What are the things that come to mind when you hear names such as Matthew Perry, Jim Carrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Dwayne Johnson, and Anushka Sharma? You probably think they are popular, wealthy, highly successful, followed by millions on Instagram and Twitter. You conclude they essentially have the best of both worlds. And when you have everything you can dream of, there is nothing left to desire or achieve.
However, appearances can often be deceptive. Even when you seem to have everything, you could be missing something, not knowing what it is. Though you are the centre of attention and envy, you could be feeling lost, hopeless, and dejected. In other words, clinically depressed. Prominent celebrities like Robin Williams, Kurt Cobain, Pratyusha Banerjee, and Sushant Singh Rajput gave up their fight against mental illness, despite having it all.
According to a recent report by the World Health Organisation: “Depression can lead to suicide… as it is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease”. The report also says that: “More than 254 million people of all ages suffer from depression”. To add perspective, it is a few million less than the entire population of the US.
The worst thing about depression is that it’s an invisible enemy. You can’t see it. Those who struggle with depression may seem normal on the outside, but inside, they suffer. The hesitation or the inability to talk about their condition makes the pain worse until it festers and becomes unbearable.
Experts refer to such depression as high-functioning depression when you cannot tell whether a person is actually depressed. Explaining the difference between depression and high functioning depression, Ashley C Smith, a clinical social worker, says, “Some people with depression can’t go to work or school, or their performance suffers significantly because of it. That’s not the case for people with high-functioning depression. They can still function in life, for the most part.”
Let’s take a closer look at high-functioning depression, what it is, and how it can be overcome.
Confide in someone you trust
While depression in itself is challenging to detect, the symptoms of high-functioning depression are even difficult to identify. Adults suffering from high-functioning depression experience a feeling of constant low for at least two years before diagnosis. For teenagers, the same period is one year.
Despite the age, anyone going through high-functioning depression experiences difficulty in opening up to others. In any case, talking about your worst nightmare is not easy, and the stigma around depression makes it even difficult for people to reach out for help.
To overcome high-functioning depression, you need to talk about it without any inhibitions. And if you are someone whose close friend or a family member is suffering from high-functioning depression, you should listen without any judgments or prejudice. Show them you are there to listen but don’t get in their face.
Remember, you are not alone in your fight. Your loved ones are there with their unconditional support.
Do what you enjoy the most
When you have high-functioning depression, good days look normal and bad days seem unbearable. You don’t feel like doing anything. But this freedom, people with responsibilities, don’t have.
In high-functioning depression, you lack the motivation to do even the simplest of tasks. The only thing you want is to stay at home, put your phone on silent, draw the blinds, and lie down in your bed. To the rest of the world, you are either busy at work, meeting someone, or visiting your parents. Your friends and colleagues can come up with as many explanations as possible for your absence in social gatherings or quiet nature at work. But none of them would guess high-functioning depression.
Only you know what you are going through, and only you can take the first step to recovery by asking for help. You can help yourself too by doing something you enjoy the most. You can exercise, go for a walk, or watch your favourite movie. If you can play something funny, even better. Researchers suggest that laughter can uplift your mood when you are feeling low.
Don’t listen to the negative thoughts
Kati Morton, a family therapist and the author of Are U Ok? talks about high-functioning depression—also called Dysthymia—in her YouTube channel. She says, “If you find yourself struggling with this and/or if this is a diagnosis you have just received, not all is lost. The sooner we reach out for help, the sooner we start talking about it. The sooner we start looking for support systems and groups and friends and people who can make sure that we are getting out of the house every day, the sooner we can start feeling better and free ourselves.”
So, look for a support system, and reach out to your loved ones. Don’t listen to your negative thoughts. They will only tell you lies. Remember, you are not alone in your fight. Your loved ones are there with their unconditional support. Let them help you.
Early tracing and therapy can be helpful
You can be clinically diagnosed with high-functioning depression when your symptoms have been persistent for two years or more.
If you are oversleeping or not able to sleep at all, if you are overeating or not eating enough, if you have lost interest in things and feeling indecisiveness, if you feel tired to carry out the simplest of tasks, or if you are feeling a constant lack of hope for as long as two years, you are clinically suffering from high-functioning depression.
If your child becomes easily irritable or shows temper tantrums for no apparent reason, for as long as one year, a visit to a doctor is a must. Early tracing and therapy are helpful as the symptoms of high-functioning depression can overlap with symptoms of other mental illnesses, making it difficult to detect.
Find solace in a journal
Going through high-functioning depression is a dark, lonely journey. You feel the entire world, even your friends and family are against you. While this is not true at all, you can find solace in a journal to shun your negative thoughts. Writing in a journal is a therapy in itself that can help you feel positive and more in control. Your journal could be your friend that listens to you without any prejudice or judgments.
You can write whatever you want. All your thoughts, fears, experiences, complaints—write anything you want. Just by putting pen to paper, you can turn negative thoughts into positive ones.