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What is High-Functioning Depression?

Aug 22, 2022

The debate around high-functioning depression has been vibrant for quite some time. The term high functioning depression is not in the diagnostic manual for depression. However, it is often used to describe persistent depressive disorder (PDD).

In most cases, the condition does not lead to severe impairments like other forms of depression. About 18.2% of individuals with this form of depression only report mild impairment, while 32.1% can have a moderate impairment. However, the condition can also lead to severe impairments. Here, we help you understand persistent depressive disorder and where to seek treatment for high-functioning depression.    

What is Depression?

Clinically referred to as major depressive disorder, depression is a mood disorder that causes increased feelings of sadness or emptiness. People with depression may experience a loss of interest in activities that previously brought joy. 

It can interfere with the ability of an individual to perform their day-to-day activities. The condition lasts longer than the mood changes in response to specific issues in life. However, highly emotional events like losing a loved one can trigger it.

Depression often persists despite changes in situations that cause the feeling of sadness or helplessness. Individuals should distinguish between depression and response to changes in life. In depression, the feelings of loss, sadness, emptiness, or helplessness last for at least two weeks. During the two weeks, the patient may have challenges performing daily activities. Fortunately, depression is treatable.

What is High-Functioning Depression?

High-functioning depression is a non-medical term that refers to a form of depression with less noticeable symptoms. In medical terms, high-functioning depression is referred to as persistent depressive disorder. The term high-functioning denotes a mood condition that does not impact individuals to continue with their work or school activities.

Unlike other mental illnesses, friends and family may not realize their loved ones are struggling with depression. Individuals with high-functioning depression do not appear to experience emotional or mood challenges. They look like nothing is disturbing them, although they could suffer internally.

The ability of an individual to continue with their normal activities does not make high-functioning depression any less severe. Individuals with high-functioning depression may progress to clinical depression without conspicuous signs. People may only realize their loved ones struggled with depression when it is too late.

Signs of High-Functioning Depression

Although individuals with high-functioning depression may have less visible symptoms, they still have some level of impairment. However, the levels of impairment may not be as severe as those in major depressive disorder. Patients may go about their duties as if nothing is wrong with them. 

High-functioning depression may present the following symptoms:

  • Changes in appetite, either having a high or low appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns by sleeping too much or too little
  • Inadequate energy or feeling fatigued
  • Lowered self-esteem
  • Constantly feeling of sadness or hopelessness
  • Challenges in concentration or making decisions
  • Withdrawal from others or isolation
  • Feeling guilty or worthless
  • Thinking about death or suicide

Patients with high-functioning depression may not present all the symptoms but may have at least two. In addition, the symptoms should persist for at least a year and impact the patient most of the time.

Further, individuals presenting the above symptoms must not have a history of mania or hypomania periods. It may be a little harder to diagnose patients with a history of euphoric moods with persistent depressive disorder.

In a nutshell, patients with high-functioning depression may present symptoms similar to those of major depressive disorder.

Triggers of High-Function Depression

The triggers of high-functioning depression are similar to major depressive disorder. These triggers may include:

  • Brain chemistry: An imbalance of brain chemicals that regulate moods can lead to persistent depressive disorder.
  • Genetics: Individuals from families with a history of high-functioning depression are at a higher risk of developing a persistent depressive disorder.
  • Life Events: Stressful events, such as losing a loved one or a job, can trigger the condition.
  • Medical Conditions: Some conditions, such as diabetes and cancer, can lead to persistent depressive disorder.
  • Medication: Certain medications may lead to depression as a side effect. Individuals at a higher risk of the condition should consult their physicians about the side effects of certain medicines.
  • Substance Abuse: Recreational drugs like alcohol can lead to persistent depressive disorder.
  • Personalities: Emotionally sensitive individuals and introverts have a higher risk of persistent depressive disorder.

Persistent Depressive Disorder Treatment

While individuals with high-functioning depression may not have visible signs, they still require treatment. Treatment for depression usually takes a combination of medication and therapy. Medication for depression may include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, tricyclic antidepressants, and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors.

Persistent Depressive Disorder Therapy

Several therapies can help individuals with high-functioning depression cope with the symptoms or overcome the condition. Cognitive behavioral therapy has proven to help individuals struggling with high-functioning depression greatly. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps individuals develop a positive method of dealing with stressful events in life to overcome the condition.

Other therapies include dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and mindfulness techniques. The treatments can help individuals overcome the fear of depression and cope with various triggers of high-functioning depression.

Individuals can also benefit from group therapies. The group therapies bring together people with high-functioning depression. Such individuals can freely share their struggles with the condition under the guidance of a therapist. They can also learn the various coping mechanisms for high-functioning depression.

Get Help with High-Functioning Depression

High-functioning depression can be a challenging condition for individuals. With treatment, daily functioning can resume, and overall quality of life can improve. Treatment for high-functioning depression often includes therapy or alternative methods like transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

If you or your loved one is struggling with depression, Brain Therapy TMS can help you manage the condition. TMS is a non-invasive, medication-free treatment for depression that works by sending magnetic stimulation to parts of the brain that are often associated with depression. Brain Therapy TMS therapies for depression can help reduce depression symptoms and improve quality of life. Schedule a free consultation today to learn more about how we can help. 

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