Fighting a Secret Battle… A Closer Look at High Functioning Depression

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One in four individuals’ is experiencing a mental illness, and it’s just not something we can continue to ignore. According to the World Health Organization, cases of depression have ballooned 20 percent in just one decade, making it the leading cause of disability worldwide. Therefore, understanding high functioning depression is imperative, as HEALTH investigates.

SMOKE AND MIRRORS


U.S. celebrity Chef Anthony Bourdain, host of CNN’s food-and-travel-focused “Parts Unknown” television series, committed suicide this year while Kate Spade, a hugely successful American designer also ended her life. ‘High functioning depression’, explains Farah Dahabi, Clinical Social Worker and Head of Mental Health First- Aid UAE, is a pop culture term that’s given to describe a type of depression, known as pervasive depressive disorder or dysthymia. “People with dysthymia experience a chronically low or empty feeling that lasts at least two years,” she says, and while from the outside, it look like they’re keeping it all together, from the inside they are struggling and suffering in silence. The problem is this type of depression doesn’t match the stereotype we have in our head of depression. It’s unlike severe depression which can disrupt relationships, work performance, and the ability to function. High functioning depression is like living with a chronically sprained ankle – it’s always hurting, but feels manageable. People experiencing dysthymia are at high risk of developing more severe depression, anxiety, and or a substance abuse disorder.

HARD TO SPOT

Signs that indicate someone may be experiencing ‘high functioning’ depression include: feeling low, empty, or hopeless most days, a negative or cynical attitude,
low self-esteem, and fatigue. “While identifying ‘high functioning’ depression can be hard to identify in a loved one or colleague, it is not harder to diagnose or treat,” says Dahabi, “With proper treatment from a qualified mental health professional, recovery is possible.”

SELF-HELP CHECKLIST

If you believe you may be experiencing ‘high functioning’ depression, set up an appointment with a psychologist to talk through your experience. They will be able to assess what you are experiencing, create a treatment plan with you, and guide your recovery. Other steps people can take include; getting regular exercise, drinking adequate water, establishing a healthy sleep routine, building a mindfulness practice, and avoiding substances to cope.

If you think someone you love or work with may be experiencing depression, take a Mental Health First- Aid UAE course today. It is a powerful toolkit that teaches you how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness.

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