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How Do You Know If You Have High Functioning Depression

Written byDesiree Smith

High-functioning depression, also known as "smiling depression," is a nuanced  facet of depression where individuals outwardly appear to be functioning well in their  daily lives while silently struggling with persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, and  emotional turmoil. There are several reasons why and how people can have high functioning depression: 

Masking and Concealing

Individuals with high-functioning depression are often adept at concealing their  emotional struggles. They may use coping mechanisms to hide their true feelings from  others, putting on a facade of competence and normalcy. This can make it challenging  for others to detect their inner turmoil.

Social Expectations

Societal expectations and cultural norms may pressure individuals to maintain a  veneer of success and competence, even when they are experiencing emotional  distress. These expectations can discourage individuals from expressing their true  emotions or seeking help, as they fear being perceived as weak or vulnerable. 

Achievement-Driven Behavior

Many individuals with high-functioning depression are highly motivated and  driven to achieve their goals. They may use their work or other pursuits as a distraction  from their emotional pain, channeling their energy into productive activities. This  achievement-oriented behavior can contribute to their ability to function well in various  aspects of life. 


Perfectionism is a common trait among those with high-functioning depression.  They may set unrealistically high standards for themselves and strive for excellence in  their endeavors. This pursuit of perfection can drive them to succeed outwardly, even as  they battle inner emotional turmoil. 

Fear of Stigmatization

The stigma surrounding mental health issues can prevent individuals from openly  discussing their struggles. People with high-functioning depression may fear judgment  or rejection if they reveal their true feelings. Consequently, they may choose to suffer in  silence rather than seeking help. 


Despite maintaining external appearances of a vibrant social life, individuals with  high-functioning depression may isolate themselves emotionally. They may avoid  sharing their feelings with others and may find it difficult to connect with friends and  family on a deeper level. 

Coping Mechanisms

Some individuals with high-functioning depression may rely on unhealthy coping  mechanisms, such as substance abuse or overworking, to numb their emotional pain  temporarily. These coping strategies can contribute to their ability to function while  masking their underlying depression. 

It's essential to recognize that high-functioning depression is a real and challenging  condition. While individuals with high-functioning depression may appear functional on  the surface, their emotional pain is valid and deserves attention and support. Over time,  the effort required to maintain this facade can lead to increased stress and worsen their  mental health. Supporting individuals with high-functioning depression involves creating  a safe and nonjudgmental environment where they feel comfortable expressing their  true emotions. Encouraging open conversations about mental health, offering empathy  and understanding, and providing access to professional help can be crucial steps in  helping these individuals seek treatment and support for their depression.

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