When we think of depression we often picture someone in a dark room, struggling to get up in the morning or take care of themselves. Depression is like a massive weight sitting on someone’s shoulders making even mundane tasks feel impossible to take care of. Laundry isn’t getting done, dishes are sitting in the sink, and they’re calling out of work more than they should. The weight of their depression is holding them back—but depression is different for everyone, and some people can handle more weight than others.

In those cases, we end up with high-functioning depression. People who carry their depression with them and struggle with it, but successfully mask how severe their symptoms are. If it isn’t dealt with, high-functioning depression, sometimes called Dysthymia, can reach a boiling point and tip over into dangerous territory.

Let’s examine what that looks like:

Symptoms of High-Functioning Depression


High-Functioning Depression is persistent. It’s often milder than depression in many ways, but it can last for years. Periods of major depression are mixed with long-lasting stretches of mild depression and there are fewer red flags that lead people to seek help.


Lack of Focus

A common sign of high-functioning depression is difficulty focusing on completing tasks. At work, this may play out by avoiding decisions, checking out during meetings, or losing track of assignments. A lack of focus at home might involve forgetting to take care of errands, or feeling ‘distant’ and not present, even when surrounded by family and friends.


People with high-functioning depression often tend to self-medicate. Self-medication in this case is usually linked with activities that cause a rush of dopamine, including:

  • Playing Video Games
  • Over-Eating
  • Heavy Alcohol Use
  • Drug Use
  • Excessive Use of Pornography

All of these behaviors can be fun, healthy outlets to let off a little steam! But when used as a form of self-medication, they may lead to isolation or issues with physical health.

Changes in Sleeping Patterns

A disturbed sleep pattern is a strong indicator of depression. This can be at either end of the spectrum—sleeping too much, or not sleeping enough. The key thing to look for here is whether or not there’s something off with your sleep patterns you feel a need to correct.


Often, people with high-functioning depression are still able to get out of bed in the morning and make it to school or work without a problem—but once they’re there, their mood is like a pot ready to boil over. If you find yourself snapping at people over little mistakes, spend some time thinking about where that reaction is coming from.

Low Self-Esteem

In many cases, long-lasting, high-functioning depression is marked by a pervasive sense of low self-esteem. This could be due to insecurities over how you look, how you’re performing at school or in the workplace. It could also be feeling like a failure in a more general sense.

Whenever you’re dealing with feelings of low self-esteem, it’s important to remember to be kind to yourself. Artists always judge their own work more harshly than others—but people with depression do the same thing. You’re probably holding yourself to a higher standard than you would hold others to.

What Can You Do About It?

Self Care

There are lots of things you can do to help improve your mood! Most of them involve giving yourself a little self-love, and carving out time to take care of you. Exercise, eat healthy meals, and get plenty of sleep. Take time to pick up an old hobby or try out a new one. If your routine isn’t working, start making some changes.

Seek Help

If you are struggling to deal with persistent, high functioning depression, don’t hesitate to reach out so you can learn to manage it with depression treatment.