What Is High Functioning Depression?

Depression is a complex and debilitating mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While some individuals with depression are unable to function normally, others continue to perform daily tasks despite their struggles. This type of depression is referred to as high functioning depression. It is often misunderstood and overlooked because individuals with this condition may not appear to have any significant problems.

What is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that affects the way individuals think, feel, and behave. It can affect people of all ages and genders. Depression can occur due to various factors, including genetics, life events, brain chemistry, and medical conditions. Symptoms typically include feelings of sadness, low self-esteem, loss of interest in activities, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, and lack of energy or motivation.

There are different types of depression, including major depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, bipolar disorder, and dysthymia. Depression can vary in severity from mild to severe, affecting daily life and overall quality of life. Treatment for depression typically includes psychotherapy, medication or a combination of both.

High Functioning Depression

High functioning depression, also known as persistent depressive disorder, is a form of depression where individuals may not show the standard symptoms. They may even be highly productive in their work, education or personal life. However, they may still experience regular feelings of sadness or emptiness, fatigue, low self-esteem, and lack of motivation. They may also experience pessimistic feelings, negative self-talk, and a sense of worthlessness or helplessness.

Individuals with high functioning depression might be highly successful in carrying out their daily routines, but their mental health is silently suffering. They are often able to hide their feelings or emotions from others, which can lead to a sense of loneliness or isolation. This can make it challenging to seek help or discuss their struggles with friends, family, or healthcare providers. Additionally, people with high functioning depression may not be aware that they have depression, which makes it harder to seek appropriate treatment.

Symptoms of High Functioning Depression

Individuals with high functioning depression may display the following signs:

  • Loss of interest in activities that they once enjoyed
  • Chronic low mood or numbness
  • Chronic fatigue and lack of energy
  • Increased irritability and agitation
  • Feelings of discouragement or hopelessness
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Changes in appetite or sleep habits
  • Feeling overwhelmed or isolated
  • Unexplained physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive problems, or muscle aches

Causes of High Functioning Depression

The causes of high functioning depression are still not clear. However, research suggests that genetic, environmental, and biological factors can all play a role. Individuals with a family history of depression are more likely to develop high functioning depression. Additionally, stressful life events such as job loss, divorce or illness can trigger depression in susceptible individuals. Brain chemistry imbalances can also contribute to depression, where individuals have low levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which affect mood and emotion.

Treatment for High Functioning Depression

Treatment for high functioning depression varies depending on severity and personal preferences. Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy or counselling, is an effective treatment option. Talking to a qualified therapist can help individuals with high functioning depression learn coping strategies, identify and change negative thought patterns, and address any underlying psychological issues. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a common form of psychotherapy that focuses on changing thought patterns and behavior.

Medication is another treatment option for high functioning depression. Antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) can help improve mood, energy levels, and sleep without causing drowsiness or sedation. However, medication can have side effects, and the effectiveness may vary from person to person. Therefore, it is essential to work closely with a healthcare provider to determine which treatment options are suitable for an individual’s needs.

Lifestyle changes such as exercise, a healthy diet, and stress-reducing strategies can also help with managing high functioning depression. Activities like mindfulness and yoga can help reduce stress and improve overall mental health. Additionally, regular exercise can boost mood and increase energy levels.


High functioning depression is a complex and challenging mental health condition that can be difficult to diagnose and manage. Individuals may appear to be functioning normally, but their struggles with depression can significantly impact their lives. It is crucial to seek help from a qualified healthcare provider if experiencing symptoms of high functioning depression. Appropriate treatment can help individuals regain control of their lives and improve overall quality of life. With proper care and support, individuals with high functioning depression can lead fulfilling and happy lives.


FAQs: What Is High Functioning Depression?

1. What is high functioning depression?

High functioning depression is a type of depression where a person is able to maintain their daily routine and responsibilities, despite struggling with symptoms of depression. This can make it difficult for people to recognize they are experiencing depression, as they are still able to function in their daily life.

2. What are the symptoms of high functioning depression?

Some common symptoms of high functioning depression include feeling sad or empty, losing interest in activities, having low energy or fatigue, experiencing changes in sleep or appetite, feeling hopeless or worthless, and having trouble concentrating or making decisions. However, these symptoms may not necessarily be severe enough to interfere with day-to-day functioning.

3. How is high functioning depression treated?

Treatment for high functioning depression may involve a combination of therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. It’s important to seek professional help for depression, even if it seems mild or manageable, as it can still impact your quality of life and mental health.


1. Ciesla, J. A., & Roberts, J. E. (2007). Meta-analysis of the relationship between social support and depression in college students. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 38(1), 23-38. doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2006.03.002

2. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association. https://dsm.psychiatryonline.org/doi/book/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596

3. Wittenberg, L. A., & Patki, A. (2019). High-functioning depression: Review of the evidence and clinical implications. Current Psychiatry Reports, 21(9), 88. doi: 10.1007/s11920-019-1071-8