If you are super productive at work or in school but at the end of the day feel as though you have spent every ounce of energy then you might have high-functioning depression. It is not an official medical term but it has helped therapists make a condition understandable when patients don’t fit a traditional diagnosis.
Clinically, you can identify high-functioning depression as dysthymia – a “less severe but more chronic form of major depression”. People who suffer from high-functioning depression do not appear to be depressed. They are often workaholics, overachievers and perfectionists. They do not seem depressed, but are internally struggling with self-criticism, exhaustion, irritability and a constant low mood. If you feel like this description fits you, check for symptoms and don’t be afraid to speak to a specialist. These symptoms might help you identify it.
Acknowledge your state
Making out you are on top of every situation makes it hard for you and others to spot mental strains and take them seriously. You may believe that you can achieve or fix just about anything with enough effort or willpower. You are probably used to achieving goals and resolving situations, so you convince yourself that you’ll get to that eventually. Coming to terms with the fact that there’s something going on that you don’t understand or know how to handle is the first step towards a healthy solution.
Take care of yourself
Simple things that impact our health can get off the radar for people who suffer from high-functioning depression. They think of sleep as an expendable resource but may trade a shower for a few more minutes in bed. They may exercise sometimes to keep up with athletic or body-image-related goals, but ignore eating breakfast or drinking enough water.
If you notice that some of these behaviours may apply to you, try to take them into account next time you feel like you can dispense something. Try to eat three meals each day and have a shower and specific bedtime in your daily routine. Keep a bottle with you at all times and you may thoughtlessly start drinking more water. Small changes like these can widely improve your physical and mental state.
Reevaluate your goals
One major trigger of high-functioning depression is setting yourself high standards and then spiralling if you don’t achieve them. Don’t change your goals, but make them attainable. Take a moment to analyse your aims, all of them. If they overwhelm you, break them down into smaller objectives; if they seem too far away, draft a plan with steps towards accomplishing them. Most importantly, remember that your goals are choices, not statements.
Develop a plan
Writing tasks down and crossing them off is an extremely satisfying thing to do. It makes you feel as though you are actually achieving something. Use that to your advantage. Create lists: daily to-do’s, goals, events coming up, books to read, places to go. Write it all down and then create a plan to cross it all off. This will help you visualise when and how to do things so you don’t end up with stress and tension from running against the clock. Keep a planner or, if you like, try bullet journaling (we have some sweet notebooks in our shop to get you started). Make an event out of it. You can even add habit trackers to keep your self care goals in mind and mental health trackers to identify triggers.
Put yourself first
If keeping yourself busy is your way to show the world that you’re keeping it together, you may be engaging in an unhealthy coping mechanism. Getting involved in so many projects or activities when there aren’t enough hours in the day blocks your internal battles. Tension and stress will build up until, eventually, you’re saturated and your body gives in. This becomes a vicious cycle: overwork, meltdown, recovery, repeat. The cycle breaks when you pay attention to your own needs and start prioritising them. Your wellbeing is more important than any job, standard or goal. Think of it this way: machines need maintenance. So do we. Taking time for yourself is not selfish or a waste of time.
Maya Angelou once said: “nothing will work unless you do”. One way to interpret this quote is -you must work for what you want because no one else will do it. Here is a different way to look at it. People with high-functioning depression work but do not function. Which means: if you do not function, nothing you do will function. So take your issues seriously, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and get better in order to do better.
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