The hidden burden: high functioning depression
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Extreme mood swings, lethargic responses, the urge to stay in bed day after day – all personality changes associated with having a clinical depression disorder. These easy-to-spot symptoms have always been the tell-tale signs, but what happens when there aren’t any visible changes? When those symptoms just aren’t there, like an illness that only hurts on the inside? High functioning depression is exactly that. According to the Mental Health Foundation, there were over 8.2 million reported cases of depression in 2013 alone. Lack of awareness has meant little to no research on high functioning depression, meaning those who suffer must be remaining silent. The incapacitating effects of mental health disorders have a major impact on everyday life, yet some sufferers appear to get through each day with little notice from others in terms of their declining mental health. The signs are thought to be clear, but sometimes the distinct decline in motivation and drop in success associated with the disorder just do not happen outwardly. Trainee mental health nurse Isobel O’Brien has worked alongside patients who suffer from depression. She says: “Those diagnosed with high functioning depression do appear mentally well at first. “They are sociable, and do not appear to be suffering from depression of any kind when around others. The reality of the situation is that on the inside, the individual can be in a constant and severe low mood.” Although sufferers and non-sufferers of depression may think this sounds better than externally showing signals, it often means avoiding getting help due to the lack of motivation from others. Often termed as being ‘low grade’ in comparison to those who outwardly suffer, it may be hard for families to get to grips with the fact that declining mental health isn’t so easy to spot in a loved one. “I can understand why it may seem as though having high functioning depression would be easier as it appears that individuals with the disorder aren’t struggling,” Isobel admits. “When, in fact, they are experiencing a decline, and to a significant degree. "Depression can affect every person differently so it is important not to undermine the symptoms that are present, even if it’s in a person who usually appears mentally well.”
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