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High Functioning Depression Symptoms

High Functioning Depression Symptoms

High Functioning Depression Symptoms

Published: June 14, 2022

When people think of depression, it tends to conjure ideas of clinical depression, associated with deep distress and difficulty functioning in everyday life. Although this is some people's reality, depression has many different shapes. Some people are living with a condition known as 'functional depression', also called persistent depressive disorder.

Somebody living with high functioning depression may find they can get through the day without friends and family members realizing what they are dealing with inside. They may manage to put on a front that doesn't truly represent how they are feeling. The symptoms of high functioning depression are less debilitating than the symptoms of major depression, but there are high risks involved with carrying on as though you are fine. We look at some of the details below.

What is High Functioning Depression?

Although high functioning depression is not an official diagnosis, generally those who are living with these symptoms are diagnosed as having persistent depressive disorder (PDD). Individuals living with PDD tend to experience low energy and mood, and these symptoms are long-term, lasting at least two years. The length of time somebody experiences symptoms is what differentiates between experiencing sadness or grief, and a diagnosis of high-functioning depression.

Recognizing a Problem

The nature of high functioning depression is such that it can be difficult to diagnose or identify the symptoms. It can be a gradual process to develop an established and debilitating problem and recognizing that you are living with depression often takes even longer.

It is common for individuals with high functioning depression to ignore the difficulties they are experiencing and try to push through their low mood without any emotional support. This can cause them to feel more depressed and put them at greater risk of experiencing major depressive disorder or developing another mental health condition.

High Functioning - Not Fully Functioning

Experiencing mental illness usually has a profound effect and impacts a person's ability to function. This is a common indicator that somebody is suffering from a mental health condition and is used as criteria for clinical diagnosis.

This impact can be felt in one or multiple areas of life. For example, being unable to work, keep up with school studies, maintain friendships, or have relationship issues can all indicate a mental health issue.

However, some people may experience milder symptoms and are therefore able to carry on with the majority of their life in the same manner. This is known as high functioning depression. Despite the fact that high functioning may mean being able to carry out some everyday tasks, it's important to remember that high functioning is not fully functioning.

If you are concerned that you or a loved one might be living with high functioning depression, get in touch with us today. We know that the symptoms are difficult to identify, but we are here to guide you through them.

Symptoms of High Functioning Depression

The way in which one person experiences symptoms of high functioning depression will vary from another's experience. This is one reason it is crucial to seek advice from a medical professional if you suspect a problem.

An accurate diagnosis of whether somebody is living with high functioning depression or another mental illness means accessing more effective treatment. Some common symptoms of high functioning depression include:

  • Overeating
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Lack of energy
  • Continuous low mood
  • Reduced self-esteem
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Social isolation

Somebody living with high functioning depression may not experience all of these symptoms all of the time. As with other forms of mental illness, they may go through periods of time where they have more energy for life, and at other times may find it more challenging.

Accessing help from a mental health professional can enable you to receive the support and guidance you need to face your condition head-on. It is important to receive an accurate diagnosis when it comes to mental health care; seek advice today to learn about your treatment options.

Additional Criteria

Some other criteria will be used together with the above symptoms to make a diagnosis of functional depression. These criteria include:

  • The symptoms described above of low mood and hopelessness occur most days for upwards of two years, without any longer than 2 months without symptoms.
  • There is no history of a period of mania or hypomania - characterized by euphoria and increased energy.
  • These symptoms are not attributed to another mental illness or substance abuse.
  • These symptoms impact one or more areas of normal functioning.
  • The individual is under significant stress due to these symptoms.
  • An individual with this diagnosis may meet the criteria for major depression.

Major Depression or Persistent Depressive Disorder?

Experiencing persistent depressive disorder puts an individual at higher risk of a major depressive episode; this is one reason that accessing support from medical practitioners is so important. The majority of people living with high functioning depression or PDD will experience one episode of major depression during their lifetime.

While some individuals may feel that their low-level depression symptoms are unconnected, others may regularly feel that they are on the verge of tipping into major depression.

Although there are similarities and correlations between these conditions, there are significant differences that are important to understand, particularly in diagnosis and treatment.


As we know, persistent depressive disorder lasts for a long period of time, upwards of two years. Whereas major depression tends to occur in shorter time periods, with a minimum of two weeks.


Symptoms of both conditions are similar, however, the severity is greater in a major depressive episode.


With all forms of depression, there may be some impact on functioning, but during an episode of major depression, regular functioning will be at a decreased level. This can impact school or work responsibilities, social activities, relationships, and maintaining self-care and personal hygiene.

Additional Symptoms of Major Depression

There are some additional symptoms that may be experienced in an episode of major depression. These include a loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed, chronic feelings of guilt and shame, disrupted emotion regulation, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

In some cases, a depressive episode can cause psychotic symptoms, such as delusions and paranoia. This is typically when an individual has severe depression and psychosis.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has included a condition of "major depressive disorder" specifying "with psychotic features."

Seek Help From a Mental Health Professional

Although high functioning depression may not be as debilitating as major depression, it certainly negatively impacts an individual's experience and their ability to enjoy life to the full. Some people find themselves comparing their symptoms to more severe cases of depression and feel they are not worthy or in need of help. This belief is detrimental and leads many individuals to carry on without accessing support.

Nobody should have to live with a persistent low mood and energy levels when there are effective methods of treatment available. At GIA Miami we firmly believe that every person deserves the right to a happy and fulfilled life, and we are here to guide you onto that path.

The first step is always acknowledging there is a problem. This can be difficult with high functioning depression as the symptoms are not usually as obvious as other mental health conditions. Speaking to a loved one or someone you trust can help you to identify what might be normal mood fluctuation, and what may need intervention from a mental health specialist.

Life After a Diagnosis

After having a diagnosis of PDD, individuals can start a combination of treatments to manage their symptoms. While some individuals may respond well to talk therapy, others may benefit from a combination of medication and therapeutic techniques. Any treatment should be supervised by a medical professional in order to get the most out of therapy for the individual, and to ensure their safety is always paramount.

Recognizing the symptoms of high functioning depression can be challenging. It can be a deceptive condition as it is hidden behind layers of regular functioning. Coming to terms with the condition is a brave step, and it is the first one on the path to recovery. A diagnosis does not symbolize the end - it is the start of a new beginning.

Treatment for Depression at GIA Miami

Seeking help is critical if you want to lead the life you deserve. With the right support, you can beat depression and live a happy and fulfilling life. We understand that every case of depression is unique. We reflect this by tailoring our programs to the individual needs of our clients and their recovery goals.

We use cutting-edge technology and evidence-based therapies to design our programs, which are delivered with utmost compassion and dignity. We specialize in TMS therapy, an innovative therapy that works well for individuals living with treatment-resistant depression.

We offer a variety of effective treatment methods for depression to reflect our wide-ranging clientele. Our treatment options include:

  • Psychotherapy - Psychotherapy is a widely used and respected therapy used to treat depression. We use a range of individual and group therapies in the treatment of depression.
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy - TMS therapy is a relatively new treatment option, approved by the FDA in 2008. It uses gentle magnetic waves to safely stimulate brain cells, leading to improvements in mood and behavior.
  • Dual Diagnosis Treatment- Sometimes individuals will develop a secondary mental health condition as they try to cope with symptoms of depression alone. Substance abuse is common among people with undiagnosed depression. GIA uses a combination of therapies to treat multiple conditions

Get In Touch Today

If you are ready to seek treatment, get in touch with GIA Miami today for a consultation session. We are ready to guide you toward living your best life.

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