8 Things People with High-Functioning Depression Want You to Know

High-functioning depression or dysthymia, is harder to detect than major depressive disorder (MDD) because the people who has it, are often high achievers giving the impression of everything is all right.

“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and spirit.” — Ansel Adams


For 10 years before diagnosed with Depression, I had always felt like something was wrong with me. When I confronted my parents that I needed professional help, they neglected my first distress signal due to growing up with an Asian dysfunctional belief about Mental Health and also, because in their eyes, their bright child is doing ‘just fine’.

The stigma against mental health is lessening but there are myths that everybody must differentiate about struggling in depression as we are aware regarding the diversity of depression. According to Mayo Clinic, High Functioning Depression was previously called as Dysthymia and still sometimes referred by that term. Based on a study by National Institute of Mental health in 2016, about 16.2 million Americans had at least one episode of major depression. Even though, it is not obvious but getting through the day is truly exhausting. We often appear completely fine on the outside which hard to detect the signs. So, let’s break more stigmas and myths!


1. “Faking it”

Imposter syndrome, this is where people feel like frauds about their accomplishments. It is a psychology phenomenon, reflects belief of being inadequate and incompetent failure despite evidence of being skilled and successful. We struggle to challenge negative self-talk and it causes the more exhaustion. If you know someone with signs of imposter syndrome, help them by challenging the negative thoughts and affirm them with sincere encouragements.


2. Prove of Struggling & Need Help

Living with High-Functioning Depression is challenging, especially getting through work and life, we get lots of things done but not in our full potential. People have a hard time believing that we are struggling because we don’t seem like falling apart to their impression. Believe us when we ask for help and support. Guaranteed that the helping hand is a blessing that we appreciate most.


3. Good days are somewhat “normal”

“My good day is me, able to wake up at 5am even though lack of proper rest, showered and continue to moderately produce creative works to reach my goals in 10 years. Go through the day without stress eating and not anxious about my life and career. Being more compassionate towards myself and not jumping into conclusions. Basically, feeling like I have mental clarity, calm, confidence and productive.” — Dawn


4. Bad days are “Too Much”

“Struggling to wake up and feeling guilty that I wasted time for sleeping in. Then, getting into work space, the mind is just loading there like a YouTube video with terrible WiFi. Forcing myself to get it together. Cover up with some make up so others don’t catch on my internal issues.” — Dawn

People think we’re doing a good job but inside, whatever we do or tasks delivered are not at their best state.


5. Getting Through Bad Days Demands Massive Energy

On days like this, we get work done but not at their best state while accomplishing tasks takes longer than expected. We easily get frustrated with people in our surroundings. With extreme self-criticism, it amplifies the frustration. Anxiety intensifies when we have to show our work to superiors because we don’t want to show incompetence. While all of this is happening, we use massive energy pushing through by prioritizing and executing tasks.


6. Struggle to Focus, Not Performing at Your Best

Focus issues are part of cognitive defects and can become serious over time which results into lots of misunderstandings and distractions. Blanking out and staring at the wall becomes a regular habit. While going through work, we have to force ourselves, otherwise nothing is done. Sometimes it takes take whole day to complete a few tasks or nothing at all.


7. High-Functioning Depression is Challenging

Living with it can be overwhelming, and routines feels exhausting which makes us feel like a waste of oxygen. Mustering up the energy to seek help can be extremely difficult with the all day facade but chances are those in suffering thought of help but don’t know how. Our appearances deceives many by putting on personas hidden behind masks. Self-criticism in life can’t turn off, leading to self-doubt. Self-care becomes a burden and plans are hard to stick by. ‘High-Functioning’ doesn’t mean zero risks of self-harming.


8. Asking & Receiving Help is Strength

“When there is hope, there is despair. We need to be in despair, for all our hardships”. In period of despair, we realize that we help ourselves by reaching out to others who can help us. Reaching out for help doesn’t make people weak, it is the opposite that is more agonizing, making you weak. Everyone has their own perception of help, some are medication & therapy, some do spiritual works, some rely on religion and some work harder on self-help. It all depends in each of us. There is no right method.


In the end

Vulnerability is not a weakness, it is strength. We have every right to enjoy our lives while being vulnerable. Our life and health is our right to protect and defend so is having the right to go through a period of despair and stagnancy in life. Stigmas continue to lessen but those who stuck by the stigmas and ignorantly criticize, still have chances to be aware and change with us.



Persistent Depressive Disorder (dysthymia)


Persistent Depressive Disorder (dysthymic Disorder)


Persistent Depressive Disorder


The Relationship between Self-Esteem and Emotional Intelligence with
Imposter Syndrome among Medical Students of Guilan and Heratsi Universities


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