High functioning depression isn’t an actual diagnosis, it’s just more catchy than the real diagnostic term, “dysthymia” is.
Dysthymia is described in the DSM as “depressed mood for most of the day, for more days than not, as indicated by either subjective account or observation by others, for at least two years,” and includes the presence of two or more of the following symptoms, “Poor appetite or overeating; insomnia or hypersomnia; low energy or fatigue; low self-esteem; poor concentration or difficulty making decisions; feelings of hopelessness.” People with dysthymia may still be able to get up, go to work or school, and from the outside look just fine. But inside they are exhausted, frustrated, and feel terrible about their situation. To find out if you are struggling with high functioning depression or dysthymia, here are some of the most common symptoms:
Avoiding social situations: Often when we are able to push ourselves to function in our daily life, it leaves no extra energy for socializing. We may find ourselves cancelling plans, just wanting to be alone a lot, and withdrawing from those we love and care for.
Feeling extra irritable: When we aren’t feeling our best we can have little patience for people in our lives. We may find everyone is getting on our nerves, and we could even start fights with those we love. Notice if everything people do around you seems to be frustrating and annoying.
Are you constantly tired? Are you barely able get all that you need to get completed every day and feel wiped out afterwards? Are you always tired, when you used to feel like you had so much energy? It could be dysthymia
Do you struggle to concentrate? Reading and re-reading emails still not knowing what it said. Is it hard to focus, even to watch TV? Many of my clients will tell me that they struggle to even follow a plot in a movie or tv show, and will have to go back to rewatch portions of it. This can be so frustrating and make school and work that much more difficult.
Are you using an unhealthy coping skill more and more? This could be drinking more alcohol, zoning out in front of the TV or playing a video game, or even over or undereating. If you find yourself slipping back into old (or even new) unhealthy habits, please reach out and talk to someone about it. Getting a handle on these issues early allows us to find healthier coping skills to replace them more easily.
Constant worry about past or future: I believe this sign occurs because anxiety and depression are close friends. Do you struggle to get to sleep because you can’t stop going over that stupid thing you said years ago? Maybe you can’t sleep because you are so worried about tomorrow or next week? If you always feel like you are unable to control and stop those negative, worry focused thought cycles, it could be high functioning depression.
WHAT CAN WE DO? If you found yourself nodding along as I talked about these 5 common signs, please reach out for help. Those with dysthymia or high functioning depression often go untreated for years! Don’t let that be you! The sooner we reach out and get some help the less time we will spend feeling bad. For many people all that is needed is talk therapy, while others find medication to be the most helpful. Whatever helps you, make sure you speak up, reach out and get it as soon as possible. Cause it can and will get better.
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I’m Kati Morton, a licensed therapist making Mental Health videos!
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