You have a great job, a happy family and pals for life. But on the inside, you’re hanging by a thread – exhausted, listless, self-critical and irritable. If this sounds familiar, you may have high-functioning depression.
Thanks to our do-it-all, have-it-all tendencies, the term “high-functioning depression” has been making its rounds in popular media in recent years. Many successful folks who seem to be on top of everything in life are well, actually not.
“Outwardly, those with high-functioning depression take care of their families, homes and appearances. but internally, they struggle with negativity, sadness and despair,” says Dr Marcus Tan, consultant psychiatrist at Nobel Psychological Wellness Clinic.
While there is no medical definition of high-functioning depression, doctors recognise it as something closest to persistent depressive disorder or dysthymia, a mild but chronic form of clinical depression.
“Symptoms are often grumbling in the background and hindering the individual from reaching their full potential,” says Dr Iris Rawtaer, consultant psychiatrist at Sengkang General Hospital. Some may challenge themselves to “try harder” or “organise better” or see their internal struggles as a weakness, she adds.
Dr Tan agrees, saying those with high-functioning depression don’t actually realise they are depressed or can hardly cope until a major life event happens.
Symptoms of high-functioning depression
In addition to feeling depressed on most days for a number of years running, you may stop enjoying social gatherings and hobbies, suffer lower self-esteem, feel a sense of hopeless, have difficulty sleeping, experience fatigue or either overeat or have poor appetite.
(Also read: Can Someone Just ‘Snap Out’ of Depression)
Ways to cope
Like other forms of clinical depression, dysthymia is not something that can be willed away. Symptoms may worsen if you do not seek help early from a mental health professional.
If you think you are at risk, there are also lifestyle habits you can adopt to bust the blues.
- Start working out
Studies have found that regular exercise can help improve mood and increase energy levels. Plus, a toned bod will also make you feel great about yourself.
- Try the Mediterranean diet
A recent study found that eating a Mediterranean diet, typically comprising lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish and only small amounts of red meat, reduces the risk of depression, says Dr Rawtaer.
- Rest better
A good night of sleep restores your energy for the next day. Help your mind wind down more easily by keeping your mobile devices outside, keeping a consistent early bedtime and trying pre-bedtime rituals such as a warm bath or light reading.
- Talk about it
Find friends and family who can lend a listening ear. This is often less daunting as a first step before consulting a doctor.
(Also read: Reduce Your Risk of Depression With This Exact Diet)