Here’s What High Functioning Depression Looks Like

Here's What High Functioning Depression Looks Like
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Imagine waking up in the morning and feeling as though you need to climb an entire mountain to get out of bed, to battle with yourself to get up and get on with your day.

Imagine feeling empty and drained throughout your entire day, faking your way through with smiles and meaningless conversations but deep side feeling an overpowering sadness.

Imagine feeling worried about every little thing on that day, feeling anxious about your family, your partner, yourself, your work (well the list is endless).

Now imagine doing this and self-doubting your every move and feel as though you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.

Believe me, it’s exhausting!

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If you feel like this, then you could be experiencing High Functioning Depression, known to the medical world as Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)

You wouldn’t be alone, there are currently 350 million people worldwide suffering from this too and that’s just those that have been diagnosed with the condition. There are many more people out there suffering and not understanding why or how to make themselves feel better.

High Functioning Depression is no joke but it is also not what most people would assume of typical Depression. I have heard a thousand times from friends and family that I am not depressed and usually people say “What have you got to be depressed about? You have a family, a good job, a car, you go on holidays and days out.

Here’s the thing, with High Functioning Depression you can carry out daily activities, hold down a job, take the kids to and from school, complete your housework etc. This makes it very difficult for others to see any kind of problem. This, in turn, can add to the issue as you carry on striving to be the”perfect Mum” or the “perfect woman” exacerbating the symptoms and becoming a vicious circle that is extremely hard to unravel.

I can tell you all of this because I am one of those people. I am well aware that the person you see on the surface, is most definitely not the way I’m feeling inside and every day is a battle with myself.

I wake up with the feeling of a ton of bricks on my shoulders and I religiously write my to-do lists for the day as I drink my morning coffee.

My to-do lists are endless as I anxiously think of all the jobs that need doing that day, my mind already racing with thoughts. I start to worry that I won’t be able to remember to do them or I won’t have time to finish the list.

What if I can’t get the motivation to get up and do these things? What will happen then? What if I don’t manage to take the kids to school? What if I can’t function in work?

I have to remind myself that this is my morning coffee time and it’s probably my only time to relax throughout the entire day.

It’s just before the children wake up, it’s my ME time– my coping strategy.

Then, finally, I can calm down and enjoy the peace before the day begins and the symptoms start again.

I’ve devised a list of symptoms to look out for if you think this all sounds familiar and you are worried that this could be what you are experiencing:

Small Things Appear To Be HUGE

Feeling totally overwhelmed by small tasks, for example:

It’s bin day and you know you need to go and put the bins out but you may as well have asked yourself to run to the next city and back; you struggle while you talk yourself into doing it, so that the bins don’t overflow….until the next collection.

You need to make a simple phone call to make an appointment, except it’s not simple. You think of all the other methods of communication you could carry out first before finally realizing that you need to just pick the phone up and do it.

The anxiety bubbles up inside you as you speak- but you do it!

Another tick off the to-do list.

Generalized Sadness

A general feeling of being low in mood, empty, sad.

Despite this, you carry on with your day to day activities, even smiling at others as you go along, although deep inside you’re not happy or smiling and you just don’t know why.

There’s nothing you can put your finger on, but you don’t feel right.

Seeking Perfection

Constantly being critical of yourself and others around you.

Doubting your every move. I have this down to a tee!

I desperately want to be “the perfect mum” and “the perfect fiancé” as well as being perfect at work, perfect at housework and cooking.

I want the perfect body, but I know I am nowhere near perfect in any of these areas, so I regularly beat myself up about it and constantly try to improve everything.

Sounds familiar?

Self Doubt

The above symptoms then bring out the crushing feeling of self-doubt. This is so prominent every day in most activities and with most strings of thoughts.

You’re trying so hard to carry on as “normal,” seeking perfection as you battle with the motivation to complete tasks, that the self-doubt commences.

You start to tell yourself that you can’t possibly complete these tasks because you’re not good enough, and then you believe your negative thoughts.

I regularly talk myself out of fantastic opportunities because of this horrible symptom of High Functioning Depression.

I usually talk myself out of social events with my friends because I believe my negative thoughts that I don’t look good enough to go out and then my mind manages to throw lots more excuses/ reasons why I shouldn’t go out. I don’t have time to go out, if I had completed the housework correctly earlier I would have been able to. I am trying my hardest to be the perfect mum so I can’t possibly go out and let my hair down because I need to be at home doing mum stuff.

The list goes on until I turn down the invite and spend the rest of the day regretting my decision.

Inability to rest or slow down

You have all these feelings and negative thoughts as mentioned above that your body turns

into overdrive. Have you heard of “flight or fight” mode?

This is what happens to you, as your body is in a constant heightened sense of arousal when you battle with yourself to complete your day to day activities.

Your body produces adrenaline in a response to danger or acute stress. This speeds up your heart rate, breathing and blood pressure amongst many other components, which leaves you in this high state of arousal.

It can take up to 90 minutes to recover from this release of hormones, and usually, in that time another trigger could release more adrenaline.

This explains the physiology of why we cannot slow down or rest.


Do you constantly feel irritated and critical of yourself and those around you? Is nobody doing things right? You’re not doing things in the correct way either and now it’s really annoying you? Yes, I hear you and I feel totally the same!

Total Lack Of Energy

I think I have outlined why you would feel exhausted when experiencing all of the other symptoms of high functioning depression.

Although you can feel the same way first thing in the morning before you have even had the chance to think, or on a less active day.

It is so important that if you are feeling this way and you think there could be a possibility that you have High Functioning Depression or its technical term Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD) that you seek medical advice as soon as you can.

Treatments include medications – namely a group of antidepressants called SSRI’s- and talking therapies, such as psychotherapy and CBT, which can help the symptoms ease or even completely disappear.

Other therapies include visualization, meditation, writing positive thoughts each day in a diary, writing a journal of your day so that you can pick out some achievements from each day rather than focusing on the negative aspects too much.

If you do not seek medical treatment, there is a higher risk of suffering from major depression.

Most people with Persistent Depressive Disorder do experience at least one episode of major depression and so it is vital that you are in touch with the correct services to help you and notice signs of deterioration.

Here's What High Functioning Depression Looks Like
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Written by Joanne Etchells

Mummy to three gorgeous children, Joanne is a Writer and Registered Mental Health Nurse with nine years experience. She works with a variety of complex mental health conditions and has developed a vast knowledge along the way. Writing allows her to connect with and help other mums, sharing precious experiences and advice.