High Functioning Depression

High Functioning Depression: How to Deal With it in Students


We have all heard about depression –a constant state of feeling sad and low. But have you ever heard about High Functioning Depression? Most probably, you haven’t. And in most cases, it is hard to spot someone suffering from it. Therefore, I have intended to put heads together for you. I want to share my two cents about the depression symptoms in this article. And most importantly how it can affect students.

The high functioning disorder is actually Persistent Depressive Disorder, also known as dysthymia. It differs from Major Depressive Disorder in a way that in the case of PDD, the symptoms are subtle. It lasts for a longer duration and it is hard to be diagnosed clinically because of the less severe symptoms.

But it does not mean that it isn’t common. According to statistical data, about 3.5 million Americans are diagnosed with High Functioning Depression annually. And about 50 percent of these cases are labeled as “severe”. The people affected belong to all age groups. What makes it more interesting is that more than half of these people also experience a major depressive episode during or after their encounter with High Functioning Depression. The symptoms of High Functioning Depression usually last for two years.

Teenagers, high school students are likely to suffer from a spectrum of depression symptoms. They may have major depression or just a low-key depressive disorder.

What does it feel like to have High Functioning Depression? It feels empty and lonely. But the person suffering from it will not be sitting at home on a couch, crying and failing to meet the deadlines. Instead, he will be high up the ground, ready for work and completing their to-do list, submitting all the assignments, and nailing the quiz questions. But all this time, this person might be feeling a sense of emptiness, a hollow deep pit inside their chest. They will not ask for help.  Neither will they express their emotions to other people. They are good at hiding it behind a smiling mask. However, they feel gloomy deep down. Even if they are able to achieve their goals, they feel sad for no reason. They experience a low appetite, feeling hopeless and dark, lack self-confidence, insomnia, and poor concentration. These people may also experience short-term memory problems and attention span because they are kind of lost in their own thoughts

High Functioning Depression in Students

Do you realize how many college students have depression symptoms? The college competition, job stress, dysfunctional family setting –all of these factors may contribute to causing depression among youngsters.

Depression symptoms show up in a spectrum of various features. Some students have Major Depressive Disorder. However, there is a high incidence of High Functioning Depression seen in students of the United States.

These students do not lag behind, unlike the common belief. When we hear the word “depression”, we think of someone who is failing in social and personal life. Someone who is sitting in the corner with anxiety or someone who is failing the class quiz.

But this isn’t the case with High Functioning Depression. A student who is excelling in all the class tests participates in extra-curricular, pays attention in the class may also be suffering from depression symptoms.

College is a stressful and competitive environment. There are a lot of things going on at a time. Studies, relationships, breakups, poor family interaction, toxic friendships –all of this mess up a kid’s mind. And when there is no one to share the thoughts with, teenagers begin to lose hope. Even when they are smiling and laughing when they are out with friends, their mind is still lost in the world of sorrow.

Some parents also do not realize that their kids need proper attention and affection. Kids who belong to such houses are more likely to suffer from depression. A home is where we nurture. If it is toxic or dysfunctional, it can have a negative impact on our lives beyond our imagination.

Students who have High Functioning Depression may show the following symptoms,

  • Insomnia or lack of sleep
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Lack of concentration
  • Substance abuse and suicide ideation
  • Lack of appetite
  • Feeling hopeless and empty

Although some of these traits are similar to the usual depression symptoms, it is not easy to label someone with it unless diagnosed clinically.

How to Deal with Students who have High Functioning Depression

There are a lot of students who are struggling with depression and other mental disorders. Gen Z and Gen Alpha, in addition to Millennials, are recorded to suffer from depression more than the older generations. This is due to various factors and lifestyle variations.

Our mother and father did not have the same struggles as us. Life used to be simple before. Now it is unpredictable, competitive, and complicated. There are more resources, both good and bad. All of these factors influence the mental health of teenagers.

Depression has to be diagnosed and treated clinically. However, I would like to discuss a few things that we can do to deal with such students. If you are someone who has High Functioning Depression or you know someone who has it, these tips might prove helpful to you.

Eating Habits

The first thing you need to put some attention to is your eating habits. Students eat a lot of junk and spicy food. These can have a negative influence on physical and psychological health in the long run. Many people do not get this but our mind depends on what we feed our body.  You need to start eating healthier. Mental health depends a lot on what we eat. Food products high in vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids, zinc, and magnesium are known to lower stress levels and cure depression symptoms to some extent.

What we can do is add healthier food items to the college cafeteria. Encourage teenagers to eat healthily. Parents and teachers both should enlighten the kids about the importance of healthy eating.

Confidence and Self Image

Students tend to get intimated by how much someone else is studying or getting attention at school. This can create a sense of insecurity and internal aggression. It breaks their self-confidence.

If parents build healthy communication with their kids at home, they can prevent insecurity in their kids. Instilling students with a positive self-image is an essential part of growing up.

Even if someone is already showing depression symptoms, it is important to ensure them that they are valuable -that they matter.

We also need to tell students that they need to look at their own progress only. They say that a man’s only companion is himself. If they stop comparing their lives with other people, they will begin to feel better.

Lifestyle Changes

Whenever we are trying to improve our mental or physical health, lifestyle changes are an essential component. Someone who has High Functioning Depression is also a perfectionist. He or she is able to complete the tasks.

But one should also spare some time of the day to spend with themselves –painting, gardening, writing a journal or doing something they like. It is therapeutic to indulge in such activities. They release endorphins and happy hormones that are naturally going to lift up the mood.


Parents and Teachers

Parents and home environment have a major influence on students. It affects their performance at school and their mental health. Sometimes parents put a lot of educational pressure on their kids. They should motivate their kids but never cross the line. If you are a parent, you need to realize that if you instill so many competing ideas in your kid’s head, it might leave them feeling empty at the end of the day. They should always be allowed to make a decision for themselves.

Even if they win the quiz or their football team succeeds, they might still feel sad and empty. Because even if they win, what is it for? What next? So students should be able to do what they want.

Teachers at college can also offer a listening ear to students. Some colleges do have a therapist but kids still feel hesitant to share their true selves with them. If they successfully ensure the students that they will not be judged, maybe students will be able to open up to them more often.

Talking about their depression symptoms will surely help them overcome them.


Individuals who are suffering from depression symptoms should be treated medically. Antidepressants are prescribed to these people along with psychotherapy.

Even if a person with High Functioning Depression still manages to put their life together, they should consider getting therapy if they are also having suicidal thoughts. Substance abuse and addiction may also be seen in these individuals. All of these issues need to be addressed.

Depression being the most common mental disorder has gotten a lot of attention all around the world. There are campaigns for awareness and prevention but it is inevitably affecting our younger generations. Students have to go through a lot of undesirable situations. Having stress, anxiety, and depression is no surprise. But we must learn to deal with it. And if we know someone who has depression or High Functioning Depression, we must know how to help this person effectively.

Leave a Comment

Do you want  solutions for your social and psychological problems?

Then Subscribe to our newsletter