Health

Functioning, but barely

Why high-functioning depression should not be left out of the mental health conversation

Over the years, the mental health community has stretched and expanded to support people with a variety of mental health issues. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) says that one in five Canadians will experience a mental health problem in their life. Youth continue to take the biggest hit, as roughly 10 to 20 per cent of Canadian youth are affected by mental health problems. 

The mental health community should be all-inclusive, but the reality is that it can leave the potential for some issues to fall by the wayside. Once a mental health problem is socially neglected, those who suffer from that problem may feel confused about what they are experiencing. 

This is a common feeling for those who suffer from high-functioning depression. According to an article by Medical News Today, high-functioning depression is a mental illness where an individual feels waves of substandard depression for most of the day, but also experiences odd pockets of feeling normal. A person with high-functioning depression still pushes forward to achieve their daily tasks and goals, although it is difficult for them to do so.


However, Medical News Today says that high-functioning depression is not recognized in the fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the official, clinical term is persistent depressive disorder (PDD). 

High-functioning depression and PDD can be used interchangeably—both terms describe the same illness and symptoms.

Although a person with high-functioning depression can go to the grocery store and complete work deadlines, they still suffer from symptoms like overeating or a loss in appetite, insomnia or oversleeping, drowsiness, self-esteem issues and feelings of lacking happiness or worth. High-functioning depression is like a plateau in someone’s emotions while they are still zooming through their to-do list.

People with high-functioning depression are often left out of the mental health conversation because there is a narrow understanding of what depression is. Society views mental health as a weakness, meaning that if a person is able to get out of bed, comb their hair and get to work, then they are unlikely to have a mental illness. 

Although the inability to complete daily tasks is often true for people with clinical depression, it isn’t true for those with high-functioning depression. This thinking makes people with high-functioning depression doubt themselves and view their problems as unworthy of treatment or validation. 

All depressive disorders should be treated seriously. High-functioning depression is hard to pinpoint because symptoms come and go and are not as obvious as other mental illnesses that may land someone in a mental hospital, SELF Magazine says.

Many people also don’t know how to support someone with high-functioning depression. Since combating the illness is an invisible battle, peers will often tell that person their feelings will subside because “it’s not that bad” or “it’s not a big deal.”

With that being said, there are proper ways to support a friend who suffers from high-functioning depression. This includes educating oneself about what high-functioning depression is, being a good listener, validating them, suggesting therapeutic methods and being available for communication whenever they need help. 

There are many depressive disorders and each one is different. However, that does not mean that disorders seen as less severe should be left out or invalidated. 

All mental illnesses should be prioritized with the same level of attention in order to avoid being misunderstood and dismissed.

About the author

Reporter at Youth Mind

Grace Nelson-Gunness is a reporter for Youth Mind. She enjoys watching Criminal Minds or reading a suspenseful horror-thriller novel while drinking a vanilla latte.

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