Why It’s so Important to Know About High-Functioning Depression
Today, Bright Side would like to share a very important article with you. The subject here might not be all that uplifting, but it’s vitally important that as many people know about it as possible if we’re to make the world a better place.
Pop culture portrayals of depression often paint the same picture: withdrawal from friends or favorite activities, trouble sleeping, and crying. While those are signs, the problem is that there are many faces of depression. A growing contingent of people are suffering from what’s been dubbed high-functioning depression. And, because a stigma is still attached, many keep their sadness hidden, and no one knows anything is wrong.
High- vs. low-functioning
High-functioning depression is when someone seems to have it all together on the outside, but on the inside they are severely sad. Carol Landau, PhD, a clinical professor of psychiatry and human behavior and medicine, says she primarily sees this in women with a penchant for perfectionism — that is, the same people who likely have enviable lives and a long list of personal achievements.
"People often say being high-functioning is better than being low-functioning, but that’s not really true because the most important thing is for a depressed person to get help — which a high-functioning person is limiting herself from," Landau says.
A struggle hiding in plain sight
For Amanda Leventhal, a college student at the University of Missouri with a seemingly perfect life, the public essay of her private struggle with high-functioning depression that she recently penned was years in the making. “I was up late one night, not sleeping, and decided to put into words everything I had been reflecting on over the years.“ Now she feels more comfortable bringing up her depression in conversations but says she still doesn’t bring the topic up a lot because she’s too worried it will bum people out.
Landau says this is typical for women. ”We’re still striving to be caregivers, and part of that is not admitting we need help,“ she says. “But it’s a huge problem. Depression is actually the leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. So the minute someone opens up to their friend about it, they’ll find out that their friend will say, ”Me too,” or “My sister feels that way too.” "
Other ways to spot depression
Leventhal doesn’t identify with the mopey women in antidepressant ads. Her symptoms manifest themselves in other ways. “For me, it was irritability,“ she explains. Landau says this is totally normal. ”You might have a friend who is cranky all the time, or who people think of as a “bitch,“ but inwardly that person is really struggling. Other subtle signs to look for: ironic or morose jokes or often seeming out of it.”
So how do you talk to a friend who you believe is masking her depression? Landau says to ask if she is okay, pointing out that she hasn’t been herself lately. Leventhal echoes that sentiment. ”Just little things, like asking “How are you doing?” Just be there to listen and ask them what they need. Different people will need different things." Landau says it’s best to be able to come armed with a suggestion, like a reputable therapist or an app like Headspace, used for meditation. “There are so many different types of therapists, medications, apps, and other tools. That’s why it’s tragic that so many people don’t seek help.”
We at Bright Side urge everyone to take good care of their friends and loved ones. And, most importantly, if you need help, say something. There will always be plenty of people ready to do whatever they can for you.