Hearing the word “depression”, most of the people will imagine an unhappy, apathetic, empty person with no will to live, no will to exist, without the strength to change anything about their condition.

Presumably, no one will ever think of those laughing, hardworking, successful, charismatic people surrounded by a group of friends as someone who also can suffer from depression.

Well, surprisingly, they can, and that condition is called high functioning depression.

On the outside, they are just fine, even highly successful, easy-going.

But on the inside, they are chronically unhappy, emotionally exhausted, often need self-love and self-confidence.

Although it doesn’t appear that way, getting through the day is very exhausting for them.

They are somehow unsatisfied with their lives but have no courage or strength to change something, so they live in that vicious circle, acting normally on the outside, but burning out on the inside. Therefore, this sort of depression is entitled “smiling depression“.

Since those who are experiencing symptoms of high-functioning depression are usually doers that don’t show recognizable signs of depression, the condition is quite surprising to detect, and therefore to cure.

Do you maybe recognize yourself or someone you love while reading this short introduction?

If so, keep reading, you are in the right place to find out more information about symptoms of this common condition.

Here are the 16 most common signs someone might have high functioning depression.


Everyone appears sad occasionally, even without any real reason to feel that way.

But, if you feel down most of the time and you can’t find any logical explanation of why it might be a sign of high functioning depression.

A person suffering from high functioning depression will cover their sadness behind a mask of fake smiles and facade of happiness.

Often, they smile and move on, while on the inside they feel the opposite. When on their own they put down that mask and let the sense of hopelessness take on control.

You probably won’t let this feeling keep you in bed all day or destruct your daily routine, but it can make you heavy and really pull you down.

Besides, a person with this kind of depression is usually experiencing other negative emotions.

They feel fault or embarrassment for feeling depressed, or they criticize themselves for being sluggish when they can’t find the strength to do something.

Furthermore, people who have high functioning depression feel like something is missing.

They sense great emptiness they need to fill, but usually, don’t succeed and the void doesn’t disappear.

If you experience any of these – persistent sadness, emptiness or feeling down, you should ask for advice, as The Mayo Clinic lists it as an important symptom of persistent depressive disorder.


Since people who experience these symptoms struggle to keep their boat floating, they turn to coping strategies to get through life, or more precisely to escape life.

If you notice you lean on to your coping mechanisms overmuch, you could have a problem.

These mechanisms may include a variety of activities, such as using substances like alcohol or drugs, overeating, or playing games more than usual, watching tv overly, procrastinating any work you have to do or any other activity that helps them escape their life.

Of course, not every tv watching or game playing is a warning sign.

But if you are watching tv every night as a way to escape your life, if you spend sleepless nights playing games, just not to think about your reality, that may be a problem.

Landau said that in case you feel more melancholic or somehow ‘off’, you may enjoy a glass or two more often than other people in order to camouflage the thing, and that can’t be good, right?

Additionally, this can lead to substance abuse and addiction, which only make symptoms of depression worse, lowering the ability to cope with it.

So, if you notice that you are doing something overly, overeating, overdrinking, over gaming, it could be a warning sign that something isn’t right.


Those with high functioning depression often find things that weren’t much disturbing and were easy to deal with in the past now seem like the end of the world.

Things that mildly irritated before suddenly become too much to handle.

If events such as not being able to find your keys, a grocery bag braking, a friend changing weekend plans, phone or laptop bugging, or missing a train, make your stress response disproportionate to the event itself, it can be a sign of a high functioning depression.


Every person worries about their decisions, things, and people in their life from time to time.

But people with high functioning depression worry all the time, over everything, even things that normal people don’t find important to worry about so much.

They think they are responsible for everything, and they just can’t shake persistent worries. They stress over their decisions day after day.

Depression can make people to constantly question their decisions.

Also, depressed people can bother about the decisions they made in the past if they made a mistake if it was a good decision, would it be better if they choose differently and on and on.

If you worry that you chose the wrong career or school if you’re questioning your life partner if you worry about what will happen with the ones you love when you’re gone, about disappointing everyone, etc. from time to time, that is completely normal, everyone has these worries occasionally.

But, if feelings of concern and guilt are dominant, and a list of things you are stressing about is endless, this may be more than ’normal’ worry.

Feelings of guilt and worries over the past are as well included in the list of symptoms given by The Mayo Clinic.

So, if these feelings are controlling your mental space, you should be aware of the possibility that you are suffering from high functioning depression.


High functioning depression can seriously impact the quality of one’s life.

It may leave a person devastated and hopeless, but it can diminish the quality of their life, diminish their enthusiasm for life activities, including social interactions.

A change in the domain of your social dynamics might be one of the first warning signs.

Jason Stamper, dr of psychiatry and osteopathic medicine at Mountain Comprehensive Care Center , claims that those inflicted by this disorder may interact with people “normally” at work, but as soon as the workday is done, they disengage from any and all social activities.

These people can become somewhat isolated, and it usually leads to severing the social bonds in your life.

So, if you find yourself giving reasons why you don’t want to hang out with your friends and family more often than before, you should pay attention to other signs of high functioning depression.


Sometimes depression can manifest both mentally and physically.

It is known to have a negative impact on our immune systems which makes us more prone to sickness, explains Michelle Riba, MD, a clinical professor, and associate director at the University of Michigan’s Comprehensive Depression Center.

If you have constant mysterious headaches, back or shoulders ache no one can find the root of discomfort that won’t go away, it’s probably steaming from your emotions, not your bones and muscles.

Talkspace, an initiative, says that feeling “aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause” could mean that you actually have a high functioning depression.


High functioning depression also affects sleep. WebMD suggests that sleeplessness or too much sleep nearly every day is another sign of high functioning depression.

Some of the variations in sleep practice involve trouble with falling asleep and sleeping too much.

If you’re tossing and turning, you’re snoozing your alarm hundreds of times, or you get ten hours of sleep and still can’t stay awake during the day, it can be a sign that something serious is going on.

Sleep difficulties can worsen the signs of your depression. It is widely known that good sleep is necessary for mental well-being and a psychiatrist and professor of medicine Carol Landau, agrees with the statement.

Sleeping also can appear as a method of avoiding reality, becoming a sort of self-protection mechanism, and it is an unhealthy way of dealing with emotions.

If this is what is happening to you, you should talk to a professional.


Those experiencing the symptoms of this ailment are often overachievers who are often unable to relax.

These people are constantly on the go all the time because they are aware that once they stop, the sadness and emptiness will take over.

That’s why they restlessly shift from one assignment to another.

For example, they refuse to take a rest when they come home after an exhausting day at work. Instead, they’ll find something to do around the house, do laundry, gardening, anything that would keep them occupied.

Reocurring feeling that time is of the essence and that it’s continually fleeting is also a big stressor for these people.

They spend enormous amounts of time calculating the time needed to complete an endless list of tasks. They even get nervous when engaging in hobbies or leisure and relaxation activities.

It leads to stressing and feeling guilty for not being productive, so the person lives in that vicious circle, powerless to get out of it, but used to live that way, not even knowing how to live differently.

Therefore if you are uncomfortable with peace and rest, because of the distressing thoughts and feelings that come to you when you actually slow down, and you do whatever it takes to keep your mind occupied, it can be a sign you are suffering from high functional depression.


Psychologist Suzanne Leckie for Women’s Health Australia noted that experiencing less enjoyment in usual activities is a diagnostic measure for high functioning depression.

With this condition, things that used to bring pleasure to a person, whether it is a dance class, a getting together with family, going for a picknick with friends or to a concert with the loved one, don’t bring you joy anymore.

Instead, now these activities seem like events that the person wants to avoid, as the effort it requires is much bigger than happiness it would bring.

However, people with high functioning depression do have times in life when they feel happy, only they don’t let themselves experience the pleasure to its fullest.

If there are activities that brought you relief and joy in the past, but at some point that stopped making you feel relaxed and happy, and at the same time, you haven’t replaced it with new activities, it is surely a sign that something isn’t right.


People experiencing the given symptoms are uncomfortable with their own state of stability. Simply put, they are uncomfortable when things are too good.

When everything is perfect they usually expect something bad to occur, and it doesn’t allow them to relax.

If you are always looking for reasons for things to go wrong, it ultimately can lead to self-sabotage your relationships, career and even your own life. If you always expect a bad outcome, take it as a sign.


High functioning depression can make it difficult for people to concentrate and harness their potentials, consequently. They regularly have a feeling of brain fog or that fuzzy absence of focus.

They may have problems staying focused or engaged at work, at school, at home, at social activities which can lead to being less productive than before, which makes a person feeling even more depressed and low self-esteem, because they are aware they don’t fulfill their capacities.

For example, you may wander off when your boss is talking about daily activities, or feel like you can’t focus on a story your friend is telling you.

It is all right if it happens occasionally, everyone has ups and downs, but if the feeling is ongoing it’s something you should pay attention to.


This is a common experience for these kinds of people who don’t exactly appear as your everyday depressed people, but looks can be deceiving!

They tend to function much like everyone else. They do stuff around the house, fulfill job tasks, and lead a seemingly healthy social life.

The only thing is – what is happening internally doesn’t match what is depicted outside.

Friends and family hardly can tell something is wrong, they think everything is fine.

Suzanne Leckie explained for Women’s Health that with PDD, people underwent many symptoms that were the same as symptoms of major depression, just to a lesser degree which let them get out of bed in the morning and do what they are supposed to do.

She continued that that indicated the depression may not be evident to others and could come as a surprise to family and co-workers.

So if you think you might have a problem like this, don’t expect to wait for others to notice something is wrong. Just because your depression isn’t immediately apparent, doesn’t mean it isn’t real.


Problems with self-esteem are one of the symptoms of high functioning depression, according to Psychology Today.

A person living with this condition lives with a pattern of constant self-doubt, which is something the person feels like can’t get over.

They doubt their choices (school, career, life partner, decisions), the way they live their life or even if they are worthy to live a life. Also, they are overly critical of themselves.

They think of themselves as a failure, their boss is an idiot, their partner most irritating person in the world, and life is just a toil.

This chronically negative thinking model can appear like something you simply can’t turn off.

If you are too critical about yourself and your being, including life in general, having low self-esteem, you probably don’t talk much on your self-image.

In that case, you should be aware that doing so could be the first move towards understanding your self-perception is skewed.

You would realize you are worth far more than your depression lets you to see. This would lead to being less judgmental, as well, and consequently, going through life much more relaxed.


It doesn’t matter if the situation if big or small, people with high functioning depression tend to overthink everything.

This is because they are afraid of reality and they constantly strive to account for all potential mistakes in advance which only leads to other mistakes being made.

Critical awareness is a huge plus, but if you have problems with your mood regulation and if you suffer from mood disorders, it might be wise to practice Zen and mindfulness meditations.

All of those practices are all about stopping the machinery of your mind and taking a simple rest.

If you have high functioning depression you often find yourself questioning everything you do. It is an absolutely exhausting cycle of over-analyzing which can lead to mental and emotional breakdowns.


If you see yourself erupting in a way that feels disproportionate to the situation, if irritation and extreme anger are something you’re fighting with, that might be a sign.

Everyone is entitled to crankiness or bad mood sometimes.

But when it comes to a person who lives with high functioning depression things are a bit different. They are used to be pretty calm persons who didn’t upset easily, and now can explode on a dime.

This happens because some negative emotions have been suppressed.

If react impulsively over trivial stuff such as someone being late or spilling something on you, missing the buss or whatever , it can be a sign that you’re threatened by this insidious mood disorder.


As Talkspace says, another possible indication of high functioning depression is diminished energy or fatigue.

Getting through the day with high functioning depression may seem easy, but actually, it is really exhausting. It requires lots of energy, and persons suffering from this condition usually feel like they are climbing a mountain with a backpack full of rocks.

They constantly feel like they barely have the physical, mental and emotional energy to handle their life.

So, if you are feeling exhausted mentally, emotionally and physically even before you get up from bed (but you manage doing it), it can be a sign that you are living with this type of depression.


Anyone can develop high-functioning depression, but some factors can increase the risk.

Here are some of the factors that put you at risk of having high functioning depression:

  • Having a family history of depression
  • Seeing yourself as inadequate
  • High stress and trauma
  • Co-occurring mental disorders

These symptoms may not be the signs of severe major depression, but yet the mood disorder steals your ability to be happy and live your life to the fullest.

High functioning depression may be as dangerous as major depression.

As you can see in the text above, people suffering from high functioning depression have extremely difficult times and struggle every day to live through.

They are very strict with themselves, so they don’t allow anyone else to see how they truly feel.

People suffering from smiling depression can also have dark and suicidal thoughts, although nobody can tell according to their outside appearance.

Even worse, they could end their life committing suicide, to the huge surprise of their acquaintances.

So it is important to pay attention to your own condition, and on condition of your beloved, as well. You never know when you can save someone’s life.

Of course, this list can’t diagnose you with high functioning depression, only a train medical profession can do that.

But hopefully, it gives you a better understanding of what you may be experiencing and makes you move accordingly.

16 Signs You Could Have High Functioning Depression

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