We’re reaching a point in time when talking about depression, and mental health, is socially acceptable. We have a long way to go before we’ve completely accepted the fact that our brains are also organs that can get sick, but baby steps are still steps in the right direction. If you think you, or someone you love, is going through depression, there are places you can call for help in the United States, free of charge, including:
- NDMDA Depression Hotline – Support Group: 800-826-3632
- Crisis Help Line – For Any Kind of Crisis: 800-233-4357
- Suicide & Depression Hotline – Covenant House: 800-999-9999
Because of the stigma attached to depression, the first step of admitting that it’s there is always the hardest. You might brush it off, thinking that society conditioned you to think of everything as a mental health problem. You might think it’s a weakness, that you’re stronger than that, and that other people have it much worse. But none of that is the truth.
On top of that, the 350 million people in the world who are currently dealing with depression don’t always experience the same symptoms. This includes those people who are depressed, but who push through their illness to get things done. Here are 5 signs that could help you identify high-functioning depression:
1. Self-criticism that borders in self-loathing. According to Mayo Clinic, feelings of worthlessness and guilt that take place every single day are already a symptom of a major depressive disorder.
Some of us are perfectionists, and we nitpick our own personalities and choices. That’s normal. What’s not normal is doing it for every little thing we do, say or think, constantly and without seeing our good qualities.
If you know someone, or even find yourself, constantly thinking “I’m not good enough,” “I’m a failure,” and “I can’t do anything right,” please keep in mind that this is not normal or healthy.
People dealing with high-functioning depression might be successful overachievers who pushed themselves beyond the point of healthy self-criticism. They fail to see their good qualities and put a magnifying glass to their self-perceived faults.
2. Work feels too stressful, every single day. We all experience stress at work from time to time. This is normal—especially when it’s in direct correlation to something specific that happens at work. It’s not normal when it’s the only thing motivating you to work, according to the American Psychological Association.
Constantly stressing about work, over the smallest things, is a sign that someone isn’t coping well with something else. They might feel this constant stress, but not realize that it’s a problem.
A feeling of constant anxiety and agitation are symptoms of depression, according to the Mayo Clinic. That pit in your stomach that doesn’t listen to logic might be part of a bigger problem.
Depression isn’t a synonym for failure. You can be a Type A personality with a corporate career and still struggle with the constant grind of depression every minute of the day.
3. Engaging in too many vices and bad habits. Moderate smokers and drinkers have healthy filters that tell them when it’s time to stop before their bodies are harmed. People with high-functioning depression don’t have those filters and use vices to cope with the worst symptoms of their depression, according to Stephanie A. Gamble, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, who spoke with Everyday Health about the worst coping mechanisms for depression.
A person with high-functioning depression has mastered the art of hiding their alcoholism and drug abuse, to the point that they have fooled friends and family.
It’s hard for those friends and family to wrap their heads around how someone so productive and hard-working could be an alcoholic or a drug addict, but it happens.
DrugAbuse describes a high-functioning addict as someone who is in denial about their behavior, increases their alcohol intake and hangover-like symptoms, and loses motivation and interest in their regular activities.
4. Only going somewhere when it’s completely necessary. This includes work, school and family duties. Other than those activities, a person with high-functioning depression declines to do everything else. According to WebMD, one of the symptoms of depression is a “loss of interest in hobbies and social activities.”
According to Dr. Jason Stamper, a psychiatrist in Pikeville, Kentucky, people with high-functioning depression only put themselves through activities that they have a responsibility to attend to (work, school, chores).
They stop hanging out with friends, co-workers, and classmates altogether using a flimsy excuse. Constantly declining to do anything besides work, school or chores is a sign of the need for isolation that comes with depression.
It might not look like a lot at first, but in the long-term, high functioning depression can really affect a person’s quality of life, diminish their social circles and distance them from family and loved ones.
5. Other physical symptoms and illnesses that never go away (or are recurring). According to WebMD, depression comes with low-level physical symptoms that don’t seem like a big deal to the naked eye.
These physical symptoms might be a reflection of the lack of sleep or poor eating habits intrinsically linked to depression, or they might originate in the brain the same way the emotional symptoms do. The link is still unclear in the research available.
Some of the common health problems that a person with high-functioning depression might be able to power through include: constant headaches, back pain and muscle aches, and digestive problems.
A person with high-functioning depression might not have the motivation to eat properly. This results in lower immunity due to lack of nutrients and vitamins, which in turn makes a person prone to getting sick all the time.
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