Dysthymia: High Functioning Depression

The symptoms of depression are not always visible on the outside, and other people in your life may not realize that you suffer from the mental health condition. In fact, when you seem able to go through your daily activities with no outward signs of an internal struggle, you may have dysthymia or high functioning depression.

Different Types of Depression

The most common form of depression is major depressive disorder, affecting about 16 million adults in the US. When people use the term “depression,” they are usually referring to this common type. Other types of depression include major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern (formerly known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD) and postpartum depression, which affects women after childbirth. Dysthymia is a long-term form of depression that can last for years.

The different types of depression all have similar symptoms, including low energy, low-self-esteem, sleep issues, difficulty making decisions, poor concentration and feelings of hopelessness. The difference is in the timing and the consistency of those symptoms. The primary distinction with dysthymia is that the symptoms are present for at least two years and usually longer.

Flying Under the Radar

If you have high functioning depression, you may find that you can fly under the radar as you hide your mental health suffering. Experts say that, in fact, dysthymia can be difficult to diagnose because it comes on gradually and is not immediately obvious to other people. You may not even realize you have a problem yourself until you become sick of feeling “down” all the time. The condition may become more apparent if you have a stressful life event that affects your emotions significantly.

You may feel alone or isolated in your high functioning depression as well. When you seem to be able to go through your daily life, going to work, doing chores at home and taking care of your family, it can be difficult to realize – and to make others realize – that you are suffering from a mental health condition.

Embedded In Your Life

The symptoms associated with depression persist for years in someone who has dysthymia. While an episode of other types of depression signals a break from an individual’s “normal” life and outlook, dysthymia becomes embedded in your life as you experience the symptoms for such prolonged periods.

The condition typically has an early and subtle onset, often during childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. Because it is so subtle, it can be challenging to detect. Symptoms that are less severe and that linger can actually make a person feel as though this is a normal condition for them, rather than a mental health issue.

In addition, about three-fourths of individuals with dysthymia will also experience a major depressive episode. This is referred to as “double depression” and makes a diagnosis even more challenging. Once the major depressive episode ends, someone with dysthymia will continue to have symptoms but they will feel as though this is a normal part of who are they and what they are supposed to be feeling.

Essential to Seek Help

People with high functioning depression can usually get through a day, or at least a morning, managing to keep symptoms hidden from others and possibly even from themselves. However, the symptoms and the condition are still there and need to be managed properly. Just because you seem to be getting by in your daily life doesn’t mean you don’t help.

If you think you have dysthymia, it’s critical that you seek treatment for your mental health condition. The depression will not go away on its own. Your mental health professional may treat you with therapy and medication, depending on your particular situation. You will also be able to learn healthier tools for handling your daily life, as you develop improved self-acceptance and self-compassion through therapy.

Mental Health and Addiction Help in Tennessee

If you are experiencing a mental health issue, we can help. At our residential, long-term and outpatient treatment centers, Cumberland Heights provides top-notch mental health care to those dealing with mental illnesses, especially those co-occurring with substance use disorders. Our dedicated staff members will walk with you every step of the way on your journey to recovery, helping you to rewrite your story.

At Cumberland Heights, we’ve been changing lives since 1966. To learn more about our services, contact the Cumberland Heights admissions team.