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frustrated young woman in depression sitting on couch and looking down

While depression affects over 264 million people globally, it is a widely misunderstood phenomenon. Depression isn’t just feeling sad or gloomy. It is a real issue that impacts the lives of millions every day.

While millions are diagnosed with clinical depression every year, others drift through life with high-functioning depression without ever receiving any kind of aid.

So what are the signs and symptoms of high-functioning depression?

While high-functioning depression is not as severe as clinical depression, it still significantly impacts those who suffer from it. Because it is less drastic than clinically diagnosed forms of depression, it often goes untreated.

High-functioning depression manifests as a constant low-grade form of depression that affects a person’s energy level, motivation, mood, and habits. Most people who suffer from high-functioning depression lead seemingly normal lives: they hold jobs, have families, and meet their obligations just like their neighbors and friends.

Symptoms of High-Functioning Depression

High-functioning depression does manifest itself in specific ways, however. There are sure signs and symptoms you can keep an eye out for to determine whether you or someone you love suffers from this malady.

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Insomnia or oversleeping

High-functioning depression often has a significant impact on sleep cycles. Some individuals who suffer from this form of depression find that they cannot drift off to sleep no matter how hard they try. Others can’t seem to drag themselves out of bed. 

Persistent insomnia or sleeping more than eight hours a day can be obvious signs of high-functioning depression.


Another common symptom of high-functioning depression is a constant sense of fatigue. Depressed individuals often feel completely drained after a typical workday; sometimes, this exhaustion sets in even before the day is finished.

Feeling constantly tired, even when you have gotten an average amount of sleep and have not over-exerted yourself, can be a sign of high-functioning depression.

Low self-esteem

People coping with any form of depression often experience a severe drop in self-esteem, and high-functioning depression is no exception. Depressed individuals often find it difficult to identify positive traits in themselves. They often feel deeply flawed and unloveable. They interpret any mistakes they make as unalterable personality flaws. Depression severely diminishes one’s sense of self-worth.

Lack of appetite or overeating

High-functioning depression can also affect an individual’s eating habits. Depressed people often lose their appetites, finding food unappetizing or feeling queasy when they think about eating.

On the other end of the spectrum, some people turn to food for comfort as they deal with depression. Overeating is a common coping mechanism when depressed.

Loss of interest in previous activities

When depression surfaces, many people begin to withdraw from activities they previously enjoyed. Sports, social gatherings, and other recreational activities suddenly seem exhausting. 

The thought of being around large groups of people becomes overwhelming. Many people suffering from high-functioning depression find themselves making excuses for withdrawing from clubs, sports teams, churches, and other social groups from which they previously drew a great deal of joy.

Difficulty making decisions or concentrating

One of the results of high-functioning depression is an inability to focus or to make a decision. People coping with high-functioning depression often find the thought of making a decision overwhelming and stressful and will avoid it at all costs. Similarly, depression can make it difficult to concentrate, interfering with work or studies.

Feelings of hopelessness

Any form of depression can lead to feelings of hopelessness. The future seems to stretch forward as a series of identically bleak days. It feels like things will never get better, like this emotional and physical exhaustion will last forever.

How to Treat High-Functioning Depression

Several avenues for treating high-functioning depression exist. The most effective is to consult a therapist, who can prescribe medication or other courses of action to combat depression.

A few other ways to cope with high-functioning depression include the following:

  • Physical exercise
  • Establishing a set sleeping routine
  • Avoiding alcohol and other drugs
  • Turning to family, friends, and online communities for emotional support
  • Set easily-accomplished daily goals


High-functioning depression is sometimes hard to detect, but the above signs and symptoms will help you tell if you or someone you love suffers from this ailment. If so, seek help as soon as possible.

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