what is high functional depression

What is High Functioning Depression And How To Hack It

While high-functioning depression isn’t a clinical term, it’s commonly used to describe someone who goes through their day performing all the necessary tasks, like going to work, seeing friends, or caring for family, all while dealing with sadness or worry deep down.

But what is high functioning depression?

Some quite common yet unnoticeable symptoms of the disorder are:

  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Low self-esteem
  • Fatigue
  • Hopelessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Decreased productivity
  • Disinterest in socializing or activities

It can be hard for people to seek help, because they might think they should just carry on as usual, or they worry that others won’t understand what is high functioning depression and what they’re going through. Understanding that is the first step towards getting the right support for you or your loved ones and learning coping strategies to help manage your diagnosis.

If you’re facing more than 5 of these symptoms for more than three months consecutively, you might be suffering from high functional depression, and should probably consult a doctor. Successfully taking on responsibilities is the calling card of high-functioning depression and anxiety, but meeting life’s demands does not mean the internal distress from these conditions is less severe.

Causes of High Functioning Depression

Why you may be able to successfully meet your daily responsibilities and understand what is high functional depression, when someone else can’t isn’t always straightforward. Everyone’s different, even when it comes to experiences of mental health disorders.

There’s no single thing that makes you more or less able to get up in the morning and brush your teeth, for example. According to Bach, your individual coping mechanisms, level of personal motivation, and present support systems can all be factors. How well you’re adhering to treatment plans and how accessible those resources are to you also matter.

“Certain personal traits, talents, or skills may contribute to higher functioning levels even with the presence of a mental health condition,” he adds to what is high functioning depression.” If you’re exceptionally skilled at accounting, for example, even on a low-performance day at work, you might still appear to be on top of your game.

High-functioning depression stems from a variety of factors. Understanding what might be causing your depression can help you find a way to manage how you’re feeling.

  • Genetic predisposition: The likelihood of experiencing depression can run in families. If your parents or grandparents had depression, your chances for having depression may be higher.
  • Life stressors: Stressful events, like losing a job, heartbreak, or facing financial problems can trigger high-functioning depression in some people.
  • Environmental factors: Your surroundings or situation can play a part in your mental wellbeing. For example, a stressful work environment or living in a noisy, crowded city can add to feelings of depression.
  • Relationship conflicts: Constant disagreements or fights with loved ones, friends, or coworkers might lead to high-functioning depression over time.
  • Physical health issues: Dealing with a chronic illness or a temporary health condition can trigger high-functioning depression.
  • Lack of support: Feeling like you don’t have support from people around you can also contribute to high-functioning depression.

How To Hack High Functioning Depression?

“Usually, what is high functioning anxiety or depression? It is underfunctioning compared to their usual baseline, but it’s not apparent because they are able to meet general expectations,” explains Dr. Roberta Ballard, a clinical psychologist from Atlanta, Georgia.

Here are a few ways on how to manage high functioning depression:

  1. Seek professional help: It’s crucial to reach out to a therapist or counselor who can provide support and guidance tailored to your needs.
  2. Practice self-care: Prioritize activities that nourish your mind, body, and soul, such as exercise, meditation, hobbies, and spending time with loved ones.
  3. Challenge negative thought patterns: Cognitive-behavioral techniques can help identify and reframe negative thought patterns that contribute to depression.
  4. Set realistic goals: Break tasks into manageable steps and celebrate small victories along the way. What is high functioning depression, if you’re
  5. Establish boundaries: Learn to say no to excessive commitments and prioritize activities that align with your well-being.
  6. Cultivate a support network: Surround yourself with understanding friends and family members who can offer empathy and encouragement.
  7. Consider medication: In some cases, medication may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms of depression. Consult with a psychiatrist to explore this option.
  8. Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing and grounding exercises, can help anchor you in the present moment and reduce stress.


1. What is high functioning depression?

High-functioning illness refers to a condition where an individual experiences symptoms of a mental or physical health disorder, yet still maintains a relatively high level of functioning in their daily life. This means that despite experiencing challenges related to their illness, they are able to carry out tasks such as work, school, and social activities to a reasonable extent.

2. Is depression a functional disorder?

Depression is not typically considered a functional disorder in the same way that conditions like anxiety disorders or somatic symptom disorders might be. Functional disorders usually refer to conditions where symptoms cannot be fully explained by underlying physical or physiological causes.

Depression, on the other hand, is a complex mental health disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed. While what is high functioning depression can certainly impact an individual’s ability to function optimally in various areas of life such as work, relationships, and self-care, it is rooted in neurobiological, psychological, and environmental factors rather than being solely a functional disorder.

3. What triggers functional depression?

Functional depression, also known as high-functioning depression, is not a clinically recognized term, but it’s often used colloquially to describe a form of depression where individuals are able to maintain a semblance of normalcy in their daily lives despite experiencing significant emotional distress. Some common triggers include lack of social support, imbalances in dopamine or serotonin, chronic stress, low self esteem, constant financial stress, etc.

4. Could you talk about one rule for managing anxiety?

One of the best known and most promising rules for managing anxiety is the 333 rule. According to this rule, whenever you experience anxiety, you need to identify 3 objects, 3 sounds and 3 body parts around you and keep looking at them.

5. What is high functioning depression vs traditional depression?

It is important to understand what is high-functioning depression in adults. It typically manifests in individuals who skillfully conceal their internal struggles, presenting a facade of normalcy and functionality in their everyday activities. In contrast, traditional depression often exhibits more overt signs of impaired functioning, such as noticeable disruptions in daily routines, work, or social interactions.

This distinction highlights the unique challenge of identifying and addressing high-functioning depression, as individuals may outwardly appear capable and successful despite experiencing significant emotional distress internally.

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