If I were to ask you to describe someone who is depressed, how would you? Would you describe someone who is withdrawn, sad, and hopeless? Would you describe someone who lays in bed all day avoiding social interactions? What about someone who has lost interest in majority of their day-to-day activities? Sounds like a usual depressed candidate right? I mean, because depressed people are “easily” detectable right?
But is that really true?
Suppose I told you there was another type of depression. A type that affects approximately 3.5 million adults in the United States alone. A type which presents as asymptomatic. What that means is the person shows no signs or symptoms of being depressed. Still think you could effectively describe a person with depression now?
So you may ask how there could be a class of depression that does not “look” like depression. Simple. Just because this type of depression doesn’t “look” like what we are conditioned to recognize, does not mean that it is not depression. Not all depressed people are suicidal, sad, or crying nonstop. Not all depressed people are not eating or sleeping, and up-keeping their hygiene. And not all depressed people have difficulty concentrating and engaging in daily activities. So what kind of depression is this? The class of depression which affects a different population is called High Functioning Depression; also known as Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD). First time being introduced to it? You’re not alone. High Functioning Depression is truly what it sounds like. It is a form of depression that does not interfere with one’s tasks on a daily basis. For example, an individual with High Functioning Depression is capable of performing their work duties, maintain social and intimate relationships, function well academically, etc. There is no considerably large impairment on their daily routines and responsibilities. Unlike those with Major Depressive Disorder, those with High Functioning Depression are more likely to get away with masking their sadness. Recall the familiar saying “fake it til’ you make it”. Now that you’ve been introduced to this form of depression, do you still think detecting depression is straightforward?
Probably not and that was the point.
“Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe”
Who can be living with High Functioning Depression around you? Could it be the successful entrepreneur you follow on social media? Or your best friend who’s constantly traveling and living their best life? What about the charming guy in your spin class who’s constantly smiling and cracking jokes with you. The answer is all of them. None are excluded from developing HFD. My question to you is why did they not fit your initial criteria? Is it because they’re well put together, and constantly flourishing happily? Maybe. Well it isn’t because they mope around their apartment while eating a pint of ice cream and listening to old R&B hits. Or because they are buried in bed screening calls and texts. So what is it? What makes a depressed person distinguishable?
Ask yourself. Seriously.
Individuals with High Functioning Depression are still depressed. Their depression just looks different externally. These individuals may still have the following similar symptoms of Major Depression Disorder: decreased or increased appetite, insomnia or increased sleeping, lowered self-esteem,hopelessness, suicidal ideation, and/or difficulty concentrating. However, in order to be diagnosed with High Functioning there are additional criteria: the depressive symptoms must be present for a duration of two years without any relief longer than two months. In addition, the individual has never experienced mania or hypomania, the individuals symptoms cannot be related to another disorder or substance abuse, and the depressive symptoms result in some severity of impairment in the person’s normal functioning.
Please keep in mind that anyone can be diagnosed with High Functioning Depression. They can be the go-getter in your workplace. Or your Pastor at your church. They can even be your therapists. Ironic I know. Persons with High Functioning Depression carry their depression and stress differently. Instead of being confined to their room sobbing, they might very well be using work or the gym as an outlet. An important note to keep in mind is that persons with this form of depression are more susceptible to committing suicide. The reason is because they are asymptomatic. Not only do they mask their depression; they also are less likely to disclose their low moods with a loved one. This very reason is why it is essential that we as a community are capable of adapting and adjusting our mindsets. It is important that we carry through with daily and/or weekly check-ins. It is important that we allow our minds to become flexible to new information. It is also important that we are able to digest that new information, and use it to eradicate our ignorance. So before you assume what a depressed individual looks like…take a step back and think again.