High functioning depression or functional depression is a term that’s used to describe a mental state where a person is able to function normally but is gradually losing interest in social activities and feeling empty or numb inside, feeling less pleasure and joy as before. High functioning depression isn’t a medical diagnosis, but a term used in social media to describe a stage that may be a precursor to depression. Psychologist Dr Julie Smith in her recent Instagram post explains why one needs to work on their mental health if they spot signs of high functioning depression instead of waiting to turn into a full-blown clinical depression. (Also read: Do you cry in your sleep? Unresolved trauma to depression; 10 reasons why it may happen)
Dr Smith says what’s described as high functioning depression symptoms in internet could help one work on their mental health early. The psychologist says that depression doesn’t begins suddenly and there are certain changes in our mental state initially.
“High functioning depression is not a clinical diagnosis. The term is being used across the Internet as people search for the language to describe their daily struggles with mental health. I think what this term has enabled many people to do, is acknowledge that depression does not begin on the day that you can’t get out of bed. You can be suffering intensely while going about your normal daily routine. If we wait until we cannot function before seeking help or working on recovery, we have a much bigger battle on our hands. So even if everyone in your life has no idea, the best time to work on your mental health is as soon as you notice these changes,” says Dr Smith.
5 signs of high functioning depression
Dr Smith says people suffering from high functioning depression may say yes to everything that people ask them to for covering up the low feelings. They may watch movies or scroll through social media endlessly.
Here are signs to watch out for:
- You do everything the world asks you to do, so no one would ever know. But most days, you feel empty inside.
2. You work hard, but never really feel energised or enthusiastic where you used to find pleasure now you are just going through the motions
3. You find yourself scrolling on social media, watching hours of TV and eating junk food to numb those feelings
4. Social events can feel more like hard work than fun because it takes so much effort to keep up the appearance of being happy
5. The high functioning ends when no one is looking. Then the self neglect begins.
The term itself is not a clinical diagnosis, but a term that has been used online to describe the experience of those who live with depressive symptoms and struggle to function but don’t cease to function. This term is pretty useful as many people have a pre-conceived idea that good mental health is all about whether you can still get to work or not. They often feel undeserving of any support because they are not outwardly at rock bottom.
Dr Smith says the best time to start doing the right things for your mental health is the moment you think you could benefit from it and one should not wait until your mental health prevents you from functioning as that could be a much longer and harder journey back.
Signs of clinical depression
In order to be diagnosed with depression, one has to be presenting with five of these nine symptoms for at least a couple of weeks, says Dr Smith.
1. Persistently feeling down, low in mood or hopeless.
2. Having little or no interest or pleasure in doing things.
3. Disturbed sleep, either too much or too little, compared to usual.
4. Changes in appetite and weight. You might be eating more or less than usual.
5. Fatigue and loss of energy. Even everyday tasks feel exhausting.
6. Agitation or slowing of movements.
7. Poor concentration or indecisiveness. You might have trouble making even the smallest of daily decisions.
8. Feeling of worthlessness or excessive guilt over things that you might not normally feel so intensely about.
9. Suicidal thoughts or urges.