Some people use the term “high-functioning depression,” but this is neither a diagnosis nor a clinical disorder. Many mental health professionals also disagree with the use of the term. Ultimately, the term is often used to say that a high functioning person can be suffering invisibly too.
The term may be misleading depending on how a person defines it and their attitude toward treatment. Many people may consider high-functioning depression to be episodes of depression without certain diagnostic signs and symptoms. As this form of depression may be less debilitating than other forms and allow a person to live a relatively “normal” life, they may consider it to be a high-functioning form of depression.
However, depression can look very different on different people.
This means that some people who have clinically diagnosed depression may also still maintain everyday, and sometimes exceptional, tasks.
Many people may confuse high-functioning depression with Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD). This type of depression involves lengthy instances of depression with periods of normal mood in between. However, PDD is a clinical diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). There are signs and symptoms that may adversely affect a person’s well-being, social life, job, or other important areas of their life.
Signs and Symptoms
A doctor cannot diagnose a person as having high-functioning depression. However, if a person is experiencing depressive symptoms, they should speak to a doctor immediately.
Persistent Depressive Disorder is still a poorly understood condition for which the diagnostic criteria are constantly evolving. It involves low mood and depression with symptoms that persist for at least 2 years. With PDD, a person’s depressed mood lasts for most of each day, and depression occurs more often than not. In addition to low mood, people with PDD may also have the following symptoms:
- Changes in appetite
- Oversleeping or insomnia
- Extreme fatigue
- Low self-esteem
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt
Conditions that people often confuse with high-functioning depression, such as PDD, may be challenging to diagnose. People are likely to have low grade symptoms and may not be aware that they have depression. For this reason, it’s important to check in with loved ones and understand the signs and symptoms of depression. It may be difficult to spot, but it is a life-changing catch when we get connected with the right information and help.