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

Author
Dr. Jennie Byrne, M.D., PhD. With over 15 years of medical expertise, Jennie Byrne, MD, PhD, is a board-certified psychiatrist with experience treating mental health conditions in adults, including dementia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, and depression. After practicing in New York City for 12 years, Dr. Byrne relocated to North Carolina in 2008; she currently cares for patients in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, at Cognitive Psychiatry of Chapel Hill. Dr. Byrne earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She then received her doctorate from New York University Department of Neurophysiology. She also has a doctorate of medicine from New York University School of Medicine. Dr. Byrne went on to complete a psychiatry residency at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York. In addition to her work as a psychiatrist, Dr. Byrne has performed extensive research on attention, memory, and depression. As a board-certified adult psychiatrist, Dr. Byrne focuses on the needs of each patient to pro

You Might Also Enjoy...

When are Psychiatric Symptoms "BETTER"?

Many people who have struggled with depression, anxiety, or other psychiatric symptom feel better with treatment. However, since there are no tests or lab values to show response to treatment, how does someone know they are truly "better"?

What are the Different Levels of Psychiatric Care?

The mental health system can be extremely confusing! When you are looking for help, sometimes it is difficult to know where to turn. Dr Byrne explains the different levels of psychiatric care with examples of when each level is appropriate.