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What is Functional Depression?

Functional depression
Functional depression, aka high-functioning depression, is not a clinical diagnosis but is an authentic experience. It can look like when people who suffer from depression appear like everything is fine outside. However, this demeanor doesn’t mean that they are not suffering from depression. They can learn to be good at hiding their mental illness from other people

Mentions of suicide 

On January 30, 2022, former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst had died by suicide at age 30. Kryst had various successes in life. For example, she was the oldest contestant that ever won Miss USA (at age 28). She was also an attorney in North Carolina who provided pro bono legal services to those who received unfair prison sentences. She was an entertainment news correspondent for Extra, a fashion blogger, and a volunteer for Dress for Success. This organization empowers women and female-presenting people to obtain economic independence.

With this extensive list of accomplishments, Kryst’s depression came as a shock to many. As a result, this story has sparked a conversation about functional depression, suicide, and the potential warning signs.

What Is Functional Depression?

Functional depression, aka high-functioning depression, is not a clinical diagnosis but is an authentic experience. It can look like when people who suffer from depression appear like everything is fine outside. However, this demeanor doesn’t mean that they are not suffering from depression. They can learn to be good at hiding their mental illness from other people.

Here are some other facts about functional depression:

The Term “Functional Depression” or ‘High-Functioning’ Can Reflect Harmful Stereotypes Regarding Depression

The term “high-functioning” concerning depression suggests that other people with depression are low-functioning, fatigued or lethargic, can’t get out of bed, or don’t push themselves enough. However, viewing depression this way is problematic. This mental health condition is on a spectrum and looks different in everyone. People who have depression may experience it unique from others. 

Those with functional depression could have many achievements but feel empty, worthless, and sad on the inside. In essence, functional depression can be defined as when a person’s external presentation doesn’t match their internal experience.

Another way to look at functional depression is that these individuals may have typical symptoms of depression but have created ways to conceal it. For example, behind closed doors, they may spend most of their time in bed when they aren’t socializing, have no appetite but force themselves to eat to avoid losing weight, or conserve most of their energy for social activities.

How Does Psychedelic Therapy Work for Treating Depression? 

What is Dysthymia?

Many people who are struggling with high-functioning depression experience dysthymia. This condition is also known as persistent depressive disorder, a low-grade depression featuring lagging energy or fatigue. Essentially, these people are generally unhappy in their lives but don’t meet the criteria for major depression. Dysthymia can persist for two or more years, and if you have this condition, you can often put on a “happy face” and go about your life.

Dysthymia can be a tricky diagnosis since it can gradually sneak up on you. As a result, many people won’t recognize they have an issue until they’re sick of feeling down all the time or are triggered by a stressful life event. 

How does Functional Depression Impact a Person’s Functioning?

To be diagnosed with depression, a person must negatively impact their social, work, and home life. In other words, their low mood must be debilitating enough to interfere with daily functioning. 

However, having depression doesn’t mean that you can’t excel or be functional in any of these areas, especially if you are dealing with functional depression. Here are some examples of how a person with functional depression might still experience difficulties in some areas of their lives:

  • A person shows up to work on time each day and performs well at their job. However, they may not attend social events or be too social because they don’t have the energy to deal with people.
  • People have an active social life with their friends but will struggle to get through their workday due to their depression.
  • A stay-at-home parent can take care of their parenting duties but will be prone to feeling lonely and depressed during the day. They may not be able to do other things, like finish the schooling that they are doing. 
  • A college student can take classes and work towards finishing their degree. However, their part-time job could be too much for them and lead them to quit because they lack the energy to work.

In Summary

No matter what type of depression a person has, it is essential to seek mental health treatment for their difficulties. However, many people don’t seek help for a multitude of reasons. When it comes to functional depression, people may be resistant to treatment because they do not think that their depression is severe enough.

If you believe that your depression is not severe enough to get help, you don’t have to wait until it gets bad enough to seek treatment. All in all, it’s never too early to get help if you believe it would be beneficial to your wellbeing. 

Some good news about depression is that it can be successfully treated at any stage, and treatment will be most effective when it is started as early on as possible. In other words, the sooner you talk to your medical practitioner or mental health professional about your experience with functional depression, the more likely you will have success in your treatment. 

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Billie Olsen

AUTHOR: Billie Olsen

Billie Olsen (she/they) is a lifestyle writer, disability justice advocate, and cozy femme located in Kelowna, BC, Canada. Their works have appeared in Metro News, Discorder, Sophomore Magazine, the Post-Feminist Post, DINE Magazine, and NerdReader.

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