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13 Signs of a High-Functioning Depressive Disorder.

Updated: Jun 25, 2021

Are you feeling a little down, most of the time?

High-functioning Depression is a real thing.

People with high-functioning depression can function mostly normally from day-to-day. They are able to go to school, perform well at work, keep up with financial and household responsibilities, and even appear to be perfectly well on the outside.

Their suffering is invisible, and on the inside it feels like a constant struggle to get through the day. Remember this too, despite it being called 'high-functioning', it's not the same as normal functioning. Your quality of life will still be affected.

Though the symptoms of a high-functioning depression may not be as severe as Major Depression, it can have serious consequences if not addressed and treated. You are at risk of experiencing episodes of Major Depression if left untreated.

Severity aside, high-functioning depression is a prolonged form of depression. Thus, high-functioning depression is usually diagnosed by clinicians or psychiatrists as Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD). To be diagnosed with PDD, one criteria is that the individual experiences a depressed mood most days, for most of the day, for a minimum of two years.

Below are thirteen signs and symptoms of PDD.

1) You feel a little down most of the time, for most of the day.

Sadness is a natural response to things that are happening in our lives, but feeling sad everyday just isn't normal.

When you feel sadness for a prolonged period of time then that's something to look out for. Especially when nothing in particular seems to have caused it.

Your quality of life is severely impacted, and you've lost the ability to feel joy and pleasure in your life, even when you have every reason to be happy.

2) People notice you as being gloomy, cynical, or a downer.

Whether it's at your work, school, or a meetup with friends, people tend to describe you as being a gloomy or cynical individual. You tend to say things that appear to people as rather negative, when really it's because you simply don't have the energy to be excited about the things they are talking about.

This is partly caused by your negative outlook toward life. When you're spending each day sad and unhappy, it's difficult to have any hope for the future.

3) When you do feel happy, it doesn't seem to last long.

Even at the infrequent times when you do feel happy and excited about something, this pleasant mood seems to dissipate quickly. Your happiness is rather short-lived.

Happiness seems to be tied to certain events, things or people. You sometimes make the effort to plan something related to these events to look forward to, but when the time comes and goes, you're back to your unhappy state.

4) You feel bad about yourself, unworthy, and don't deserve to be happy.

This is one of the reasons why your happiness doesn't seem to last. Your sense of self-esteem tends to be on the low side, and you see yourself unfavourably. You might have the perception that you don't deserve to be happy right now, or even be unworthy of happiness.

Researchers Wood, Heimpel and Michela (2003) found that people with a low sense of self-esteem tend to dampen their positive feelings by deliberately muting them or distracting themselves away from these feelings. They see happiness as a state inconsistent with who they are, and might not be motivated to make the good feelings last.

5) You feel tired all the time, even with sufficient sleep.

You might find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning. The drive to get up and do "normal" things in life are affected by feelings of perpetual tiredness. Eventually you do, as you know that you have responsibilities to fulfill.

You might also experience a lack of energy and a debilitating sense of fatigue. This might lead you to not do anything more than you need to do.

6) You might appear to be lazy, but the energy to do more than what's necessary just isn't there.

Linked to the above point, since you feel tired and fatigued, you sometimes don't have the energy to be spontaneous, proactive, and do what's more than necessary. It might make you appear to be lazy, but you know that just isn't true about yourself.

Even when you do summon the energy to do so, you feel incredibly drained afterwards.

7) You perform up to standard in work or school, or even exceptionally, but it seems like a massive effort.

No one really complains about your performance, you might even perform at the highest standards in your work and school. You might even look like the successful and well-adapted one on the outside, but on the inside you know it's taking an enormous amount of effort to merely appear that way.

One of the thoughts you might have, is that you feel like you're constantly "faking it".

8) Your appetite has either increased or decreased.

People experiencing high-functioning depression see a change in their weight and appetites. Some people have an increased appetite and eat more than usual. Others might have lost interest in food and started to lose weight.

For the latter, your friends might even be in awe of how much weight you've lost. However, what they don't know is that it's not something you're actually striving for, but rather a symptom of your depression.

9) Sometimes you're overwhelmed by the hopelessness of it all.

On the really bad days, a feeling of hopelessness overwhelms you. You feel an immense sense of sadness and want to cry or break down. You fight with yourself to keep on going because you're well aware of the repercussions of not fulfilling your responsibilities.

More often for men, you might also experience outbursts of anger, perhaps channeled at the unfairness of your life.

10) It can be a real challenge to concentrate on work or school sometimes.

The tiredness, the sadness, and all the negative thoughts you have make it really difficult to concentrate each day. If you experience high-functioning depression, you will find it difficult to concentrate at work and school, or even during recreational activities like watching TV or reading.

You might feel like you're stuck in a long drawn daze all day, and it can take all day to complete just a few things.

During the rather severe bouts of sadness, this difficult concentrating might even impact your performance at work and school.

11) You force yourself to participate in social activities, even though you'd rather withdraw.

You're okay with hanging out with certain people on certain days, but at other times you don't have the energy to socialise. Even when the activity might be potentially fun, you'd prefer to go home or to your comfort place to withdraw.

It's partly because you're tired of keeping up appearances, as well as summoning the energy to appear personable and friendly.

12) You have a dependency on alcohol or other substances.

This is a seemingly unlinked symptom to high-functioning depression, but drinking alcohol seems like the go-to method for you to numb your negative thoughts and mood. This is even when you sometimes go overboard and are stuck with a hangover the next day.

Perhaps you are a high-functioning alcoholic too, and drink most days. People at work don't know about this because you keep it well-hidden. However, everyday after work, you know you need that few beers and drinks to make it all feel better.

13) Your relationships are affected by your moods.

Lastly, though certain areas of your life seem normal, you experience difficulties with close relationships. Perhaps even in romantic ones. This might be because of how much time you need to spend with these people, where it's impossible to always hide your low mood.

Your low mood might begin to affect the other person, as much as you don't want it to.

Asking for help is the strongest thing you can do.

Depression in any form or shape greatly impacts your quality of life. This can easily extend to include those of your close family and friends.

If you think you're experiencing some or all of these symptoms, ask for some help. Be it a close friend or a mental help professional, it doesn't make you a weak person. In fact, it makes you the exact opposite.

You've been putting up a strong front long enough.


Thanks for reading this article on Kaya Toast for the Soul.

Note this article is meant to be a guide and I am not qualified to make any diagnosis. On the same vein, do be careful about self-diagnosing yourself as you might miss the nuances of the diagnosis that an expert might be pick up.

See a professional if you think you might be experiencing any mental health issues. The road ahead of you will be better with help and a strong support system.

In Singapore, there are many resources available and people that are ready to help at any time. Please do check these out below or even drop me an email so I can direct you to someone who can help. Take care.

National Care Hotline: 1800-202-6868

(8am-12am daily, from 1 Sep 2020)

Mental Well-being

- Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline (6389-2222)

- Samaritans of Singapore (1800-221-4444)


- TOUCHline (Counselling) – 1800 377 2252


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