High-Functioning Depression: The Secret Struggle

High-Functioning Depression: The Secret Struggle

high functioning depression

When you think about what someone with depression looks like, what comes to mind? Someone who can barely get out of bed? Someone who doesn’t look after themselves and can’t hold down a job? This is probably what most of us would think of.

But the fact is, depression is hidden in many people who have it. You could work with people or walk past people in the street who have it, even though on the surface it might seem these people have great lives and have it all ‘figured out.’

The secret struggle: High-functioning depression

People with high-functioning depression look like they’re completely fine on the outside, but underneath they’re experiencing low mood, problems with appetite, sleeping problems, fatigue, low self-esteem, trouble concentrating, and persistent feelings of hopelessness. Despite this, they still manage to get up and go to work and function on some sort of level, keeping up the appearance of having a good life. This is what makes high-functioning depression much harder to spot.

The signs of high-functioning depression

  • Not enjoying things you used to enjoy. Things you used to find fun like meeting up with friends feel like too much of an effort.
  • You’re very self-critical (and you’re critical of other people.) Your inner critic is always telling you that you’re not good enough, the driver in front of you is the world’s biggest idiot, and your boss? You won’t even get started on them!
  • You have crippling self-doubt. You feel you’re not good at your job, your relationship isn’t great, and you question all of your life choices to date and think they probably weren’t right.
  • You have zero energy. Do you go through your days feeling like you’re walking through wet cement? If you feel a sense of overwhelming tiredness every day, you might have depression.
  • You’re irritable. Does someone just have to look at you the wrong way to make you explode in a fit of rage? If you find that you’re losing your temper at even the smallest thing, this could indicate you have depression.
  • You often feel overwhelmed. As well as feeling angry, you can feel like the slightest thing stresses you out when it wouldn’t have in the past.
  • You feel guilty and worry a lot. You feel guilty about things that happened in the past and you worry about the future. Everyone does this to an extent, but depressed people do this a lot more than the average person.
  • You try to find an escape. You might start drinking more, you might use illicit substances, or adopt other unhelpful strategies to help you cope.
  • You feel sad and don’t know why. You go around the office full of smiles, but the mask slips as soon as you get in the car.
  • You’re always trying to achieve perfection. In the modern world, being overworked and constantly busy is worn like some sort of badge of honour. It’s fine that you want to do well, so does everyone, but not everyone beats themselves up when they don’t quite make the grade, like someone with high-functioning depression will.
  • You need to be busy: You’re always on the go, because if you stop you’ll be forced to confront some pretty uncomfortable feelings.

High-functioning depression can become something much worse

We all have these images in our minds about what someone with a mental illness looks like. This includes people with high-functioning depression who might think they’re not depressed because they aren’t like those people who cry a lot and can’t get out of bed. Because they’re able to function and it appears like they have a good life, other people don’t realise they are depressed either.

This means that many people with high-functioning depression won’t seek treatment, and over time, their condition can worsen and they can suffer a major depressive episode.


Would you know what to do if you suspected that you, or someone you care about had high-functioning depression?

Our mental health first aid and mental health awareness courses can help you learn all about the signs and symptoms of mental health problems, how to support someone who’s unwell, and where to go for help.

You can register your interest by using the form on our contact page. The course tutor will then get in touch with you to confirm your place. If you’d like any more information on any of our courses, email us at enquiries@trainconlearning.co.uk or call 07917062257.


Bridget Woodhead