High functioning anxiety and depression are invisible issues in society, however,, their impact on a family system is profound. Our mental health can have a huge impact on the lives of those who are around us and in turn, their behavior has an impact on us. We are – all of us are – in it together. With high-functioning anxiety and depression, people are excellent at pretending to everyone in their lives that they are okay.
They will push themselves to meet their goals and to do what is expected of them in order to motivate themselves to continue. In the case of depression, they believe deep down that their situation is hopeless, and nothing can be done. That is why they may turn to addictions to help cope with their feelings.
Addictions can be work, politics, TV shows, Internet relationships, porn, alcohol, shopping, or drug use. In terms of appearance, high-functioning people will appear normal in many ways except that they may avoid social contact, may struggle to give care to family, regulate their anxiety or sadness, or are unable to perform at work.
Depression is characterized by the following: 1. Lack of pleasure in life 2. Social withdrawal 3. Fatigue and lack of energy. Chronic depression can include difficulty focusing, memory issues,, and inability to do daily tasks. Rumination or dwelling on the past is another characteristic of depression.
What is High Functioning Anxiety?
In the case of high functioning anxiety, the anxious feelings may remain buried, unless triggered by a minor event, and then the pent-up repressed anxiety surfaces as a panic attack or rage. Insomnia may be another outcome of high-functioning anxiety.
However, despite the above, people with this form of depression/anxiety can often avoid treatment. They may believe that their issue is beyond help or that they have no issues. They can use distraction to avoid feeling what they feel.
They may have deeply internalized shame, due to which seeking help can be seen as a personal failure. With high-functioning depression, one or two parts of a person’s life are usually functional, they may be able to work or they may be great caregivers however since they struggle with deeply buried feelings, they may feel easily frustrated with daily problems. Ordinary setbacks can appear like a major crisis.
How Is Depression Different From Anxiety?
Depression can be conceptualized as a complex trauma response — as a freeze response due to multi-layered trauma that has remained unprocessed for a long time. Helping people with high-functioning depression can be challenging, because intelligence and high functioning may make it doubly hard to let go of hard-won control. They may see negative feelings as a personal failure or their trauma may be seen as a personal failure. Here are the top 10 signs of high-functioning depression, however, none of these should be used as a self-diagnosis.
- Difficulty expressing feelings
2. Discomfort around witnessing emotions in others
3. “Everything is a crisis” mindset that leads to panic or rage.
4. There could be a distrustful and negative view of the world
5. Negative bias against some or all types of mental health professionals
6. Addictions such as shopping, alcohol, smoking, dogma, eating, or work
7. Difficulty completing creative or other projects
8. Difficulty saying no or putting boundaries
9. A sense of being trapped in their circumstances
10. A deep fear of vulnerability or fear of losing their self-control
Is there help for high-functioning depression or anxiety?
Yes. It is treatable. Like anything in life, treatment for depression/anxiety requires effort and investment. For high-functioning individuals, the work may need to be complex and long-term. Family systems and childhood conditioning may make it doubly hard to seek help because there could be a lot of ‘rational’ reasons to avoid processing deeply buried emotions. Such cultural biases can mean that many individuals do not seek help when they really need it. When ready, they must want help and do the research necessary to find the right professional. In many cultures, a lack of awareness about mental health, the stigma associated with mental health problems,, and cultural inhibitions prevent people from getting the support they need, when they need it.
Note: If you think someone you know may have high-functioning depression or anxiety, please be mindful of their boundaries and personal decision to seek therapy or not. It is not a good idea to quote me and diagnose them. Also, counseling therapy is not a ‘cure’ for depression or anxiety, however, it can alleviate symptoms and provide relief as well as education about how to cope. A lot depends on the willingness and effort of individuals in changing their coping styles to more skillful coping.
By, Saima Shah RTC, CHt, MBA (Registered Counsellor in BC).
As a Holistic Therapist, I work with multicultural populations who want to take a proactive and preventative approach toward their health, careers,, and relationships, feel better, learn, and grow.