Emotional and mental health can be fluid, changing things. Life stress, curve balls, and residing on planet Earth in 2019 can mean that emotions get intense sometimes. All things considered, you might get run down, you might feel emotionally tired, and just generally *over it*. But, how do you know if you’re just in a "funk," or if you’re dealing with high-functioning depression or anxiety?
High-functioning depression, clinically known as dysthymia, can be tricky to pick up on, wrote Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW, for Psycom.net. Someone you know might be living with it, but because they are often high achievers who seem to have it all together, you might not realize that they're experiencing depression or anxiety.
“I've met many people over the years who are simply sad, but wonder if they're depressed,” grief specialist and author Gary Roe tells Bustle by email. “This can lead to an overreaction that actually creates more sadness and anxiety, when the reality is that what they're feeling is completely natural, common, and normal. I've also met many others who think they're sad or down, when in reality they’re depressed. This leads to undiagnosed, and therefore untreated, depression with powerful implications for their mental health, careers, relationships, and overall quality of life. These same things can be said about anxiety as well.”
While dysthymia is a recognized condition, high-functioning anxiety isn’t an official medical diagnosis at this point, wrote Amanda Gardner for Health in 2018. If you think you have high-functioning anxiety (or depression), it may simply mean that you’re powering-through life with mental health symptoms — without receiving a clear diagnosis from a qualified professional, Gardner said.
“Many people are walking around with extremely high levels of anxiety that are near meeting the criteria for anxiety disorders, but they’re white-knuckling their way through it,” Debra Kissen, PhD, co-chair of the public education committee for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America told Health.
“High-functioning individuals have learned to push past their feelings. They get up, go to work, and battle their way through their emotions and situations,” Roe says. “Or perhaps they've learned to be real about their emotions and have gained skills to handle anxiety and depression in such a way that those feelings don't hijack their minds, hearts, and lives. These kinds of skills usually come through mentoring, therapy, or self-learning of some kind.”
Feelings of sadness or anxiety — that "funk" feeling — don’t necessarily mean you have a mental health condition, Roe tells Bustle; you might just be responding to challenging life events. If you find this feeling lifting over a few days or a week, it's probably just that "funk" — the DSM-V considers a diagnosis of depression when symptoms happen consistently over two weeks. But just because you manage to function while coping with mental health symptoms doesn’t mean that your condition doesn't need attention. Conversely, if your daily functioning gets impaired because your mental health is struggling, this does not mean that you’re weak. Mental illness can be really complex, and it often manifests differently from person to person.
If you’re feeling sad and anxious, and are concerned that you might have a mental health condition, it’s important that you don’t self-diagnose, says Roe. Checking in with a qualified mental health professional can help shed light on what might be going on.
“True strength involves taking the best care of ourselves possible so that we can live the healthiest lives possible and be effective contributors to the greater good,” Roe says.
By staying open-minded and curious about your feelings, and not jumping to conclusions about your mental health if you are facing challenges, you can position yourself to manage your emotions in the most effective way possible moving forward.
If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.