what is high functioning depression

What Is High Functioning Depression?

High functioning depression is actually not even recognized as a clinical disorder. Often people who have high functioning depression are diagnosed with PDD, or persistent depressive disorder. In fact, a lot of mental health professionals prefer to use the term PDD instead of high functioning depression.

High functioning depression is typically less debilitating than major depression, and often the person suffering from it is able to continue with most or all of their regular daily activities and routines. There will be underlying symptoms, but usually the person suffering from it is able to press ahead regardless of these symptoms.

What Causes High Functioning Depression?

There are many potential causes to high functioning depression, but ultimately we don’t know exactly what is causing it for us. It could be a combination of things such as:

Financial situation


Drug or alcohol use


Low self-esteem

Childhood experiences

Chemical imbalance

Changes in personal circumstances

Loss of a loved one

High Functioning Depression Symptoms

The symptoms of high functioning depression are no different to those of major depressive disorder. The severity of the symptoms will be less with high functioning depression however. Typical symptoms include:

Sleeping too much or not getting enough sleep

Persistent low mood

Lack of energy or fatigue

Feeling helpless or hopeless

Difficulty concentrating

Changes in appetite

It is also far more likely that someone with high functioning depression or persistent depressive disorder will end up developing major depressive disorder.

Warning Signs Of High Functioning Depression

*You may be seen as a gloomy person who struggles to see the positives in life and certain situations.

*An inability to feel good about yourself and take compliments from others. Deflecting these compliments with self criticism is common for those with high functioning depression.

*You find yourself resorting to excessive alcohol or substance use to try to feel better about your situation.

*You tend to cry frequently in a lot of situations.

*You are either sleeping excessively or struggling with insomnia.

*It is common for you to be irritable a lot of the time and display signs of frustration or anger, both towards others and towards yourself.

*You have less interest in involving yourself in social activities and events.

*Gain or loss of weight without intending to do it.

*You suffer from a lack of energy persistently and consistently throughout the day, regardless of whether you got enough sleep or not.

Diagnosis For High Functioning Depression

Diagnosis for high functioning depression is the same as any diagnosis for depression. If you are suffering from one or more of the symptoms of high functioning depression listed above, then you should consult your doctor. They will ask you a series of questions about your feelings and mood, as well as run tests to make sure there isn’t anything else contributing to your condition, such as an underlying health issue. A diagnosis of persistent depressive disorder may be made if symptoms have persisted for at least 2 years. Your doctor will not diagnose high functioning depression as it is technically not a clinical disorder.

Treatment For High Functioning Depression

In some ways it can be easier to treat high functioning depression. This is because the person suffering from it is more capable of doing things to help themselves when compared to someone suffering a major depressive disorder.

Despite this, it can also be harder to treat someone with high functioning depression. This is because they feel well enough to continue with their every day lives and don’t think the problem is serious enough to actually seek help.

Treatment for high functioning depression is not really any different to treatment for major depressive disorder. It all begins with seeing your doctor, who may prescribe antidepressant medication and initiate psychotherapy (talk therapy) with you. They may also refer you to a specialist psychiatrist or psychologist.

There are things that you can do for yourself also which can help to alleviate the symptoms of high functioning depression. These include:

DietEating the right foods and cutting out the wrong foods can be something that can have a big impact on reducing or eliminating your symptoms entirely.

Exercise – Something as simple as going for a walk every day can help with depression. There’s no need to join a gym or sign up for expensive classes if you don’t want to, simply walking every day can be enough to improve your symptoms. You could also sign up to join a team sport, as this will not only give you exercise but will help with social connections as well.

Group therapy – just being able to talk to someone who can relate to your situation can help you to feel supported and understood. Group therapy is also good for developing social connections and improving your empathy, as you will find people in similar situations to you.

TMS – transcranial magnetic stimulation. Your doctor may suggest TMS as a suitable option for you. You can read about my experience with TMS by clicking here.

ACT and CBTACT is acceptance commitment therapy and CBT is cognitive behavior therapy. These are both psychological based treatments that aim to change the way you think and how you handle situations. Both have been proven to be a very effective way of treating depression without medication.

What Has Helped Me

Although I don’t have high functioning depression or persistent depressive disorder, I have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and agoraphobia. I found I was having little to no success with medication (and sometimes negative experiences) so I had to resort to other things to help with my condition. I’ve tried many different treatments over the years, including ECT, TMS, ACT and CBT. Some have been helpful and some have been harmful.

Something that helped me most was going through the Destroy Depression system and applying what I learnt from that. It is a simple 7 step system as well as incorporating CBT into its teachings, and it has an extremely high success rate for treating all different types of depression.

You can read my full review of the system by clicking here.

.Please note – the product links on this page are affiliate links, meaning I receive a commission if you make a purchase through that link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra and helps me to keep the website running.

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