13 Unexpected Signs Of High-Functioning Depression To Watch Out For
When it comes to depression, there are certain signs that many people are familiar with, like loss of interest in things someone once loved, low energy, and sadness. But not all signs of depression are so blatant. Some people have symptoms of high-functioning depression, and are able to get up and go about their day. But, despite being able to function, they just don't feel right.
"Individuals with high-functioning depression may not have the same severe levels of impaired functioning that can make major depression more obvious to diagnose," therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, tells Bustle. And yet, their symptoms are still very real, and very disruptive to their lives. "Those with high-functioning depression may still be able to have a stable romantic relationship, perform well at their job, have a social life, and not outwardly appear depressed. Inwardly, however, this person may have symptoms that decrease their quality of life."
If you have this type of depression, it may not be obvious to anyone else in your life. But it's also easy to miss it yourself, if you don't know what to look for. So, if you haven't been feeling like yourself, here are a few things experts say can be signs of high-functioning depression. If anything sounds familiar, it may be a good idea to meet with a therapist, so they can tell you about treatment options, and what you can do to feel better.
1. You've Been Extra Irritable Lately
Everyone's entitled to a bout of crankiness, or the occasional bad mood. But if it seems like you always feel this way, there's a good chance it's a sign of high-functioning depression.
"Very often mild depression can mask itself," clinical psychologist Dr. Josh Klapow, host of The Web radio show, tells Bustle. "Often depression can present as irritability. You might be in a bad mood and feel cranky, irritable, and down — but not sad. Irritability is a symptom of depression both mild and moderate." If you are finding that you are easily annoyed or angered more often that not, speaking with a therapist about your symptoms can help you find ways to feel like yourself again.
2. You Don't Feel Excited About Things You Used To Enjoy
While you might not be spending the day in bed, you will likely feel sadder than usual, and a bit zapped of your usual energy. "The things that used to give you joy, such as playing with your dog or running, no longer bring you happiness," says Hershenson. "These things may be avoided because they now feel more like a chore."
One of the reasons for this? "Many people with depression have sleep difficulties or become so emotionally drained it leads to exhaustion or low energy," Hershenson says. So even if you're resting enough, you still might feel incapable of going out or enjoying your favorite activities with any type of zest or vigor.
3. You Have A Hard Time Making Decisions
Self-doubt is one of the hallmark symptoms of depression, so take note if you can't seem to make up your mind. "Questioning whether you're in the right job, the right relationship, or having trouble making decisions may be signs of depression," says Hershenson. "If you find yourself questioning every move you make, this may be more than normal indecisiveness."
The reason for this feeling, according to Hershenson, is that "depression 'lies' to you by telling you that you’re lazy. It can also make you focus on opportunities you didn’t take or time lost because of bad days." And thus all your thoughts are clouded by a sense of confusion and doubt. If this is the case for you, a therapist can help you uncover the root of these doubts, as well as ways to cope with your symptoms.
4. You're Being Overly Critical Of Yourself And Others
Do you find yourself sitting around feeling judgmental not only of yourself, but of those closest to you? "Finding fault with yourself, beating yourself up constantly, or thinking others are always wrong are negative thought patterns that may be another sign of depression," says Hershenson. "Do you call yourself a loser? Think your boss is an idiot? Get frustrated with your friends?" Then you may have high-functioning depression.
5. You Feel Sluggish
While it's typical to feel tired if you're super busy, or not getting eight hours of sleep each night, depression can make you feel tired even on the best of days. "If getting through the day feels unbearable — even if you've had adequate sleep — or you feel like you don't have the mental capacity to deal with life, these are symptoms of high-functioning depression," Hershenson says. Sure, it may just be a phase you're going through, and one that can be corrected with a few healthy lifestyle changes. But if it continues on, definitely speak to a therapist.
6. You Get Emotional At The Drop Of A Hat
If you find yourself getting frustrated easily, or crying over small daily mishaps — like spilling a drip of coffee, or misplacing your phone — take note. As Hershenson says, "If you find yourself upset or stressed out over something that normally wouldn't have bothered you, such as a friend rescheduling lunch plans ... this may be another sign." Depression can make it feel like your world is collapsing, she says, and often your ability to "deal" goes with it.
7. You'd Definitely Describe Yourself As "Burnt Out"
As Klapow says, a person with high-functioning depression "may also feel like they're burned out." This can show up in your lack of desire to put much effort into your job, or you might find yourself feeling frazzled at the thought of meeting up with friends. This "burnt out" feeling is common among depressed folks, and isn't something you should accept or ignore. Instead, talk with a therapist or loved one about how you are feeling — they may be able to offer you the tools to better deal with these feelings day to day.
8. You're Having Trouble Focusing
Mild depression can cause you suffer from a feeling of brain fog, or that fuzzy-headed lack of focus. A Klapow says, you might "have problems staying focused and engaged during work, at school, at home, or during social activities." You might, for example, space out while a friend's telling a story, or feel like you can't center your thoughts at work. And while that may be OK if it only happens occasionally, if the feeling is ongoing, it's likely a sign of depression.
9. You're Just Going Through The Motions
Do you wake up on Monday and then suddenly it's already Friday? If so, you may have spent the week in a fog of mild depression. "One sign of someone who is depressed but functioning at a high level is anhedonia, or a lack of pleasure," relationship counselor Raffi Bilek, LCSW-C, director of the Baltimore Therapy Center tells Bustle. "This is someone who goes through the motions but feels dried up inside." When your mood has turned flat due to mild depression, one day can easily bleed into the next.
10. You Feel Physical Pain
Interesting enough, depression can show up physically in the body, in the form of aches and pains. "It is an invisible pain that can get so intense, it becomes utterly crippling," yoga therapist Suzanne Ludlum tells Bustle. You might have achey shoulders, headaches that keep hitting you midday, or a general sense of malaise that just won't go away. If you are feeling this pain without much of an explanation for it, then it may be a good idea to talk to a therapist about the possibility of depression.
11. You're Having Trouble Falling (And Staying) Asleep
Again, sleep problems can crop up for a variety of reasons, such as drinking too much caffeine during the day, or not giving yourself adequate time to wind down after a busy day. But they can also be a symptom of depression.
"It's common for people to either sleep too much or have difficulty with sleeping," licensed psychologist Dr. Crystal I. Lee tells Bustle. "It may be that you're up worrying, or it may be that it just feels impossible to sleep." Whatever the case may be, it's definitely something that you should talk to your doctor about.
12. You've Been Avoiding Your Friends
Everyone needs a little downtime, where you just stay in, watch a few movies, and recharge. And yet, if this has become your MO — and you've been canceling on your friends more often than not — it may be an issue worth looking into.
"When you have high-functioning depression, you often will isolate yourself from others," says Lee. "Your friends may think that you are being flaky, but you are actually just too depressed to be around people. Hanging out with friends suddenly feels like a chore and something you have to work at."
13. You Don't Feel Excited Or Hopeful About The Future
If you look into the future and see no hope, this may be mild depression. "If you have high functioning depression, you'll often feel hopeless about the future," Lee says. "It seems impossible that things will change for the better, and you think things will be stuck like this forever." You might not think you'll ever get where you want to be in your career, or that your relationships will never work out. And when you try to get excited or hopeful, nothing ever seems to click.
These symptoms come and go for most people on any given day. But if they're ongoing, they can be a sign of depression. It's easy to get used to them, ignore them, or even accept these symptoms as part of life, but they can be improved. By taking great care of yourself, talking to friends, and seeing a therapist, it'll be possible to see the other side of this mild form of depression, and feel like yourself again.