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High Functioning Depression: An Insight

A troubling aspect of mental illness is that it’s often not diagnosed. People that suffer from mental illnesses are usually in denial of their deteriorating mental health or hesitate to seek help due to the stigma that surrounds psychology and mental illness, as well as the stickiness of labels. Nobody wants to be labeled mentally ill, especially when it can reflect badly on their work or education. The first step to – not curing, we’re unsure if mental illnesses can ever be cured – helping oneself is to acknowledge that there is something wrong with your psychological state. The next is to recognize the symptoms for what they are, and get help.

Unlike its associate depressive illnesses, High Functioning Depression doesn’t express itself like that. A person suffering from it doesn’t have to look or even feel the part, at least to other people. They could be a scientist, a flourishing actor, a successful entrepreneur, a revered teacher etc. They keep up appearances, and while they appear to be alright, they really aren’t. High Functioning Depression is more commonly known as Dysthymia. Dysthymia, according to the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition” (DSM 5), is a mental health disorder characterized by:

“Depressed mood for most of the day, for more days than not, as indicated by either subjective account or observation by others, for at least two years,” and includes the presence of two or more of the following symptoms, “Poor appetite or overeating; insomnia or hypersomnia; low energy or fatigue; low self-esteem; poor concentration or difficulty making decisions; feelings of hopelessness.”

Dysthymia is set apart from other depressive disorders because it’s the silent thief. It slowly, eventually, and quietly takes away what makes you who you are, and replaces you with someone just going through the motions. One of the biggest symptoms of Dysthymia is the difficulty in experiencing happiness. The absence of joy in things previously enjoyed, or just, in general, is a major symptom. Nothing evokes good memories, and even memories can’t make one feel happy anymore. Doing things just for the sake of doing them, because it doesn’t bring you happiness, or make you feel different. No matter what you achieve, the happiness doesn’t kick in.

People suffering from this form of depression are often irritable and obsessive and the smallest of events can set them off, and they’ll keep thinking about the tiniest of mistakes over and over again, to the point of driving themselves crazy. Women brush off the symptom as mood swings, whereas men progress to anger. The smallest of things can upset sufferers and their inability to let go of things can cause further frustration with themselves. Throw in perfectionism and it’s enough to drive someone up the wall. Most individuals tend to be hard on themselves, which is why failure is unacceptable. Achievements become a necessity which is why most individuals take up several hobbies and learn new skills all the time.

Another aspect of this form of depression is constant exhaustion; the reason behind some people insisting they are tired all the time isn’t because they’d like to whine or seek attention, it may not even have anything to do with a bad diet, because it could be a manifestation of their depression.

Anxiety, self-doubt, and hopelessness plague those who suffer from High Functioning Depression. Looking at oneself in the mirror, and constantly wishing to change what may appear a well put together appearance is a sign of self-doubt. What was a perfect outfit a few months ago could seem bland, overused, or unsuitable. Self-doubt may even lead to serious self-image issues. But before beginning to get dressed, individuals may experience difficulty in even getting out of bed. What is a simple task to people not facing depression, may weigh heavier to those suffering.

High Functioning Depression is problematic due to the tenacity of sufferers. Those in regular contact with them may not acknowledge anything being amiss. How could a successful and engaging person be depressed?

We need to acknowledge the disease to help it get better, just like any other physical illness such as cancer, heart disease, or obesity, because depression has as much to do with biology as physical diseases. Those who suffer need encouragement and constant support so they may take effective steps towards getting better, such as seeing a physician. If Ellen DeGeneres can suffer from depression, highly successful comedian and human rights activist that is she is, who is to say the rest of us can’t?

HOLLYWOOD, CA – MARCH 02: Host Ellen DeGeneres speaks onstage during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre on March 2, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)


Please, do not ignore mental illnesses, especially because most people suffer unbeknownst to them or others. Just like our efforts to eradicate small pox and polio are important, we must also eradicate mental illnesses.

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