Depression is more common than you might think. The World Health Organization's latest statistics show that 300 million people worldwide suffer from some type of depression. If that doesn't shock you, then consider this: suicide is currently the 10th most common cause of death in the United States. Point being, a lot of people suffer from depression, and sometimes it can be hard to spot. There are over nine different kinds of clinical depression (learn more here) – major depressive disorder being what we stereotypically think of when we hear the word 'depression' – and although major depressive disorder may arguably be the most well-known, there is another form that rivals in commonality: high-functioning depression. High-functioning depression is different from major depressive disorder in that it is a milder depression that lasts for a long stretch of time. In fact, to be diagnosed with it, this mildly depressed mood has to be present in your life for a minimum of two years.
High-functioning depression is known as persistent depressive disorder (the medical-y term for it is dysthymia), and sometimes individuals afflicted with it to never even realize that they're victim to it. I've had it since I was a kid and just last year got diagnosed, so I would know. The reason it's so hard to spot is because it's insidious. It's mild and (as the name implies) persistent; it can creep into your life so subtly that the symptoms of dysthymia seem to grow into your personality. Then years pass, and you find yourself at a point where you can't remember not feeling the way that you do.
So, are you wondering if you have high-functioning depression? Check yourself on these symptoms:
- Loss of interest in daily activities
- Sadness / emptiness / feeling 'down' for no apparent reason
- Tiredness/lack of energy
- Low self-esteem / self-criticism / feeling incapable
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble making decisions
- Irritability or excessive anger
- Decreased activity and productivity
- Avoidance of social activities
- Feelings of guilt
- Worries over the past
- Poor appetite/overeating
- Sleep problems
If you have five or more of these symptoms (and have had them for over two years), chances are good that you have persistent depressive disorder. If this sounds like you, don't worry. There are a lot of ways to combat dysthymia: eating right, exercise, mood-enhancing supplements (I'd check out Sam-e), prescription medication, and therapy.
If you want to learn a little more about persistent depressive disorder, I recommend checking out this YouTube video.
National Alliance on Mental Health: Get your mental health questions answered!
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255