What is “High Functioning” Depression?

A interesting term gaining momentum in mental health is “high functioning” depression.  It is not a new type of depression.  Major Depressive Disorder which last up to 2 weeks, or Season Affective Disorder which coincides with the season, or even Persistent Depressive Disorder which is chronic are all major types of depression seen in individuals.  Whether one is high functioning or unable to function does not differentiate the type, but it does point out towards a person’s attitude towards being depressed and possibly the intensity of the one experiencing depression.

High Functioning Depression is not a type of depression but an attitude that looks to ignore the symptoms despite the mental health risks


The article, “High-Functioning Depression: the Symptoms and Treatments” by Paul Wynn takes a closer look at this type of depression.  Again, he reiterates that there is no clinical term for high functioning depression but merely more of an attitude towards it.  He states,

“The American Psychiatric Association’s official diagnostic handbook does not recognize high-functioning depression as a clinical disorder. It’s also not a common term used among doctors to classify patients; High-functioning depression is one way people talk about having a depressive disorder to friends and family. “When speaking to my patients, I never describe them as a person with high-functioning depression; it’s just not a term we use around the office,” says Dr. Lorenzo Norris, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and chief wellness officer at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C.”

“High-Functioning Depression: the Symptoms and Treatments”. Wynn, P. (2022). US News.

To read the entire article, please click here


Like any depression, one who experiences it, still faces the basic symptoms.  Those with high functioning depression are no different.  Individuals suffer from low self esteem, lack of energy, increased irritability, loss of interest, preferred isolation, and overall apathy.  The difference is how they manage it and react to it.  The ability to still perform tasks,  go to school or work, or still manage to be seen, stems more towards the severity of the depression itself, or the attitude towards it.  Numerous individuals who still keep functioning despite depression, usually are suffering from a more mild form of Major Depressive Disorder but many also have certain attitudes or feelings towards mental illness.

Some individuals may see mental health as something of a stigma or something to be ignored.  They may come from families where mental health issues are a sign of weakness and that individuals should work through their feelings and not permit them to affect their everyday work.  These types of individuals may see depression as an excuse or a weakness within character that others employ to escape reality.  They do not wish to be seen as weak or unable to cope

This is the case with many in business who feel they cannot be seen as weak or unable to perform tasks.  Instead of dealing with the emotions, they bury them and proceed forward.  Others may see they do not have the time to be mentally ill and need to focus on tasks and others under their care.  Hence an image and responsibility overtakes these types of individuals where they feel the need to hide the emotions, or dismiss them so that they can continue to operate at a high level.  These types of individuals may also ignore other health issues, but mental health is definitely something they do not have time to worry about.

Helping Those Who Do Not Want Help

Those around colleagues or family members will see the signs of depression. While the person remains seen, functioning and performing duties, the person still will manifest signs of depression.  Increased irritability and lack of patience in daily tasks will mount over time.  Disorganization, emotional outbursts and more fatigue may also start to manifest.  Maybe, the individual will also express less interest in hobbies, or activities outside of work or school.  They may not find interest in things that usually excite them.  For this reason, only those closest can truly tell if someone who is high functionally and depressed needs help.  Others from a distance will not know the individual well enough to pinpoint the exact issue.

Those close the person, can better see the wearing of depression upon an individual and look to help the person find help.


Once something is noticed, the closest within the circle and have an intervention and discuss the issues.  This may not be the most pleasant discussion but an emotional inventory needs to be completed.  The individual may finally admit to not feeling his or her best and finally admit certain feelings.  It is critical to identify these feelings so the person may receive the counseling or medication necessary to prevent further worsening of the condition and mental decline.  When individuals ignore mental symptoms of a larger problem, they do not usually disappear but only worsen.  This will not only negatively effect the person’s health but also eventually wear down on the ability of the person to function.


High Functioning Depression is not a different type of depression but a type of depression combined with a particular person’s attitudes about mental health. It may have to do some with severity of the depression but it usually has to do with a person’s attitude about mental health or the person’s roles that he or she feels cannot be put to the side.  It is hence important for individuals close to the person to help the person realize the importance of finding treatment and educating them on the issues that surround untreated depression itself.

Many individuals see depression as a sign of weakness. Please also review AIHCP’S Grief Counseling Program


Grief Counselors, as well as licensed counselors can help individuals find the help they need.  Grief Counselors can direct clients to licensed therapists who can better help those with any type of depression find the balance and counseling they need to better cope with it.  Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification and see if it matches your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Grief Counseling.

Additional Resources

“What is high-functioning depression?”. Coelho, S. (2020). Medical News Today.  Access here

“What Is ‘High-Functioning’ Depression?”, Gupta, S. (2022). VeryWellMind. Access here

“What does ‘high-functioning depression’ mean? We asked experts”. Chiu, A. (2022).  The Washington Post. Access here

“Please Stop Thinking My High-Functioning Depression Makes Me Lazy”. Shannon-Karasik, C. (2019). HealthLine.  Access here