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functional depression

Functional Depression

Depression is one of the world’s leading causes of disability, but that doesn’t mean all depressed people feel too hopeless and distraught to complete their daily responsibilities. You might struggle with depression and still appear completely “normal” to the outside world – going to work, paying bills and even joking with colleagues. Mental health professionals call this condition functional depression.

What Is High-Functioning Depression?

Though high-functioning depression isn’t a clinical diagnosis described in the DSM-5-TR, that doesn’t make it any less real. Some people living with depression have gotten good at masking their feelings when they are with others, but behind closed doors, it’s a different story. You may spend most of your private time crying in bed or muting your pain with alcohol and drugs.

Often, functional depression goes unrecognized – even by close friends and family members – because most people expect a depressed person to be continually sad, angry or pessimistic. If you have high-functioning depression, you could be experiencing all these emotions, but have learned how to keep them to yourself.

Functional Depression Examples

To meet the diagnostic criteria for depression, you must experience ongoing social, occupational or educational impairments that interfere with your quality of life. Still, you could have developed workarounds that allow your depressed mood to remain undetected. Here are some examples of how high-functioning depression might look.

  • Though you excel at your job, you avoid interacting with your colleagues because you don’t have the mental energy to socialize.
  • You enjoy visiting with friends and family during your leisure time, but have trouble staying motivated to fulfill your personal and professional responsibilities because you feel they’re ultimately pointless.
  • You frequently get overwhelmed, exhausted and burned out, but don’t have anyone to talk to about your problems. As a result, you try to sweep complex emotions under the rug.  
  • Because it’s difficult for you to connect with other people, you’d rather pretend everything is OK than admit your true feelings.

Are You Hiding Your Depression Symptoms?

If you are a private person, you probably prefer to ignore or conceal your emotions instead of opening up to others. Perhaps you do not know how to ask for help or believe you don’t deserve to be happy.

Here are some other reasons people try to hide their depression behind a high-functioning mask.


Some people think depression is something anyone can overcome through sheer willpower. When they can’t snap out of it, they may be embarrassed about their inability to fix their problems by themselves.

Unrealistic Expectations

Paradoxically, overuse of social media makes many people feel more isolated. Platforms like Instagram can adversely affect your mental health if you start comparing yourself to the meticulously staged, filtered and selected photos they present. Admitting to depression can be challenging if you believe everyone except you is living a perfect life.

Fear of Stigma

You might be anxious about revealing any vulnerabilities because you imagine doing so will harm your professional reputation, friendships or romantic relationships. You hide behind a smile because you’re too worried about losing your job or having people in your life reject you.

Accredited Addiction Treatment in Taos, New Mexico

Depression and addiction frequently occur together. If substance abuse seems like an escape from your problems, it can create a cycle that’s challenging to break on your own. Vista Taos is a place where you can renew your life. We designed our holistic treatment program to help clients heal mentally, physically and spiritually. Contact us today to learn more.

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