5 Clues You May Be Depressed And Not Know It – (Understanding and Coping with High-Functioning Depression)

5 Clues You May Be Depressed and Now Know It

In honor of #MentalHealthAwareness month, I’m focusing this month on a variety of topics surrounding mental health issues. All of us need to read these posts —if we don’t personally struggle, statistics show we are connected with someone who does. We as Christians need to be leaders on the forefront of the battle to help understand, support, and help those who deal with mental illness. Please share this information with Bible Study leaders, pastors, family, and friends. Let’s be the hands and feet of Christ and see healing and transformation!!

No one would ever know.  You’ve always been a high-achiever. You give your best to whatever task is at hand.  You serve others well, perhaps too well sometimes.  But scratch beneath the surface of success and what you feel is anything but.  You spend most of your day exhausted, and when the workday is done, all you can think about is getting home to unwind, watch tv, and try to recharge for another day.

That’s what life can be like for people who have ‘high-functioning depression.’  You make do, you try to get by, you appear to be managing life well—but you’re suffering inside.

High-functioning depression, sometimes called dysthymia, is a low-grade depression marked by lagging energy or fatigue. These are people who are generally unhappy in life but don’t meet the definition of major depression, which is more severe. Sometimes difficult to diagnose, symptoms can be so gradual that people can live completely unaware until their ‘blue mood’ begins invading every area of their lives, stealing more of their energy, draining every ounce of joy and meaning from them. Leaving them to feel helpless and hopeless.


Over 6.7% of adults in the United States—16.2 million— have at least one major depressive episode each year.  Dysthymia occurs in 1.5% of adults in the United States annually. People with high-functioning depression tend to be individuals with high levels of determination who tend to endure significant negative symptoms without asking for help. CLICK TO TWEET


They’re doctors and lawyers and judges ... and every walk of life, but they suffer, says Anthony Rothschild, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Unfortunately, it can be easy for people with HFD to go unnoticed because they have learned to hide their suffering well.  Indeed, one of the hardest parts of this disease is that sufferers often believe that since they can push past their sadness in order to perform at work, at school, or at home, they would be selfish to seek help. 


The reality is, high-functioning depression isn’t merely a bad attitude, and no, you can’t just snap out of it. High-functioning depression is a biological and psychological disorder that requires treatment. Arguably, the more you try and hide it or push through it, the worse your symptoms may get.

If left untreated, HFD can potentially bloom into a major depression where your biological and psychological functioning is more severely impaired, and pushing through becomes impossible. In addition, without treatment, HFD can ultimately lead to other disorders — eating disorders and/or substance use disorders—from attempting to self-medicate or manage the sadness that can feel both overwhelming and intolerable.


5 Clues That You May Be Depressed and Not Even Know It

Even though it might not be obvious, getting through the day with high-functioning depression is exhausting.

It is exhausting to constantly force a smile, a conversation, though inside you feel empty, lonely, filled with discouragement and despair.  The energy it takes to keep up the façade of having it all together is enormous and usually depletes what little energy reserves you may have. 

This type of fatigue drains your body from head to toe and it’s not the kind of tired that a few cups of coffee can perk up. Intense mental exhaustion from the daily wars you fight inside your head begins to affect everything, including your emotions, causing a range of feelings from hypersensitivity to complete numbness and everything in between. Trying to constantly explain It, understand it, get rid of it, and live through it can be consuming and exhausting.

One client describes, living with high-functioning depression is absolutely exhausting. It’s spending the day smiling and forcing laughter when you are plagued by the feeling that the people you interact with only just tolerate you and your existence in the world.


High-functioning depression makes you feel like you’re constantly “faking it.”

We all know what it feels like to pretend.  Yet pretending should never be a way of life.  If you struggle with HFD you almost always feel like you have to ‘fake it,’ playing the role of the person everyone thinks you should be.

The negative, shaming self-talk fuels the duality in thinking that you are useless and a waste of oxygen while at the same time internally compelling you to do everything in your power to prove yourself wrong by being the best student, best daughter, best employee you can be. You tend to go above and beyond all day every day in the hopes that you can actually make someone feel that you’re worth their time, because inside, you rarely feel like you are.

Sometimes you fake it because you don’t want to bother those around you. Sometimes you fake it because you don’t want others to pity you. Sometimes you fake it because you’re trying to be the best Christian you can be, loving and serving others while feeling empty and hopeless inside.  So instead you display a happy face on the outside even though nothing is happy on the inside.

Faking it will never heal what is hurting on the inside—it just keeps you chained to the cycle of pushing through and paying the price later both physically and emotionally. Stop pretending. You don’t have to keep up the facade, You can get help and discover a life of fullness, of hope, of joy. You can.

Jeremiah 29:11 tells us, I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.

HFD makes you feel have to prove that there is something wrong and that you need help.

For many dealing with HFD, trying to tell others of your battle can be difficult when what they see on the outside appears to be just fine.  If you are not suicidal, bed-ridden, or in tears all of the time, they dismiss your struggle, and often invalidate your feelings of fatigue, sadness, worthlessness, and fear.

Battling the negative self-talk and feelings of worthlessness like, I’m worthless, I’m no good, No one cares, are hard enough. No one should have to prove their struggle to others in order to be seen, heard, or helped.  Life doesn’t have to be falling apart in order to get encouragement or support.

Just because others don’t understand your struggle doesn’t mean your struggle isn’t real. God sees you. He understands. He knows everything you think and feel, He sees the battle you fight every day. His heart breaks for your sorrow and your pain. He longs for you to find relief —whether that relief comes through prayer or whether it comes through medication and therapy, or a combination of both. God doesn’t limit Himself. You should not limit Him either.

The good days are relatively normal with HFD, but the bad days are unbearable.

On a good day things can feel normal — your routine, interactions, focus —all indicate that life is worthwhile and that you are a capable, productive individual.  You have energy for family, friends, church.  You feel connected—emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

But on a bad day — on a bad day, nothing feels right.  You feel like you have to pull yourself out of bed, shame yourself for waking up late, struggle to get yourself together, fight to focus on anything.  You find yourself irritable, empty, exhausted.  Without any energy, you numb yourself by mindlessly scrolling social media, Netflix, or YouTube. You give in to eating whatever junk food you can find, and then demean yourself as you fall off to sleep.

With HFD, you will have both good and bad days. See the good days as beautiful gifts to enjoy as a respite in the midst of the storm. Welcome them. Savor them, but don’t let them prevent you from getting the help you need. The bad days are real, too. You don’t have to be depressed all of the time in order to get help.. You don’t.

You can struggle to focus with HFD, and feel like you’re not performing to the best of your ability.


Sometimes depressive symptoms can cause you to feel like you are living life in a daze.  You can feel unable to focus during simple tasks, disconnected in conversations. This lack of concentration can create misunderstandings at home, work, or school. Relationships can suffer when people perceive your lack of attention as a lack of consideration.

Everything feels harder, takes longer than before. Your thoughts feel like they are moving in slow motion and you just can’t seem to catch up. Fulfill your potential. The further behind you get, the harder it is to try and fight. The easier it is to give in to the depression that is steadily pulling you under.

And it all feels helpless and totally out of your control.

Do You Have High-Functioning Depression?

Here are a few symptoms:     


• Difficulty experiencing joy.

• Relentless criticality — of self and others.

• Constant self-doubt. 

• Diminished energy

• Irritability or excessive anger

• Small things feel like huge things.

• Feelings of guilt and worry over the past and the future.

• Relying on your coping strategies more and more.

• Generalized sadness.

• Seeking perfection.

• Inability to rest and slow down. 

Treatment for High-Functioning Depression    


If you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself or in someone you love, reach out for help.  You don’t have to suffer in silence and isolation.  Research shows the best treatment for those dealing with high-functioning depression is a combination of psychotherapy (including CBT, EMDR, and Psychodynamic modalities) and/or medication.  Faith, prayer, community— all of these play a vital role in finding healing and relief.

In fact, according to a paper from “The Canadian Psychological Association,”Psychotherapy is as effective as medication in treating depression and is more effective than medication in preventing relapse. For some patients, the combination of psychotherapy and medication will be more beneficial than either treatment on its own.

God wants us to bring all of our exhausted, broken places to Him —that means bringing them out of the shadows so that we can find the healing from the emptiness and anguish that plagues our every step. That means to come, lay them at His feet so that we can find hope in the most hopeless of places in our heart. CLICK TO TWEET

Take the next step, one step towards Him, towards healing. Our healing doesn’t all have to look the same. Whether your healing happens at the altar or whether it happens in your therapist’s office, God’s healing is unlimited, ever-present, all-powerful and encompassing. Never forget that. Never settle. Never lose hope. CLICK TO TWEET

5 Clues You May Be Depressed and Not Know It

Galatians 6:2 (NIV) tells us to, Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.


Isaiah 41:10 (ESV) states, Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Exodus 33:14 (ESV) adds to this, The LORD replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’

You don’t have to live constantly feeling like you are sinking in quicksand. You don’t have to settle just holding on for one more day. You can build a solid, stable foundation for yourself — so you can discover and live the life God has designed for you.

It’s not about where you start getting help for your depression, it is about starting. Right now. Today!

Do you feel like you may be depressed? Do you want to learn more about HFD as well as find tools that can help you discover healing and relief? Based on my years of clinical experience, I’ve created my handbook, FACING DEPRESSION, for anyone who struggles with HFD. If you suffer or know someone who suffers, please accept it as my FREE GIFT to you!

Take the next step towards your healing…


About This Community

Don't we all want a little peace?  My heart for this community is to provide just that - a needed refuge from all the burdens that weigh us down, some encouragement and inspiration to keep us weary travelers moving forward on our journeys, and some practical advice to help each of us navigate the challenges of life and relationships.  Whether in our parenting, our marriages, our faith, or the broken places in our hearts, this place is for anyone who dares to reach beyond the hopelessness that surrounds us and embrace a lifestyle of emotional abundance and peace!  

About Peace for a Lifetime

In my book, Peace for a Lifetime, I share the keys to cultivating a life that’s deeply rooted, overflowing, and abundant, the fruit of which is peace. Through personal and professional experience as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I've discovered how to take the broken pieces of life and find indestructible peace with myself, God and with others. Through my story and other’s stories you’ll realize that you can experience the life for which you long. You can experience abundance beyond anything you can imagine. You can experience peace, not just for today, not just for tomorrow. You can experience peace —for a lifetime!

Peace for a Lifetime is available on Amazon.com.


Book Trailer: https://vimeo.com/155392891