Deal With High-Functioning Depression- Symptoms, Signs & Treatment

It can be easy to assume that depression is only experienced by those who are struggling to get by on a day-to-day basis. However, this is not always the case. There are many people who appear to be high-functioning citizens but who actually suffer from depression.

Unfortunately, this type of depression can often go unnoticed until it reaches a crisis point. This is why it’s important to be aware of the signs of high-functioning depression.

What Is High-Functioning Depression

Depression is a mental illness that can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, or socioeconomic status. There are different types of depression, and high-functioning depression is one of them. This type of depression is characterized by the presence of milder symptoms that do not significantly interfere with a person’s ability to function normally.

High-functioning depression may go undetected because the person seems to be coping well on the outside. However, on the inside, they are struggling with a lot of negative thoughts and feelings.

The signs and symptoms of high-functioning depression can vary from person to person, but some common ones include:

  • Fatigue 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Low self-esteem 
  • Feelings of isolation.
  • Feeling sad or empty most of the time 
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed 
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much 
  • Overeating or poor appetite 
  • Thoughts of death or suicide 

If you think you or someone you know may be suffering from high-functioning depression, it is important to get help right away.

12 Tell A Tale Signs Of High Functioning Depression

High-functioning depression is a condition that is often overlooked because the individual appears to be functioning normally. However, there are subtle signs that can indicate that someone is struggling.

1. Not Finding Joy In Things That Felt Good Before 

Most people are familiar with the signs of depression, such as feeling hopeless and lacking motivation. However, depression can also present itself in less obvious ways. For example, people who are struggling with high-functioning depression may not find joy in things that they used to enjoy.

when you are depressed sleep 8 hours doesn't help

It’s like you’re numbing yourself to the things that used to make you feel good.

And that’s because depression can make it hard to experience a pleasure. This can be a sign that something is off, even if everything else in their life seems to be going well.

2. Being Always Tired

Feeling tired all the time is one of the signs of high-functioning depression. It’s not just about being tired from a bad night’s sleep or from working too hard. When you’re depressed, you can feel exhausted even after sleeping for eight hours or more.

And it’s not just physical fatigue – you can also feel emotionally drained.

The slightest thing can seem like too much effort, and you may find yourself struggling to concentrate or motivate yourself. If you’re usually a lively person but suddenly find yourself feeling low all the time, it could be a sign that something’s not right.

3. Life Feels Like Just Going Through The Motions

High-functioning depression is often characterized by a feeling of emptiness or numbness. When you have high-functioning depression you go through the motions of life, but you don’t really feel alive. You may be able to hold down a job and keep up appearances, but inside you’re just going through the motions.

You’re still going to work, socializing, and taking care of your responsibilities. But underneath, you’re struggling. You may feel like you’re just going through the motions of life, without any joy or enthusiasm. Everything feels like a huge effort.

You may also find yourself withdrawing from activities and hobbies that you used to enjoy.

4. Being Worried Without Any Reason

One of the signs of high-functioning depression is feeling anxious or worried without any particular reason. Normal, everyday tasks can make you feel really worried and anxious.

For example, you might be worried about going to work or school or taking care of your responsibilities. This can lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed and stressed out all the time.

For people who suffer from this condition, everyday tasks and responsibilities can feel overwhelming and cause a great deal of stress. This can make it difficult to get through the day, as every little thing feels like it requires a huge amount of effort. 

5. Can’t Seem To Bounce Back In Life

While it’s common to feel down after experiencing a setback, people with high-functioning depression may find it difficult to “bounce back.” This is one of the signs that something more serious may be going on.

For example, a normal response to receiving a bad grade on an exam would be to study more for the next test. However, someone with high-functioning depression may have trouble mustering the motivation to study despite knowing they need to.

This inability to bounce back can lead to a spiral of academic difficulties, relationship problems, and job instability.

6. Being Constantly Told That You Are Different

It’s not uncommon for people with high-functioning depression to be told by others that they “aren’t the same person” as they used to be. And while it may seem like a small thing, it can actually be a sign of high-functioning depression.

After all, one of the key symptoms of depression is a change in mood and/or behavior. So if you used to be bubbly and outgoing but now you’re more withdrawn and quiet, it could be a sign that something is wrong.

7. Being A High Achiever

There are a lot of signs that come with high-functioning depression. A lot of people will say that they are a perfectionist or high achievers as a way to mask the fact that they are depressed.

And while it may seem like they have their life together, the truth is that they are just really good at hiding their depression. Perfectionism and high achievement often go hand in hand with depression because people who are depressed often feel like they have to be perfect in order to be happy.

They also tend to compare themselves to others, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.

8. Self Criticism

One of the signs of high-functioning depression is self-criticism. When you’re criticized by others, it’s easy to brush it off and say they’re just haters or they don’t understand you.

But when you’re the one doing the criticizing, it’s a lot harder to ignore. Why? Because deep down, you know there’s some truth to it. And that hurts a lot.

Self-criticism can be incredibly vicious and never-ending. It can make you doubt everything about yourself, from your intelligence and abilities to your worth as a person.

It can make you feel like you’re not good enough, no matter what you do or how hard you try.

It’s an exhausting way to live, and it takes a toll on your mental and physical health. If you find yourself constantly criticizing yourself, it’s a sign that something isn’t right. You might be struggling with high-functioning depression.

9. Easily Irritable

If you’re easily irritable, it could be a sign of high-functioning depression. Small things that never used to bother the person now become extremely irritating, and they give elaborate reactions to them. You might overreact to things that are really minor, like someone cutting you off in traffic or someone forgetting to return your call.

You might find yourself getting impatient more easily, or snapping at people for no reason. This is because high-functioning depression causes a person to overthink and overanalyze things, making them seem much bigger than they actually are.

As a result, the smallest innocuous thing can become a source of great anxiety and stress. This change in your mood can be one of the signs of high-functioning depression.

10. Constant Feeling Of Guilt

Guilt is a common emotion that everyone feels from time to time. However, for people with high-functioning depression, guilt is a constant presence. This feeling of guilt can manifest in many different ways.

Sometimes shaking off guilt isn't easy

Maybe you replay past mistakes over and over in your head, or you beat yourself up for not being able to accomplish more. Maybe you constantly compare yourself to others and feel like you fall short.

If you identify with any of these scenarios, it could be a sign that you’re dealing with high-functioning depression.

11. Can’t Seem To Slow Things Down 

There are a lot of signs of high-functioning depression, and one of them is that you can’t seem to slow things down. It’s like your brain is always going 100 miles an hour, and no matter what you do, you can’t seem to turn it off.

You’re always on the go and always have something to do. Even when you’re resting or sleeping, your mind is racing. This can be a sign that you’re trying to avoid feeling depressed. When you’re depressed, you might not want to do anything.

But with high-functioning depression, you might feel like you need to keep moving to avoid feeling depressed. This can lead to exhaustion and burnout. This can lead to problems with concentration, sleeping, and just overall feeling overwhelmed all the time.

If you’re constantly on the go and find that you’re not able to enjoy the simple things in life anymore, it might be a sign that something more serious is going on. 

12. Emotions Are Always A Struggle

For those with high-functioning depression, dealing with emotions becomes extremely difficult. You feel you are constantly struggling with your emotions. As a result, it can be difficult to function on a day-to-day basis.

While everyone experiences ups and downs, those with high-functioning depression often find that their emotions are more intense and constant. They may also have difficulty regulating their emotions, which can lead to outbursts or withdrawal from others.

Signs Of High Functioning Depression And Anxiety

People with high-functioning depression and anxiety may exhibit some of the same signs as people with lower-functioning depression and anxiety. Such as feeling sad or anxious most of the time, having low energy, and struggling to concentrate.

However, people with high-functioning depression and anxiety may also seem like they have it all together on the surface. They may be successful in their work or school, have a lot of friends, and seem like they don’t have a care in the world.

Signs of high-functioning depression can be masked

The reason these people may seem to have it all together is that they are good at hiding their symptoms. They don’t want anyone to know that they are struggling, so they do whatever they can to pretend like everything is okay.

Some signs that someone may be struggling with high-functioning depression and anxiety include appearing to be overworked or overwhelmed, constantly stressed, perfectionistic tendencies, sudden changes in mood, and unexplained physical health problems.

Signs Of High-Functioning Depression In Adults

High-functioning depression in adults may look different than in adolescents or children. Symptoms may be more subtle and may only be experienced by adults. Some signs of high-function depression in adults include:

  1. Becoming very perfectionistic and highly critical of oneself, often setting unrealistically high standards that are difficult to meet.
  2. Feeling intense guilt, sadness, or emptiness that lasts a long time.
  3. Having low energy, being tired all the time, and having difficulty getting motivated to do things.
  4. Having difficulty concentrating, remembering things, or making decisions.
  5. Withdrawing from friends and activities, feeling isolated and lonely.
  6. Experiencing changes in appetite or weight, either eating more or less than usual.
  7. Sleeping too much or not enough.
  8. Experiencing physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach problems, or chest pain that don’t have an obvious physical cause.

Signs Of High-Functioning Depression In Children 

There are a few signs of high-functioning depression that may only be experienced by children. These can include acting out, complaining of physical symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches, having problems at school, or withdrawing from friends and activities.

Children with high-functioning depression may also seem unusually irritable, moody, or sad. They may have low self-esteem and feel like they are not good enough or worthless. In some cases, children with high-functioning depression may engage in self-harm or have thoughts of suicide.

Lifestyle Changes That Can Help Deal With High-Functioning Depression

6 lifestyle changes that can help you deal with high functioning depression:

1. Get Enough Sleep

Most people need around 8 hours of sleep per night, but people with high-functioning depression may need even more. Make sure you are getting enough sleep every night by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Avoid taking caffeine before bed, and using relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation.

2. Eat A Healthy Diet

When it comes to high functioning depression, one simple but effective strategy is to make sure you’re eating healthy foods. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to eliminate all your favorite comfort foods (we all need a little ice cream now and then!). But incorporating more nutrient-rich foods into your diet can make a big difference.

Eating nutritious foods can help improve your mood and energy levels. Depression can cause energy levels to crash, so eating foods that are high in energy-boosting vitamins and minerals is important.

Foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, salmon, avocados, leafy greens, nuts, and lean protein are all great options. Avoid processed foods, sugary snacks, and caffeine. Eating regular meals is also important, as skipping meals can make symptoms worse.

3. Exercise Regularly

Exercise has been shown to be one of the most effective treatments for depression. It can help improve your mood, energy levels, and self-confidence. Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects, and it also helps to improve sleep quality and increase energy levels.

Furthermore, exercise can help to reduce stress and anxiety, two other common symptoms of depression. For people struggling with high functioning depression, regular exercise can make a big difference. Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes each day.

4. Connect With Others

Spending time with friends and family can help improve your mood and reduce feelings of isolation. Reach out to your loved ones for support when you need it and try to participate in social activities regularly. So if you’re feeling down, know that you’re not alone.

And while it can be tough to reach out for help, doing so can make a big difference.

Connecting with others who understand what you’re going through can provide support, insight and encouragement. Talking openly about your depression can also help lessen its hold on you. So don’t be afraid to reach out and connect with others if you’re struggling with depression. It could make all the difference.

5. Avoid Stressors

Certain things can cause stress and increase feelings of depression. Try to avoid stressful situations whenever possible. hat means taking steps to eliminate or reduce the sources of stress in your life. That might mean saying no to social obligations that you’re not up for, setting boundaries with family or friends, or cutting back on work hours.

It’s also important to make time for activities that bring you joy and help you relax.

When you take care of yourself and reduce stress, it can help take the edge off of high-functioning depression and make it easier to cope. Figure out what ways to relax such as yoga, meditation, or listening to music works for you.

6. Seek Professional Help

If your symptoms are severe or don’t seem to be improving with lifestyle changes alone, it may be helpful to seek professional help from a therapist or counselor. They can provide additional support and guidance on how to manage your depression.

5 Treatments For High-Functioning Depression

  1. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that helps people understand and change the thoughts and behaviors that contribute to their depression. CBT has been shown to be an effective treatment for high-functioning depression.
  2. Psychodynamic therapy is a type of therapy that helps people understand the unconscious thoughts and emotions that may be contributing to their depression. This type of therapy can be helpful for high-functioning depression.
  3. Interpersonal therapy is a type of therapy that helps people understand and change the interpersonal relationships that may be contributing to their depression. This type of therapy can be helpful for high-functioning depression.
  4. Transcranial magnetic stimulation: Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, is a newer treatment for depression that uses magnets to stimulate the brain. It is still being studied, but it may be an option for people who don’t respond to other treatments.
  5. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a type of treatment in which an electric current is passed through the brain in order to produce a seizure. ECT is often used as a last resort for severe cases of depression, but it can also be effective for high-functioning depression.


High-functioning depression is a real and serious mental illness. Just because someone is high functioning doesn’t mean they don’t experience depression. The signs of high-functioning depression can be subtle, which makes it hard to spot. If you think you or someone you know might be struggling with high-functioning depression, look out for the following signs:

  • Persistent low mood or sadness
  • Loss of interest in activities that used to bring joy
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Sleep problems
  • Feeling worthless or guilty


This Is What It’s Like to Live With High-Functioning Depression | U-M LSA Department of Psychology. (n.d.).

Recovery, R. O. (2022, June 29). 7 Signs You’re Dealing with High-Functioning Depression. Red Oak Recovery

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