High-functioning depression is similar to a major depression disorder, but the signs and symptoms are less severe. While you may be able to maintain a job or going to school, you’ll also struggle with a low mood as you go about day-to-day activities.
Throughout this article, we’re going to take a deeper look at the signs and symptoms of high-functioning depression. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
High-Functioning Depression Defined
High-functioning depression – better known as persistent depressive disorder (PDD) – is a mental health condition where someone experiences less severe symptoms of depression. In turn, they’re able to function normally (i.e. go to work, school, etc.), but struggle with a low mood throughout daily activities. ¹
It’s difficult to detect PDD as most people won’t show the signs of depression. It’s essential someone with PDD is treated as soon as possible because symptoms can lead to more severe depression.
Symptoms of High-Functioning Depression
Symptoms of PDD are similar to those found in a major depressive disorder. However, as mentioned, these symptoms will be less severe. Common PDD symptoms include:
- Decreased appetite or overeating
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fatigue (lack of energy)
- Feeling sad and hopeless
- Lack of self-esteem
- Over- or under-sleeping (insomnia)
While these symptoms aren’t overbearing, they can make it difficult to fully function throughout day-to-day activities. For example, while you may be able to get your work done, you may also feel fatigued as you work.
Diagnosis of High-Functioning Depression
In order to be diagnosed with PDD, you must meet the following requirements set by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5): ²
- Feeling a depressed mood characterized by the symptoms (mentioned above) for most days over the course of at least two years without any relief for more than two months.
- Never experienced periods of mania or hypomania, as seen in bipolar disorder.
- Depression symptoms are not explained by another mental illness (such as a substance abuse disorder) or a medical conditions.
- You experience some impairment through your depressed symptoms that affects normal functioning.
It’s worth noting that people with PDD may also meet the criteria for a major depressive disorder. Still, both conditions are remedied similarly.
What Does it Feel Like to Have High-Functioning Depression?
If you’re wondering whether or not you struggle with PDD, it can be useful to understand how it makes people feel:
- Most of the time, you feel a little down. While other people may notice, they see you more as a “downer” than depressed.
- It’s impossible to shake off your low mood. It’s always around and you feel like you may never experience relief. You may also feel brief moments of happiness.
- You’re constantly tired, either getting too much or too little sleep.
- You have enough energy to do what is necessary (i.e. get work done), but not enough to participate in activities you may enjoy.
- You often feel bad about yourself, as though you’re unworthy.
- Certain necessary activities (i.e. cleaning the house) feel like they require monumental effort.
- You have trouble with your weight (either gaining or losing it without purpose).
- You have difficulty focusing on tasks that are difficult, even under required circumstances (i.e. school, work).
- You’d rather withdraw from social activities than engage in them.
Furthermore, PDD may promote other illnesses that seem unrelated. For example, someone with PDD is more prone to a substance abuse disorder or struggling with chronic pain.
High-Functioning Depression Treatment
Even though PDD isn’t as intense as major depression, it can still cause a reduction in the enjoyment of life. For this reason, it’s in your best interest to work towards overcoming that low mood and on bettering yourself.
PDD treatment usually involves a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
The most commonly used medications are antidepressants which can temporarily lift your mood. However, these can cause severe side effects, such as addiction. In turn, some may prefer seeking out how to treat depression without meds.
Psychotherapies are then used to help you identify negative thought processes, address past traumas, and work towards developing positive thought processes. The most commonly used of these is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
While high-functioning depression may not ruin your life, it’s worth seeking out professional help for. Through treatment, you’ll be able to overcome PDD symptoms and work towards living a more fulfilling life. Not to mention, it’s the best way to ensure your PDD doesn’t develop into a major depressive disorder.
Still have questions concerning high-functioning depression?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further advice to share – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymic Disorder)
² BASC3: Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)
³ Brain Sciences (MDPI): Chronic Pain in Relation to Depressive Disorders and Alcohol Abuse