Depression is a very complex mental condition that affects everyone differently. Those of us who have suffered from depression before know just how insufferable it truly is.
For some, the condition is just like many people believe it to be: feeling apathetic towards everything, feeling fatigued and unmotivated, crying, avoiding people and friends, etc. For many others, depression hides behind a happy face and a well-to-do attitude--masks that cover up any trace of unhappiness.
These people are suffering from high-functioning depression. And it’s important to know the difference.
High-functioning versus low-functioning depression
Unlike people with low-functioning depression who struggle to get out of bed or even take a shower, high-functioning depression is when a person is seemingly quite well on the outside, but on the inside they are consumed by sadness.
Professor of psychiatry Carol Landau says that she typically sees high-functioning depression in people who have relatively good (or even enviable) lives who have achieved a lot.
"People often say being high-functioning is better than being low-functioning, but that’s not really true because the most important thing is for a depressed person to get help — which a high-functioning person is limiting herself from," Landau says.
It’s often kept hidden because of the stigma surrounding it
So many people in the world today live with high-functioning depression. Some have been doing it for almost all of their lives without anyone ever noticing. One of the main reasons this is has to do with the negative stigma surrounding depression as a mental health condition.
Have you ever told someone you’re depressed and they ask why you can’t just be happy? Or why can’t you just stop being depressed? Depression is a largely misunderstood condition and people automatically become uneasy when you tell them about how lifeless you feel inside and how nothing changes it.
Landau says she sees it a lot in women because of their need “to be caregivers,” something that contradicts them “admitting [that they] need help.”
Learning how to recognize depression
”You might have a friend who is cranky all the time, or who people think of as a “bitch,“ but inwardly that person is really struggling. Other subtle signs to look for: ironic or morose jokes or often seeming out of it. For me, it was irritability,” explains Landau, describing how depression can manifest in a person differently than we tend to believe.
If you think someone you know or love is battling with depression, the best ways to reach out are by asking simple questions, like “How are you doing right now?” followed up with neutral phrases like “you seem kind of out of it lately” or “you don’t seem like yourself.” People with depression often just want you to listen to them.
If you feel that it’s a good time to offer suggestions or advice, come prepared with recommendations for a therapist or something that might help them get out of their head-space. But, be prepared for them not wanting your help or to leave their depressive comfort. Many people will take it the wrong way when you suggest them seeking out help.
“There are so many different types of therapists, medications, apps, and other tools. That’s why it’s tragic that so many people don’t seek help.”
Mental health is something many of us take for granted until our own begins to decline or suffer. It’s a terrible feeling and one that is hard to shake. If you’re depressed, do not be afraid to reach out for help. If you think someone might be depressed, listen to what they have to say and see if you can help.
Above all else, we must take care of each other.