Understanding High-Functioning Depression

Have you ever felt like an actor, putting on a brave face and playing your part perfectly, all while hiding the turmoil beneath? That’s what it can feel like to live with high-functioning depression.

You’re successful at work. You’re maintaining relationships. On paper, everything seems perfect.

‘So why do I still feel this way?’ 

In this guide, I’ll remove the mask and shed light on high-functioning depression – from its insidious symptoms to effective coping strategies. I will explore how negative thought patterns shape our behavior and emotions in surprising ways. I will also delve into how, as a personal development coach, I can help you manage these symptoms. 


how to live with depression

Understanding High-Functioning Depression

High-functioning depression, also known as dysthymia, is a chronic depressive condition that doesn’t necessarily hinder one’s ability to function in daily life. However, it can significantly affect your quality of life by causing constant sadness or hopelessness. You might find yourself losing interest in activities once enjoyed and wrestling with self-critical thoughts regularly.

If you’ve ever seen a friend smiling at a party but knew they were battling sadness inside, you’ve glimpsed ‘high-functioning’ depression. This form of depressive disorder often flies under the radar because people can maintain their social activities and complete daily tasks.

This type of depression differs from major depressive or persistent depressive disorders. Major depression tends to occur in shorter episodes, while Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD) lingers for two years or more. Mayo Clinic suggests that individuals with PDD are at risk of experiencing severe forms like significant depression.

People suffering from high-functioning depression might seem okay on the surface, but beneath it lies chronic pain and difficulty making decisions due to an ongoing mental struggle. It’s not as visible as other forms, which makes understanding this condition all the more crucial.


What Causes High-Functioning Depression?

In our fast-paced, achievement-oriented society, many women are experiencing a unique form of depression known as high-functioning depression. This condition often affects those who appear successful and accomplished on the outside but internally struggle with feelings of sadness, worthlessness, or hopelessness.

High-functioning depression is not caused by one single factor. Instead, it’s typically the result of a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental stressors such as work-related pressure or personal life challenges; for small business owners and healthcare professionals, juggling multiple responsibilities simultaneously can lead to chronic stress, which over time may contribute to high-functioning depression.


Negative Thought Patterns in High-Functioning Depression

High-functioning depression, often called ‘smiling’ or persistent depressive disorder, is a form of mental illness that’s tricky to pinpoint. Why? Because those dealing with it are usually pretty good at hiding their struggle.

The biggest battle they face is often internal – negative thought patterns. These cognitive distortions warp how they perceive reality, leading to feelings of worthlessness and guilt even when things seem okay on the outside.

For instance, someone might consistently think, “I’m not good enough,” despite evidence suggesting otherwise. Such thoughts can make even routine tasks overwhelming while diminishing self-esteem and confidence. (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – American Psychological Association). This distorted self-view can affect decision-making and fuel further depressive symptoms like difficulty concentrating or loss of interest in social activities.


online help for depression

The Role Of Personal Development Coaching In Managing High-Functioning Depression

If you’re dealing with high-functioning depression, I offer holistic personal development coaching specifically designed for women like you – women striving for perfection in their careers, achievers grappling silently with emotional pain beneath their success exterior.

My approach focuses on building resilience against negative thought patterns through evidence-based techniques such as physical activity, mindfulness, and stress management strategies.

SAMHSA Store provides additional resources on treatment options, including antidepressant medications and cognitive behavioral therapy that complement personal development coaching effectively.

By addressing your mental health needs in conjunction with other aspects of wellness like fitness and body image, I can help you regain control over your life. 


Using Neuro-Linguistic Programming to Help with High-Functioning Depression

Suppose you’re a high achiever, like many women in small business ownership, healthcare, or education. In that case, you may appear perfectly fine on the outside but struggle internally with persistent negative thought patterns.

This is where neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) comes into play. As part of personal development coaching for women dealing with high-functioning depression, I use NLP to help change these debilitating thought patterns.

NLP operates under the premise that language affects our mind – and thus our behaviors and emotions. By changing how we speak to ourselves mentally—replacing negative words and phrases with positive ones—we can alter how we perceive ourselves and our circumstances.


Tackling Negative Thought Patterns through Coaching

Using NLP techniques, I can guide you through exercises designed to identify harmful self-talk patterns contributing to your depressive symptoms. I can help you replace these patterns with positive affirmations and self-empowering beliefs, effectively rewiring your brain for happiness and success.

Coaching is not a one-size-fits-all solution; it’s tailored to each individual’s needs and goals. For instance, if body image issues contribute to your depression, I might focus on fostering a healthier relationship with food and exercise.

Incorporating NLP techniques into personal development coaching provides an empowering approach to managing high-functioning depression. It doesn’t just alleviate symptoms but also equips women like you with the tools needed for long-term mental wellness.


How a Trauma-Informed Approach Can Help

Women who are high achievers may be particularly susceptible to this form of depression due to the constant pressure they put on themselves.

This unhealthy pressure from feelings of inadequacy despite achievements or an overwhelming sense of responsibility leads to burnout. Recognizing these signs is crucial in seeking help.

A trauma-informed approach understands the profound effects past traumas can have on an individual’s mental health. It recognizes how trauma shapes our response mechanisms and affects our daily lives long after it has occurred. Many women I’ve coached have had their personal development impacted by childhood traumas. Unfortunately, they developed poor self-esteem and body image issues, eating disorders, and other forms of self-abuse to cope. 

I offer holistic personal development coaching designed explicitly for high-achieving women grappling with these challenges. I utilize evidence-based techniques to disrupt negative thought cycles and promote healthier thinking habits. I intend to go beyond surface-level issues. I delve deeper into understanding the root causes behind these destructive patterns arising from previous traumas.

“I believe in empowering women to reclaim their self-esteem and lead more fulfilling lives.”


lifestyle changes for living with depression

Lifestyle Changes for Managing High-Functioning Depression

High-functioning depression can feel like a constant uphill battle. But making simple lifestyle changes could be your secret weapon.

Exercise and Physical Activity

Aim to get moving every day. Regular exercise has been demonstrated to alleviate manifestations of despondency. This doesn’t mean you need to run marathons; walking or practicing yoga works too.

Nutrition and Diet

Eating balanced meals fuels both body and mind. Consuming omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods, such as salmon and walnuts, can have a positive impact on mental health.

Mindfulness and Meditation

Focusing on the present moment, rather than dwelling on past errors or anxieties about what lies ahead, can be facilitated through mindfulness techniques such as meditation.

Remember: each step towards wellness counts.


Resources and Additional Support for High-Functioning Depression

Facing high-functioning depression can be challenging, but you’re not alone. Many organizations offer help to those navigating this journey.

The National Association for Children of Addiction (NACoA) offers resources to understand that it’s not your fault if a family member has substance abuse issues, which is a potential risk factor in developing mental health disorders like depression.

You may also find solace in online communities. They provide emotional support from people who share similar experiences with ‘high functioning’ or smiling depression. You don’t need to face depressive symptoms alone; reach out, ask questions, and get the help you need.


Seeking Support for High-Functioning Depression

It’s crucial to seek support when grappling with high-functioning depression. Friends and family can offer emotional backing, but they might not fully grasp what you’re going through.

Reaching out to support groups and organizations where folks share similar experiences could be a game-changer. These communities understand the unique challenges of dealing with ‘high-functioning’ depression because they’ve been there too.

Beyond that, healthcare providers like your primary care physician are vital allies in this journey. 

They can guide you towards effective treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy or prescribe medications if needed.

In short, remember – seeking help isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s an act of strength.



High-functioning depression can be a silent struggle. But remember, you’re not alone.

I can help you acknowledge the signs of persistent sadness, difficulty making decisions, and negative thought patterns so that we can design a coaching plan that boosts your resilience and self-esteem while managing symptoms effectively. Book a time to chat with me today.


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About Denise Morrison

I’m a licensed and certified health care professional with over 30 years experience in healthcare, wellness, fitness, physical therapy, yoga, NLP, TLT, hypnosis and mind-body practices.

During my career I’ve seen too many women struggle with self-doubt and fear leftover from their past, making them stuck in their health, happiness, and success.

This is why it’s my passion to help you discover and release any of your limiting beliefs, old stories, and unconscious obstacles so you can finally know, trust and value yourself and confidently make decisive action to create your most fulfilling life.

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