7 minutes

How To Deal With High-Functioning Depression

Medically Reviewed
Last Medically Reviewed on: January 15, 2023

Being a teenager is hard enough, but it’s even harder if you’re dealing with something like high functioning depression. Unfortunately, many teens that are dealing with depression get missed because they fall into a category that’s a little different from typical depression, high functioning depression [1].

Families should know that there is more than one kind of depression and that teens that are still doing well in school and seem to be functioning fine can still have depression hiding underneath.

Lets talk about high-functioning depression, how it’s different from other kinds of depression, and how it’s very similar.

high functioning depression

What Is High-Functioning Depression?

High-functioning depression is one of those difficult diagnoses that’s defined by a combination of the symptoms you have and are dealing with, and how you deal with them. That’s important because high-functioning depression isn’t necessarily any less severe or difficult to deal with than other kinds of depression, instead, it’s depression that the person still manages to work through.

There are a lot of reasons that someone might develop high-functioning depression, including feeling a lot of pressure to perform, or feeling like they can’t show their symptoms. Other people may just feel like they need to get on with things or like they don’t have the time or safe spaces to really show how they feel.

Other people may just process the complicated emotions of depression without stopping going to school, working, socializing, and doing chores or self-care.

The symptoms of high-functioning depression are largely the same, but people with high-functioning depression are less likely to feel like they can’t get out of bed regularly, or to skip classes or call out of work. In fact, from a performance standpoint, adults and teens with high-functioning depression may seem like they are doing well or even better than average.

The problem is that those outward signs of being fine can sometimes make it harder for people with high-functioning depression to seek help, especially teens, either because the symptoms aren’t noticed, or because they themselves don’t realize that something is wrong.

Signs And Symptoms Of High-Functioning Depression

Here are some of the signs of high-functioning depression [2]that are most common:

  • Feeling or talking about feeling empty or sad, especially for more than two weeks
  • Having trouble sleeping or waking up
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Increased headaches, cramps, general aches and pains, or digestive problems, especially if these don’t seem to improve over time or with treatment.
  • Withdrawing or wanting to withdraw from people around you
  • Losing interest in things that used to interest you, or losing interest in everything in general
  • Thinking about death
  • Thinking about self-harm or suicide
  • Acting on thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • Feeling or complaining of being fatigued all the time
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Talking or moving slowly
  • Feeling or talking about being guilty or worthless
  • Feeling consistently hopeless or generally pessimistic
  • Feeling more irritable than usual
  • Seeming agitated, especially for no reason.
  • Difficulty remembering things
  • Seeming or feeling disengaged

Now, when it comes to teens, sometimes these feelings are perfectly normal. For instance, its common for teens to change hobbies and interests, sometimes rapidly, so that by itself probably isn’t a sign of depression.

Difficulty making decisions, and occasionally seeming agitated can both be perfectly normal as well.

So, when it comes to a list of symptoms like this it’s important to remember that it’s a combination of many different symptoms that really makes for the diagnosis, along with key symptoms that professionals use to help diagnose or sort between different possible diagnoses.

Remember, high-functioning depression isn’t a diagnosis. Persistent depressive disorder [3], or PDD, is often what people with high-functioning depression get diagnosed with, though not always.

Can You Be Functional And Depressed?

One of the common myths about depression is that people who have depression aren’t able to do anything, that having depression is a kind of deep block that stops people from getting up and doing anything from going to work or taking care of themselves.

The truth is that depression comes in many types and symptoms. Someone with depression might not be able to function at all, sometimes, or they might have times when they can function and times when they struggle to keep up, or they might not seem to struggle from the outside at all.

It’s all a matter of perspective and how you deal with the symptoms you have.

Being able to function is a matter of what you’re judged, what kind of function you’re talking about, and comparing your current function to your baseline, if one is available, from before the depression developed.

Some of the most functional people, high-performing people, in the world also deal with mental health disorders, including depression.

Admittedly, high-functioning depression is more of a buzzword than an actual diagnosis, but it’s very real, and can have a big impact on the people living with it.

Coping Mechanisms That Help With Functional Depression

Coping Mechanisms That Help With High Functioning Depression

There are many ways to deal with high-functioning depression, just like any mental health disorder. It’s important to remember that everyone is going to need different coping mechanisms and that coping mechanisms that work for other people may not work for you.

That’s okay.

These are just some things you can do that can make it easier to deal with functional or high-functioning depression.

Get Plenty Of Sleep

Sleep can sometimes be challenging when you’re dealing with any depressive disorder, but that doesn’t mean that it’s less important. In fact, it’s even more important to do what you can to get enough sleep if you’re dealing with depression, especially as a teen.

Talk to your doctor if you aren’t able to build a sleep routine that lets you get enough rest, or if insomnia or other problems are keeping you up at night.

Set A Schedule For Yourself

Having a schedule, especially to make sure you’re getting obligations taken care of in advance and making time for things that you enjoy, at least some of the time, can also be useful. Having routines can sometimes help make the symptoms of depression less severe.

Make Sure You Have Time For Socialization And Hobbies

Socializing might be the last thing you want to do when you’re dealing with depression, especially in the middle of a depressive episode or when your depression symptoms are more severe.

However, socialization and hobbies are two of the things you can do that may help address the chemical imbalance that leads to depression.

Even just having a little bit of time in your day set aside for the things you enjoy can make a huge difference in your long-term mood and how you’re able to function from day to day.

Look For People You Can Talk To About What You’re Experiencing

Having people that you can trust and who are willing to listen to what you’re feeling non-judgmentally can be critical when you’re dealing with depression of any kind.

The person you talk to might be friends, family member, or anyone you trust and can regularly contact. A therapist can also serve this role, and often does when people are dealing with depression.

Start A Mindfulness Or Meditation Practice

Mindfulness or the practice of checking in on what you’re feeling, seeing, sensing, and slowing down for a time can also be a good way of dealing with feelings of depression and figuring out coping tools or learning to enjoy little things, even when your mood or disorder are having problems.

Try To Get Regular Exercise

Exercise [4] is one of the first things people recommend when they find out that someone, they care about is dealing with depression, but that doesn’t mean that exercise isn’t a good option, assuming you’re physically able to do it.

Exercise works because your body naturally produces chemicals associated with happiness, pain relief, and stress relief when we exercise. If you’re interested in learning more about how this works, there have been lots of studies on the subject.

Signs It’s Time To Get More Help With Your High Functioning Depression

Often people think that they don’t need or don’t deserve help if they are able to continue functioning despite their depression. The truth is that you deserve help if you want it, and that help is out there.

But when do you need help?

The most significant signs that you need and deserve help are thinking about self-harm or suicide. But you can also seek help because you’re tired of dealing with low feelings and bad emotions, or because you think that your depression is getting in your way, or if you’re struggling to figure out how to live life with the feelings you have.

If you want help, or think that depression treatment might be helpful, it’s time to reach out and see how you can get that help.

Looking For Effective Treatments For Functional Depression?

Getting help with depression in teens can be a challenge, from working with school requirements, finding a good therapist, or just getting the teen themselves to engage with the treatment.

There is an alternative that’s immersive, helps teens figure out the symptoms, causes, and coping mechanisms that are most important for them and their depression.

Base Point Academy is a residential treatment center that focuses on helping teens dealing with mental health and or substance abuse problems, tackling the unique challenges facing teens in treatment, and helping them find equilibrium and get the most effective treatments for them.

If BasePoint Academy sounds like the right fit for your teen, contact us to learn more about the program or to consult with us and see if the program is a good fit.

Counseling and Therapy Treatment for Teens in Dallas / Fort Worth, Texas

BasePoint Academy is a premier mental health treatment facility, dedicated to supporting and guiding youth and adolescents through their mental health journey. With our facilities in Arlington, TX, Forney, TX, and McKinney, TX, we are conveniently positioned to provide comprehensive and specialized mental health services to young people across Texas. Our professional team offers a full suite of services, including teen counseling, therapy, and specialized adolescent IOP and PHP programs. Recognizing the unique challenges that teenagers face, we have created a safe and supportive environment for them to express their feelings freely and navigate their path towards recovery.

At BasePoint Academy, we believe in the power of family and community in the healing process. We offer family counseling services, understanding the ripple effect that mental health issues can have on the entire family unit. Our facilities also provide PHP programs and intensive outpatient programs (IOP) for teens, offering a supportive and comprehensive care environment. If you’re seeking child counseling, depression help, or anger management classes near you, BasePoint Academy is your reliable partner. Our commitment to evidence-based, holistic care ensures each adolescent receives care tailored to their individual needs.

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[1] Gupta, S. (2022, July 12). What is ‘high-functioning’ depression? Verywell Mind. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from

[2] Shannon-Karasik, C. (2019, August 12). This is what high-functioning depression looks like. Healthline. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from

[3] Gabbey, A. E. (2021, October 21). Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia): What it is and more. Healthline. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from

[4] Sharma, A., Madaan, V., & Petty, F. D. (2006). Exercise for mental health. Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from