Do I Have High Functioning Depression? Published: February 02 2017

Do you or does someone you know feel “blue” while managing a productive life? It could be high functioning depression.

What is high functioning depression?

The term is used to describe people who experience consistent symptoms of depression for a long period of time (over 2 years), also known as persistent depressive disorder, but continue to complete the activities necessary to lead functional lives. They work and often have thriving careers. They take care of their families, their homes and their appearance while they are struggling with feelings of negativity, sadness, and despair.

A common false assumption about high functioning depression

It is a common mistake to assume that individuals who are leading productive lives are also happy. This is not always the case. Individuals experiencing high functioning depression may accomplish many things over the years, but feel little joy of accomplishment, regardless of the magnitude or impact of their deeds. It is not necessary that an individual experience extreme mood swings or thoughts of death and suicide in order to receive treatment for a depressive disorder.

Common symptoms of high functioning depression

According to the reference guide psychologists use to assign diagnoses, persistent depressive disorder is present when an individual experiences a depressed mood for most of the day on more days than not for 2 years. The individual must also experience 2 or more of the following:

a) Low self-esteem

b) Hopelessness

c) Difficulty sleeping

d) Low energy or fatigue

e) Poor Appetite or Overeating

f) Impaired concentration or difficulty making decisions

What can be done about high functioning depression?

If you or someone you know is experiencing the symptoms described above, there are many things that can ease the symptoms. Before undergoing any of these proven depression-relief methods, please consult with a professional.

Neurostimulation

Wearable neurostimulation devices like the FDA-Cleared Fisher Wallace Stimulator® enhance the production of serotonin and lower the stress-producing hormone cortisol over time.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy aims to alter a patient’s negative thinking patterns. The therapist will work with you to disarm recurrent depressive thoughts and feelings before they can take hold. It is a strategy often used to treat drug and alcohol abuse, anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Once your therapist helps you identify your session goals, he or she will work with you for several months to refocus your thought processes, derail bad habits, and approach your emotional problems from new angles.

Simply, CBT helps the patient gain clarity about what they’re feeling emotionally. Ideally the therapy helps to uproot negative automatic thoughts so that the patient can solve problems removed from drowning emotions.

Drug Therapy

In some cases, depressive symptoms are far too rooted and overwhelming to be alleviated by exercise, diet, or good sleep. Different symptoms call for the use of different approved medications: anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotic medication. Though a certain ailment may be incurable, drugs can assist someone experiencing debilitating symptoms. Be aware that since these are not natural methods for relief, a spectrum of side-effects are likely to occur.

Often, medication is prescribed to patients with hereditary depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, some people naturally don’t produce enough serotonin. Consult your doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist if you would like to try prescription medication. It’s important to note that, while drug therapy benefits many, you may not be compatible with certain drugs. Each prescription is slightly different and prompts a different physiological response from the user. Simply ‘trial and error’ administration is often the best course of action for you and your doctor.

References:

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5®). American Psychiatric Pub.

Demyttenaere, K., De Fruyt, J., & Stahl, S. M. (2005). The many faces of fatigue in major depressive disorder. The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 8(01), 93-105.

Hirshkowitz, M., Whiton, K., Albert, S. M., Alessi, C., Bruni, O., DonCarlos, L., ... & Neubauer, D. N. (2015). National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Sleep Health, 1(1), 40-43.

Klein, D.N., & Black, S.R. (2013). Persistent depressive disorder. Psychopathology: History, Diagnosis, and Empirical Foundations, 334.

Nemeth, V. L., Csete, G., Drotos, G., Greminger, N., Janka, Z., Vecsei, L., & Must, A. (2016). The effect of emotion and reward contingencies on relational memory in major depression: an eye-movement study with follow-up. Frontiers in Psychology, 7.

Simmons, W. K., Burrows, K., Avery, J. A., Kerr, K. L., Bodurka, J., Savage, C. R., & Drevets, W. C. (2016). Depression-Related Increases and Decreases in Appetite: Dissociable Patterns of Aberrant Activity in Reward and Interoceptive Neurocircuitry. American Journal of Psychiatry, 173(4), 418-428.

Yoon, K. L., LeMoult, J., & Joormann, J. (2014). Updating emotional content in working memory: A depression-specific deficit?. Journal of behavior therapy and experimental psychiatry, 45(3), 368-374.