High-Functioning Depression

One thing I think I myself could use an education on myself is the not necessarily “new” but rather uncommon phenomenon of high functioning depression. This is something I’ve never really heard talked about in bulk, or honestly ever, and being that half the reason this blog exists is to learn about the different forms of depression- and to debunk the general idea of what someone with depression looks like.

I wouldn’t consider myself a “high-functioning” depressive. Even though I hold down a full time job and am a student full time, I exert certain behaviors as anyone else with MDD (Major Depressive Disorder.) The “scary” thing about high functioning depression is people who are diagnosed with it may not even know they are depressed, and don’t figure it out until it’s too late.

A person who is high-functioning usually appears like anyone else on the surface. Though people like me who have MDD appear normal physically for the most part, sometimes they look extra tired, or sad. They might lose a lot of weight or gain a lot of weight quickly. More severe cases people really don’t take care of themselves. They don’t brush their hair or practice good hygiene because they’re so apathetic, but those who are high-functioning are the polar opposite. I knew very few people who are high functioning depressive, but here are a few signs of it.

  1. People see outwardly “perfect” however, if you scratch beneath the surface you might find they are extremely depressed. Many high functioning people have great jobs, do really well in school, have many friends and do extra curricular activities and have hobbies. Those with MDD are usually detracted from the things they used to love and struggle in school and work.
  2. People who are HF are usually really hard on themselves.They also tend to be overachievers.
  3. Substance abuse can be a player in a HF person’s life. They may not be aware of their illness, but feel the need to drink or do drugs to help them cope with their stress and sadness. What can be alarming in these instances because they are high-functioning, they can also become high functioning alcoholics and drug addicts.
  4. Many people who are high functioning feel as if they are wasting time, which leads to general hopelessness. This goes back to MDD because many people who are depressed feel indifferent towards their job, or things that used to give them joy. High-functioning depression makes it hard to realize that this is a symptom of their depression, not simply because they are unhappy with things they used to enjoy. This phenomena is also called anhedonia, and you can read a more informed article about it here.


There is some good news about high-functioning depression and just like regular depression it is highly treatable, though the hardest part may be finding it occurring in you or someone you love. This article offers a firsthand account of a girl who was high functioning depressive and really didn’t realize it until she talked about it. She also makes a pertinent point that all depression doesn’t look the same, and that’s where part of the stigma comes from. The general public cannot stereotype what depression is because it comes in many shapes and sizes. It all goes back to connecting with someone you love to make sure they’re okay, and as always, make sure you’re okay too. Always be perceptive of what people think and say, because you never know what it could hint to below skin level.


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