Diagnosing High-Functioning Depression

Do you sometimes smile and make efforts to show that everything is fine, even though inside you feel unsettled, the world painted in shades of gray? In such a situation, many will refer to such feelings - appearing in them or among those around them - as "depression", without treading on it too much or trying to understand it. However, the word "depression" is a code name for a wide range of mental problems. In order to treat them, it is first important to understand what you are dealing with. 
Clinical depression, also known as major depression, is a significant and deep depression that is very difficult to ignore. Its symptoms are complex and include, among other things, sleep disturbances, decreased appetite, real difficulties functioning, decreased concentration and memory, and in some cases even hopelessness and suicidal thoughts. Major depression does not leave much room for doubt, but what do you do when the mental difficulties are more subtle but still burdensome and very frustrating?
woman with a colorful umbrella
Nowadays, a great many people are dealing with something referred to as "high-functioning depression" or dysthymia. On the surface, those affected by it may appear to be quite normal and able to keep up with their job, relationships, and daily life. However, underneath it all, they may feel hollow, sorrowful, and lacking in energy, which nothing appears to be able to improve. Someone with dysthymia may come off as if everything is running smoothly, and they are even capable of smiling and seeming to "go on with life as usual," but inside they can be dispirited, bitter, and worn out. Then, how does one treat depression that is hidden by a grin and an apparently ordinary lifestyle? To begin, it is important to comprehend the most noteworthy signs:

1. Eternal seeking of unobtainable perfection

Perfectionism is seen as a blessed trait that we brag about in job interviews, but people with a desire for perfection tend to be at an increased risk of high-functioning depression. This is because these people create impossibly high expectations, which the environment and they cannot meet. This gap eventually leads to excessive self-criticism, frustration, resentment, and poor self-esteem.

2. Always feeling like you want to escape

Can't give up cigarettes or your favorite alcoholic drink? Can't move yourself to do anything that isn't a long nap in front of the TV or computer? All you want after a day's work is to get into bed and sleep? One of the most prominent signs of high-functioning depression is a tendency to resort to habits that are sometimes considered destructive in nature. By escaping into these habits, we will not have to mobilize too much energy or deal with the thoughts we are trying to avoid.
person near a tree

3. Feelings of pleasure are diminished

Take a moment to reflect on how your life has changed in the past decade - was there more joy and pleasure in your life before? This might be due to high-functioning depression that makes us lose interest in activities that previously made us feel great. Therefore, when people suggest recreational activities or new adventures, we have a tendency to reject the offer and come up with excuses such as "I don't have time" or "I had a tough day at work."

4. Constant worry and restlessness

It is important to note that anxiousness and depression are closely linked, and people living with high-functioning depression often experience intrusive thoughts, restlessness, trouble focusing, and a heightened level of irritability. This can lead to a feeling of being "on edge" and that at any moment they may snap.

5. Difficulty making decisions

People dealing with depression tend to have a hard time gathering the strength and mental fortitude needed to make decisions and handle changes. Even the most minor tasks can seem overwhelming, especially when it comes to making important choices about the future. Those who have dysthymia may be filled with doubt concerning any option they select and focus on the difficulty rather than the potential of the decision. So, what is the best way to treat high-functioning depression?
woman holding apple and pear

How can high-functioning depression be treated?

It is essential to assess one's inner self and accept the need for alteration. It is then possible to find suitable approaches to improve the quality of life. Clinical experience has demonstrated that psychodynamic therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a successful method to handle dysthymia. CBT can help to determine which thought processes are faulty and how to adjust them as well as relevant behavior. In psychodynamic therapy, the focus is to establish the source of the mental issues that lead to depression, resolve internal disagreements, become aware of various issues, and learn how to manage them better. Another option to tackle this form of depression is using antidepressants prescribed by a psychiatrist.
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