Here’s What Your Co-Workers With High Functioning Depression Wish You Understood


From an outside perspective, people assume that I have my life all put together–it appears that I’ve got things very figured out.

I always earned good grades in school. I’ve had a lot of close friendships and relationships in my life. And I’ve been able to hold down a decent job and provide for myself since graduating high school and entering the workforce.

However, as someone with high functioning depression, life’s not quite as figured out for me as many people may think.

And this could not be truer in terms of my work history and work/life balance.

I’ve struggled with recognizing and comprehending the depression I live with and have routinely assumed that it’s disappeared in the past. This has never been the case though, and will likely never fully be the case.

Depression is certainly treatable, but it’s not curable.

Understanding High Functioning And Low Functioning Depression

A lot of people don’t realize that there’s actually a significant difference in depression types.

In terms of high functioning and low functioning depression, a main distinguishing factor is the levels at which a depressed person can go about their lives on a day to day basis and accomplish simple tasks that those without depression wouldn’t think twice about.

Those with high functioning depression usually struggle less with tasks such as getting out of bed, engaging socially, or working. But that doesn’t make high functioning depression less dangerous than low functioning. In this context, depression is more frequently ignored and buried. It lingers in the backdrop of life, and can quietly fester.

While low functioning depression makes even the simplest tasks a challenge, it’s more on the forefront of people’s lives. This makes it much more obvious to loved ones and other people who can step in and offer support and assistance.

As a result, people with low functioning depression tend to get help and address their mental health more frequently than those with less visible depression.

High Functioning Depression at Work

No matter what specific type, depression affects the entire human body. The brain, as well as digestive, central nervous, respiratory, and immune system are all impacted and burdened by depression.

What makes high functioning depression so difficult to approach is the fact that cognitive and physical side effects can be presented and mistaken for other things. This has certainly happened to me.

While at work, depression that’s been ‘swept under the rug’ has created other difficulties. I’ve felt more stressed out and overly sensitive at work than I could rationalize. An example of this within my life occurred while I was working a retail job and attending college simultaneously.

At this point in life, I juggled work and school and oftentimes found myself burnt out at odd times. I’d show up to class after working a shift and feel overly tired in the early afternoon. I would debate going home and napping instead of attending class even though I didn’t work long shifts.

Also, I was incredibly stressed out when I got home and tried to complete homework, and simply blamed it on being too busy. Thus, I was ignoring my depression because I was still mostly getting everything accomplished in a back and forth manner.

I’ve also felt physical side effects, such as an attributed lack of appetite. This is dangerous because high functioning depression can literally shift focus at work so heavily that basic levels of self-care are disregarded.

While I worked as a cook in numerous restaurants and cafes, my high functioning depression equated to long work days where I became so wrapped up in the tasks at hand that I’d literally forget to take breaks. Ironically, I’d also forget to eat over the course of an entire shift despite being surrounded by food.

Difficulty Holding Down A Job

At the young age of 25, I’ve worked more jobs than some people will in their entire lifetimes. The last time I counted, I’ve been employed at over sixteen different places. I’ve come to the realization that this stems back to my high functioning depression.

I typically thrive at a place of work for a short amount of time and become overly stressed and throw in the towel. I’ve had a hard time fully understand why this happens in the past. But once I understood that depression is prevalent, and that I was done settling for jobs I hated, I’ve been able to stick to the same job longer than ever.

Now that I work part time from an office and part time as a freelance writer, I have a renewed emphasis on balancing work and life. Since the office I work for pushes for is project-focused, and my freelance work lets me essentially be my own boss, I’ve been able to navigate my depression in the workplace more easily.

Many people with high functioning depression struggle with balancing work and life and other corollary phenomena. Depression can oftentimes be mistaken by employers for laziness or a lack of motivation. Employers may also attribute a negative attitude with high functioning depression because it’s difficult to pinpoint. Depression is usually not easy to understand for anyone involved.

Workplace Stigmas And A Lack of Mental Health Care

While at work, I’ve experienced many instances of stigmas fired at depression. Cases of high functioning depression can be undetectable to coworkers, and I’ve experienced this first hand.

I’ve been roped into conversations in the past that have left me feeling uncomfortable and hurt. Jokes have been made in the workplace at the expense of depression that were triggering and hard to cope with. This all has a circular effect that can bury high functioning depression even further. Stigmas are byproducts that people encounter far too regularly.

Furthermore, most if not all of my insurance plans have have had limited to no coverage for mental health. The counselors and physiatrists that my past insurance agents have forwarded me to in the past have been outrageously expensive (at times upwards of $200 a week.)

This has been disheartening and kept me from seeking counseling for a very long time. But there are ways around this; there are programs that exist to help in these exact situations.

Counseling Can Drastically Help

It took me a long time to recognize that I needed to get help. The struggles of high functioning depression were truly hidden in plain sight. High associated costs were deterring, but thankfully that all changed when I was introduced to sliding-scale counseling services.

After talking with a friend who is a psychology grad student, I realized that more affordable options are out there.

Programs by colleges and universities offer counseling to people under ‘pay what you can’ and at a sliding scale, meaning the costs are based on how much money a person makes and the total of their expenses. There are also community clinics that do the same thing.

I ended up searching terms on Google like “sliding scale counseling near me” and “graduate student counseling services near me” and found a counselor who was a perfect fit for me. The services only cost $20 a week, which is actually affordable for me.

Just remember: help is out there.

It may not be the easiest to find, but it’s there. Reaching out and seeking help through counseling is nothing to be ashamed of; it’s quite the the opposite. Counseling sessions may be exactly what’s needed to work towards a brighter future when dealing with depression. Life at work, home, and everything in between can be drastically altered for the better, and it all starts with seeking counseling. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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