What Is High-Functioning Depression?\r\nWhen you suffer from high-functioning depression, it may be difficult to experience much joy, satisfaction or peace in your everyday life. You might not necessarily feel sad or worthless. If you had to describe how you feel, you might choose the word \u201cnumb.\u201d\r\n\r\nIf you can relate to this experience, yet you don\u2019t feel your life is necessarily going in a negative direction, this could be a sign of high-functioning depression. Signs of\u00a0high-functioning depression\u2014also referred to as persistent depressive disorder (PDD)\u2014can include a range of both psychological and physical symptoms.\r\n\r\nHigh-functioning depression differs from other types of depression that may cause major disruptions in your life. This doesn\u2019t make it any less serious or upsetting than major depressive disorder. In fact, since high-functioning depression often goes unnoticed, it may worsen over time.\r\n\r\nThe best thing you can do is learn how to recognize PDD so that you can appropriately treat it. Let\u2019s take a look at the key signs of high-functioning depression and compare it against some other common types of depression.\r\nSigns of High-Functioning Depression\r\nGeneral depression can feel different to different people. But there are typically some common symptoms with high-functioning depression:\r\n\r\n \tAn inability to feel pleasure in activities you used to enjoy (also known as anhedonia)\r\n \tMental numbness\r\n \tPersistent sadness and low self-esteem\r\n \tChanges in\u00a0sleep patterns\u00a0(e.g. insomnia or oversleeping)\r\n \tLack of energy and fatigue\r\n \tDifficulty concentrating and making decisions\r\n \tChanges in diet (e.g. poor appetite or overeating)\r\n\r\nA psychiatrist would give you a diagnosis of PDD (formerly known as dysthymia) if you have experienced a depressed mood for most days over the past two years or more. You must also have at least two of the above signs. A clear sign of high-functioning depression is the ability to carry out daily activities while experiencing these symptoms.\r\n\r\nIf a loved one or colleague doesn\u2019t open up about their depression, there are other signs of high-functioning depression you can look out for:\r\n\r\n \tInstances where someone is extremely critical of themselves, both physically and mentally\r\n \tSudden changes in work quality, performance or attitude (e.g. being even more quiet than usual in meetings or avoiding social activities)\r\n \tSomeone who seems overly concerned about productivity or wasting time; for example, work may be used to escape numb feelings, and a persistent feeling that life is just a waste of time and not worth living\r\n \tSubstance abuse or\u00a0alcohol consumption, which can make depression symptoms and thoughts of suicide worse\r\n\r\nLiving Life With Depression\r\nMany people with high-functioning depression seem to live a normal life. Friends, family and co-workers may either not realize or be shocked to learn that someone is suffering. After all, most people think that depression means you struggle just to function in life. If you have high-functioning depression you can still get work done, be successful and be sociable, yet still experience a lot of emotional pain.\r\n\r\nSomeone with high-functioning depression will fulfill their commitments and do their work while putting on an act that everything is okay. Many do not open up about their feelings because they do not want to feel vulnerable. People with high-functioning depression often have feelings of guilt and learn to pretend that \u201ceverything is fine.\u201d Over time, pretending can even start to feel normal.\r\n\r\nWhile being praised for doing well, they may feel a constant dread about failing to meet expectations. For instance, a college student might feel pressure to graduate from college in four years, even though a five-year plan would be easier for them to handle. Or a parent might have difficulty asking for help when they are having trouble juggling everything at home and work.\r\n\r\nPeople with high-functioning depression are usually capable of hiding their depression around others, but in reality they are struggling with their mental health and may not know how to seek help.\r\nHigh-Functioning Depression vs. Major Depression\r\nPeople with major depression can experience the same symptoms as those with high-functioning depression, but major depression differs in some important ways.\r\n\r\nFirstly, for a psychiatrist to diagnose you with major depression, you must experience at least two signs of depression every day for at least two weeks (as opposed to two years with PDD). Major depression is usually more short-lived, although a major depressive episode can sometimes last a year or longer.\r\n\r\nAnother important difference is that the symptoms of major depression are more severe. In the case of major depression, it is common for sufferers to experience:\r\n\r\n \tExhaustion\r\n \tLack of motivation\r\n \tHopelessness\r\n \tSelf-loathing\r\n \tSuicidal thoughts\r\n\r\nPDD is a milder form of depression that persists for longer than major depression. This is why it can be harder to detect. Major depression, in contrast, can be very disruptive. People with major depression may be ready to give up on their relationships, careers and even on life itself.\r\n\r\nAnother common sign of major depression is struggling to get out of bed. This is due to the severity of the symptoms. But depression doesn\u2019t affect everyone this way.\r\n\r\nTo some, getting up with the alarm isn\u2019t a problem; they can do it without any real mental or physical struggle. Are they happy to be getting up for another day? No. Are they energized by the thought of a work project? Not particularly. Will they be able to get their work done? Actually, yes. Are they excited about weekend plans? If the plans ended up being canceled, they wouldn\u2019t feel a strong emotion one way or another. These people might have high-functioning depression.\r\nHigh-Functioning Depression vs. Bipolar Disorder\r\nA bipolar disorder is characterized by swings between a depressed mood and manic episodes. Mania typically involves:\r\n\r\n \tEuphoria\r\n \tIntense moods\r\n \tHyperactivity\r\n \tFeeling invincible\r\n \tExtreme overconfidence\r\n \tImpulsivity\r\n \tReduced need for sleep\r\n \tTalkativeness\r\n \tDelusions\r\n \tRacing thoughts\r\n \tEasily distracted\r\n \tIncreased agitation\r\n\r\nPDD, in contrast, doesn\u2019t feature any of these symptoms. High-functioning depression doesn\u2019t switch between highs and lows as experienced by bipolar disorder patients. Instead, there is a long-lasting and mild depressed mood.\r\nHigh-Functioning Depression vs. Seasonal Affective Disorder\r\nSeasonal affective disorder (SAD) features the common symptoms of depression, but these symptoms follow a seasonal pattern. SAD is also known as \u201cwinter depression\u201d because symptoms tend to show up for many people during winter. This has been linked to the lack of sunlight, which may\u00a0impact brain function.\r\n\r\nHigh-functioning depression doesn\u2019t come and go with the seasons. It remains constant throughout the year. Having said that, someone with PDD may notice a worsening of symptoms in winter due to reduced sunlight.\r\nTreatments for High-Functioning Depression\r\nThere are many effective treatments for PDD that can reduce symptoms and improve your mental health overall. The most successful outcomes often include a combination of the following:\r\n\r\n \tAntidepressant medication\r\n \tCounseling (including family therapy)\r\n \tRegular exercise\r\n \tA healthy and balanced diet (including a high intake of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and limited consumption of alcohol, caffeine, sugar and processed foods)\r\n \tMeditation\r\n \tYoga\r\n\r\nSometimes it is hard to know when a person is living with a mental illness like depression. Think of it like this: Someone with high-functioning depression is like an iceberg; you only see the tip, but there is so much more going on under the surface. People with high-functioning depression are just good at hiding it.\r\n\r\nIf you recognize any signs of high-functioning depression in a friend or loved one\u2014or in yourself\u2014it\u2019s important to understand that depression is treatable. Getting joy out of life again is certainly possible. Talk to someone you trust or visit a doctor to find out what treatment plans may be best for you.