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High-Functioning Depression

What is High-Functioning Depression?

High-functioning depression is a type of depression that affects people who are able to maintain their everyday responsibilities despite feeling depressed. This can make it difficult to spot because the person may not appear to be struggling on the surface. However, just because someone appears to be outwardly successful doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling on the inside.

Signs and Symptoms of High-Functioning Depression 

If you think you or someone you know may be suffering from high-functioning depression, keep an eye out for the following signs and symptoms:

  • Feeling down or low most of the time. A person with high-functioning depression may still be able to work and socialize, but they will likely feel down or low for most of the day.
  • Lack of enjoyment or pleasure in activities. People who are struggling with high-functioning depression may find that activities that used to bring them joy no longer do, or that they don’t look forward to doing them as much.
  • Trouble concentrating. High-functioning depression can interfere with a person’s ability to focus and concentrate, which can make it difficult for them to complete tasks or finish projects.
  • Low motivation. People with high-functioning depression may have difficulty finding the motivation to do activities or tasks that they used to enjoy, as well as essential everyday tasks like cooking nutritious meals and cleaning their homes.
  • Sleep disturbances. High-functioning depression can cause difficulty sleeping, such as insomnia or excessive sleeping. This can lead to feeling tired or fatigued.
  • Feelings of guilt and shame. People who are struggling with high-functioning depression may feel guilty for not being able to complete tasks or feel ashamed of their mental health struggles.
  • Changes in appetite or weight. High-functioning depression can lead to changes in appetite and weight, such as overeating or loss of appetite.
  • Aches and pains with no known cause. People with high-functioning depression may experience physical pain, such as headaches or stomach aches, which can interfere with their daily activities.
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless. People with high-functioning depression may not be able to see a way out of their situation and can feel helpless in their struggle due to issues with rumination. In the most severe cases, high-functioning depression can lead to thoughts of self-harm, death, or suicide.

Why High Functioning Depression Increases a Person’s Risk of Drug or Alcohol Addiction

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1 in 7 people in the United States will face a substance abuse disorder at some point in their lives. However, when a person is struggling with what is known as high-functioning depression, the risk of developing an addiction is even higher.

People who suffer from high-functioning depression often turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate. Alcohol is often the drug of choice for people with high-functioning depression because it’s widely available and our culture encourages gray area drinking. However, substance abuse can worsen symptoms of depression, such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, and lack of motivation. This creates a vicious cycle where drugs and alcohol are used more often as a coping mechanism.

Because they are able to maintain a façade of normalcy and often have successful careers, people with high-functioning depression often do not seek help for their condition until it is too late and they have already developed an addiction. Even then, they may be embarrassed, ashamed, or afraid to ask for the help they need. 

Getting Help

If you or someone you know is suffering from high-functioning depression, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. Treatment can provide tools and strategies for managing symptoms and preventing the development of an addiction or building the foundation for addiction recovery. 

Some possible treatments for high-functioning depression include:

  • Psychotherapy. Talking to a qualified therapist can help a person better understand their symptoms and learn strategies to manage them in a healthy way.
  • Antidepressants. Antidepressant medication can help reduce the symptoms of depression and improve mood.
  • Lifestyle changes. Making lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep, can also help manage high-functioning depression.
  • Relaxation techniques. Engaging in relaxation techniques like mindfulness meditation or yoga can help reduce stress and improve mood.

It’s important to understand that although high-functioning depression can increase a person’s risk of developing an addiction, you are never powerless when it comes to taking control of your mental health. Seeking treatment from a qualified mental health professional is the best way to address feelings of depression and struggles with substance abuse so you can regain control of your life. 

At Waypoint Recovery Center, we provide evidence-based care for men and women struggling with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions such as depression. Clients at our South Carolina residential addiction treatment center learn how to manage their symptoms, deal with cravings, and process their emotions without the use of addictive substances. Our program includes a full continuum of care, from detox to continuing care resources that support the transition back to independent living. Contact us today to learn more.