What It’s Like to Have High Functioning Depression

If someone is depressed, others can tell, right? Not necessarily. Some people suffer from depression but may look “normal” to others. What is this like?

Think about all the things your brain has to do on a daily basis – process information, make decisions, take action, plan for the future, understand social interactions, cope with emotions, examine evidence, handle a constant stream of thoughts… Imagine that your brain is a bucket and each activity puts some water into that bucket.

When we are feeling good, we have some extra space in our bucket. All of our regular daily tasks take up some of the bucket but then when life throws something unexpected at us, we still have some room in our bucket to take the extra water.

When we are depressed, every day we wake up and our bucket is already half-full and feeling heavy. The bucket is half-full because we are using a great amount of resources just to cope with the depression we are feeling inside. We do have a little room in the bucket so we can still go to work and make some plans. However, we do not have any extra room for social interactions or planning for the future. Then if life throws some extra water at us, we are in trouble. Our bucket is overflowing and we are very quickly overwhelmed.

This is why some depressed people may be high-functioning and look “normal” to others. They still get up, get dressed, go to work, and take care of the most important things in their life. However, they are NOT doing many things because they do not have enough brain resources available. Maybe they do not socialize with others, maybe they do not plan for their future, maybe they cannot handle even the slightest bit of extra stress. They are living, but they are just getting by.

If you notice that a friend or family member seems somehow different – not socializing as much, not handling stress well, their house is a mess and it used to be tidy – all these things could indicate they are depressed.

Live mentally healthy,
Dr. Jennie Byrne

Dr. Jennie Byrne, M.D., PhD.

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