery comes in many forms. A visit to a medical professional is always a good idea to rule out any major medical circumstances that may be impacting mood and behavior. High functioning depression can be challenging to diagnose as symptoms can be more challenging to describe or detect. Regardless of your level of functionality, seek the help of a licensed therapist can help you determine the best treatment.

In the San Antonio area, Jim Denning at The Denning Center has helped many patients find freedom from depression. He is known for Accelerated Resolution Therapy and treating anxiety and depression. Contact The Denning Center to schedule an appointment or call 210-369-8368 for to speak with someone.