High-Functioning Depression

Some experts say the term may come from a lack of clarity surrounding persistent depressive disorder (PDD) or dysthymia, an ongoing form of depression. The difference between PDD and major depressive disorder (MDD) is that the symptoms tend to be less severe but have longer duration with PDD. The World Health Organization reports that more than 264 million people of all ages may experience depression worldwide. High-functioning depression is not recognized as a clinical disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Most people consider “high-functioning” depression to be episodes of depression without showing diagnostic signs and symptoms. It may be less debilitating than other forms and allow a person to live relatively “normal” by maintaining relationships and coping at work and in social surroundings. 

Often people confuse high-functioning depression with PDD and involves low-grade depression with symptoms that persist for at least two years and more likely to develop MDD. The symptoms may last for most of each day and occur more often. Those who have low grad symptoms may not be aware that they have depression. Some signs, including low mood, may be:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Oversleeping or insomnia
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt

There can also be triggers to depression. Certain situations and factors may be more likely to trigger negative mindsets such as:

  • Financial problems
  • Extremely high levels of stress
  • The death of a loved one
  • Loneliness
  • Major life changes

Potential risk factors for dysthymia can include:

  • genetics
  • epigenetics
  • prior mental illness
  • neuroticism
  • high anxiety levels
  • low sense of self-worth
  • psychological health
  • trauma
  • life stressors
  • social factors


Treatment can consist of both psychotherapy (talk therapy) and medication. For PDD, a doctor may prescribe various drugs, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Mental Health Medications and therapy can be a trial and error process, and everyone will react differently. Keep in mind that treatments are not one-size-fits-all. Keeping communication with your healthcare provider is vital, so they will know about any side effects or reactions you notice in response to specific medications. If necessary, your doctor may provide a referral to a mental health professional. Affiliated Family Counselors have professionals who specialize in a wide variety of mental health disorders. If you feel you are ready to reach out for help, please contact us at 316-636-2888, visit our website http://www.afcwichita.com, or locate a mental health professional close to you on your insurance website.

Here are some other resources:


  • If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.

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