The Dangers Of High-Functioning Depression And Anxiety

The Dangers Of High-Functioning Depression And Anxiety

High-functioning depression and anxiety, when left untreated, pose a danger to people who experience it.
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It’s been 8 years since I was diagnosed with depression and 5 since I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety. For many people when I tell them, it comes as quite a shock. “Wow, you don’t seem depressed” or “I’ve never seen you panic about anything” is a rather common response. Reflecting on this, I can understand why it would come as a surprise. I graduated high school with above a 4.0 GPA because I loaded my schedule with Advanced Placement courses so I could get ahead in college.

I participated in sports, I volunteered, I had a job, and generally seemed to be doing pretty well. I was accepted into the colleges I applied to and started school in the fall, where I also excelled and became involved in many activities around me. I was functioning as a “normal” young adult, so how depressed or anxious could I be right?

My depression and anxiety seemed like a war going on inside my head, reeking havoc on my physical health and general outlook on life. You would never have known by looking at my grades, my endurance on the soccer field, my performance at work, or my interactions with peers. It was easy to go about my daily life and excel in public, my mind was too busy to be sad or nervous, but when I returned home I entered a different world.

I was inconceivably sad and overwhelmed reflecting on the day I had. I knew I had a list of things I needed to complete before I could fall asleep in good conscience, but I lacked all motivation to complete a single task. On the other hand, not completing anything made me irrationally fearful that I would not succeed. I was sitting in the shell of my body unable to do anything.

Do your homework. I can’t. If you don’t you’ll be a failure, you’ll never be accepted into a good college. I’m too tired to do anything tonight. If you don’t do anything tonight, your grades will plummet; your teacher will be disappointed with you.

I'd go back and forth with myself until I forced myself to agonizingly and poorly complete something.

The physical toll on my body was no less. My back hurt immensely, I experienced migraines frequently, my panic attacks made me feel like my heart was going to be ejected from my chest, and my outbursts of anger toward my family were uncontrollable. And despite my insisting “nothing was wrong” my mother took me to see a psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist informed me that I experienced high-functioning depression and anxiety, which is not uncommon, especially in teens and young adults. High-functioning illnesses are scary in the fact that its easy for people who experience them to convince themselves that everything is fine, that they are just going through a phase because every other aspect of their lives are relatively normal.

Due to the “normal” levels of functioning in people who experience high-functioning depression or anxiety (or both), these people often go undetected by themselves, family, friends, co-workers, even medical professionals, and therefore don’t receive the treatment they need. Prior to receiving treatment, I was excelling in my personal and academic life, which made me question: what was the point in seeking treatment at all?

Our society is becoming more aware and accepting of mental illnesses, yet it is too common that people put the symptoms of mental illnesses in a box. I want to be explicitly clear when I say mental illnesses affect each person differently, not one experience with mental illness is identical. From therapy to medication to natural remedies, many treatments exist to help people who have depression or anxiety — but not receiving treatment often worsens the issue.

Many mental illnesses are invisible ailments, and high-functioning illnesses can often be silent, but that doesn’t mean they are not felt. We often hear that the people who fall victim to suicide “led perfectly normal lives” or their friends “had no idea they were sad enough to feel suicide was their only escape.”

Seeking treatment is not only a preventative measure to ensure symptoms don’t further progress; it is a proactive way to better your quality of life. As cliché as it sounds, with some simple ways to be proactive about your mental health, managing depression and anxiety is 100 percent attainable.

If you or someone you know experiences depression, anxiety, or a combination of both here are some ways to be proactive about your health and some important tips for when you are feeling low.

1. Know your body.

There are typically warning signs – bold or subtle changes- of when you are about to experience a little more of a struggle with your mental illness. Pay attention to these changes so you can take preemptive measures against your symptoms.

2. Have a solid support network.

Struggling with depression or anxiety is not something to be ashamed of. Millions of people are experiencing the same thing as you. Lean on people who can relate to what you are feeling, or find someone you trust that you are comfortable explaining your situation to. It’s good to have someone you can call, text, or talk to when you need a quick pick me up.

3. Give yourself some well-deserved attention.

Pamper yourself a little sometimes. You work really hard in your daily life and you manage your mental illness, appreciate yourself. It’s okay to have an extra helping of ice cream, buy those concert tickets, or just plain old relax for an afternoon. If you don’t take care of yourself, how are you expected to be able to perform at your best?

4. Exercise and eat right.

I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times but it is a miracle what eating right and some exercise can do for your body. I love to think of the mantra “feel good, do good” because it's true; the better you feel the happier you behave. When you feel good it is reflected by how the people around you behave and leads to positive reinforcement.

5. Discover a hobby.

Finding an activity or hobby that you really enjoy can serve as a very positive distraction for negative things, and a mood boost for when you're feeling above average. Find a group of people

6. Five sense distraction.

If you are in a public place and feeling overwhelmed, you can use the five sense method to calm down. Focus and examine: 5 things you can see, 4 you can touch, 3 you can hear, 2 you can smell, and 1 taste. Try to breathe through your nose as you complete this task and you will feel relieved in no time!

7. Don’t give up.

Treatments are typically not a quick fix, they take time, and yes a little energy. But the outcome is well worth it. Don’t give up on your treatment plan, on the people supporting you, or yourself. You are a powerful, resilient individual.

You can do this.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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I Woke up In The Middle Of The Night To Write About My Fears, They're Worse Than The Dark

One minute I'm thinking about what I want to do after college next thing I know I'm remembering the time I tried talking to a boy and choked on my spit.

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It is one of those nights when I am tired, but for some reason, I can't seem to fall asleep. So, what do I do? I pull out my laptop, and I begin to write. Who knows where it will lead. It could lead to a killer article or something that does not make sense. I mean it is almost 2 A.M. In my mind, that's pretty late.

Anyways, let's do this thing.

Like many people, thoughts seem to pile up in my head at this time. It could be anything from a time when I was younger to embarrassing stories to wondering why I am "wasting" my time somewhere to thoughts about the future. All of these things come at me like a wildfire. One minute I'm thinking about what I want to do after college next thing I know I'm remembering the time I tried talking to a boy and choked on my spit.

The thought that is going through my mind as I write this is about the future. It's about the future of my fears. Let me explain. I have multiple fears. Some of my fears I can hide pretty well, others I am terrible at hiding. My fears may seem silly to some. While others might have the same fears. Shall we start?

1. My career

I don't know where to begin with this one. For as long as I can remember, my consistent dream job has been working in the world of sports, specifically hockey. A career in sports can be and is a challenging thing. The public eye is on you constantly. A poor trade choice? Fans are angry. Your team sucks? "Fans" are threatening to cheer for someone else if you can't get your sh*t together. You can be blamed for anything and everything. Whether you are the coach, general manager, owner, it does not matter. That's terrifying to me, but for some reason, I want to work for a team.

2. My family

Julie Fox

Failing with my family, whether that be the family I was born into or my future family, it terrifies me. I have watched families around me fall apart and I have seen how it has affected them. Relationships have fallen apart because of it. I have heard people talk about how much they hate one of their parents because of what happened. I don't want that.

3. Time

This could be a dumb fear. I'm not sure, but I fear time. With every minute that passes, I am just another minute closer to the end. With every day that passes that I am not accomplishing goals or dreams I have, I am losing precious time. It scares me to think of something horrible like "What if I die tomorrow because of something horrific?" or even worse, "What if I don't make it through today?" It's terrible, I know.

4. Forgetting precious memories

When I was younger, I had brain surgery. It is now much harder for me to remember things. I am truly terrified that I am going to forget things I will want to hold close to me forever, but I won't be able to. I am scared I'll forget about the little things that mean a lot. I'm afraid of forgetting about old memories that may disappear. I'm worried that I'll forget about something like my wedding day. That might seem out of this world, but it's a reality for me.

5. Saying "goodbye"

I hate saying bye. It is one of my least favorite things. Saying bye, especially to people I don't know when I'll see again, is a stab in the heart for me. I love my people so much. I love being around them. I love laughing with them. Thought of never having a hello with them again scares me beyond belief.

6. Leaving places that I love

Alright, let me start off by saying this- it takes a lot for me to love a place. It has to feel like home. It has to make me feel comfortable. It has to be a place I can go to and be myself. Thankfully, I have had and still have multiple places that are like that. I have also had places I could not wait to leave. I think that's why leaving places I love is so hard and something I fear so much. I am afraid I'll never get that place "back", for lack of a better term. I guess, I'm trying to say, it's like a piece of me is leaving as well.




These six things are just the start of my fears. Some of these might seem "dumb" or "ridiculous" to you, but for me, it's my life. These are the things that I think about the most. These are the things that feel like a pit in my stomach. These six things are parts of my life that mean a lot to me.

Cover Image Credit:

Emily Heinrichs

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Take a Breath, Because Your Anxiety Doesn't Define You No More Than Anything Else Does

Having anxiety sucks. There's really no other way to put it.

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Feeling yourself slowly slip away from reality and lose the ability to think straight is something no one should have to endure, yet millions of Americans have it. People from different childhoods, different memories, and different stresses all united by one common enemy: anxiety.

And that's what anxiety is, an enemy. There's a constant battle between its demons and positivity inside someone's mind. When anxiety wins, it seems like a nightmare come true at times.

It's almost impossible to describe anxiety to someone who doesn't have it. Those moments when all of the sudden you can't think straight, there's a faint buzzing in your head that grows louder and louder the more you try to tune it out, and the overwhelming desire to crawl up into a corner, turn off the lights and avoid anything and everything isn't an easy thing to communicate.

And the symptoms are different for everyone. Anxiety isn't identical from one person to the next; there are different triggers that set off a different array of emotions. For those of you who don't suffer from these attacks, please know one thing: we don't have total control over ourselves during these moments. For me, nothing makes sense in the midst of an anxiety attack. The more I try to think through everything happening in my head, the more confusion swarms my thoughts.

But, despite all of these moments where it feels like some invisible walls are crashing down around you, anxiety does not make you any less of a person. Anxiety is one piece to the complex puzzle that makes you, you. For all of the times filled with fear, anger or frustration, you can wake up the next morning a little bit a calmer with a much better frame of mind. Even though anxiety can sneak up on you at the strangest times, it makes you know that you can survive almost anything that is thrown at you.

But, no matter how many inner fights you're facing or how many anxiety attacks you've suffered, you're the same person you were yesterday and will be tomorrow. If anything, you're a little bit better because you survived another moment you thought you couldn't.

Cover Image Credit:

Hailey Reed

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