21 thoughts on “Functional Depression is Dysfunctionally Depressing

  • July 9, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    This reminds me of when I first started in AA and proudly told everyone I was a “high-functioning” alcoholic (and therefore better than other alcoholics, or so I thought at the time). It took others’ stories to show me that 1) my alcoholism was only going to get worse until I was completely unable to function, and 2) I was actually functioning well below my capabilities (and, due to depression, had been long before I ever took a drink). Just because I could hold down a job and pay my bills and take good care of my dog didn’t mean I was anywhere near all right. Thanks for a great article!

  • July 9, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    Interesting article. It is entirely possible that I may have this. It seems to manifest more as a lack of positive emotions than as sadness though. Usually I just feel empty.

  • July 10, 2013 at 7:51 am

    Functional depression is also a place where those of us with more severe depression may end up after being treated with meds and therapy. It would be nice to get beyond that level, but it is difficult.

    • July 11, 2013 at 12:05 pm

      You are the first person who truly gets it. The medication, the therapy are all helpful. But when something or someone triggers me, I regress and return to that familiar place. I thought I was passed this stage. But it never seems to go away. I can pretend as I do everyday. I can function but no one understands this about me. I spend the entire day in silence if I can. Avoiding things and people who may flick an inner switch inside me. Sending me into a spiral of tears, ruminating and self loathing. I have learned to say and do whatever it takes to be alone and quiet. Until my family comes home or until I have to go out. Am I functioning or pretending? I really don’t see a difference.

  • July 10, 2013 at 10:25 am

    Very good article Dr. Brennan. I think “functional depression” as you describe it is the reason that positive psychology has become such a growing field.

    Dr. I.

  • July 10, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    How does functional depression differ from dysthymia?

    • July 10, 2013 at 5:48 pm

      Functional Depression is not a diagnosis. Dysthymia is a diagnosis. Functional Depression is a term used to describe someone who meets criteria for a depressive mood disorder (i.e., Major Depressive Disorder, Dysthymia) but is able to function and complete day to day tasks. It is very possible to have an official diagnosis of Dysthymic Disorder where your symptoms present as functional depression. Some people will have Dysthymia and be withdrawn and sad all the time. Some people may meet criteria for Dysthymia but still manage to meet social and daily expectations. Functional Depression is a description of how symptoms may present in some individuals.

      • July 11, 2013 at 7:38 pm

        I have a dx of Dysthymia and successfuly administer a mental health program. I have not found medication necessary or useful so I use adaptive coping. Most do not know of my dx, and I work hard to project a positive attitude in my work with others. At home, I do the same but it has caused issue with family because I do have chronic low energy and a kind of gripping melancholy. Functional depression is an accurate term but I firmly believe a great majority of “normal” people suffer from it. Its an epidemic in our society.

  • July 11, 2013 at 8:34 am

    This is describing me completely. I’ve always suffered from severe major depression and thought I got over it a few years ago. Now I’m feeling as if, yes, I can continue to take care of all that I need to handle, but I feel alone, unappreciated and maybe people would be better off if I wasn’t here. Honestly, there are some things that are going well in my life, but the weight of life is getting to me – I feel empty and I’m so ready to give up.

    • July 11, 2013 at 3:47 pm

      If you are experiencing these thoughts and feelings you should speak with a psychologist/therapist. Medication will alleviate most symptoms for most people. However when combined with therapy, the results are much more effective. Depression is an organic disorder where abnormal levels of neurotransmitters lead to negative mood. Medication is prescribed to account for this. However, the mind is very powerful and utilizing therapy to reframe your thoughts can lead to organic changes in the brain. Do not give up, just try a different way. I recommend that you speak with your doctor or psychologist and see if they have any alternative treatments. If they are unable to assist you, consider seeking help from other professionals.

    • July 13, 2013 at 9:11 am

      Hey fellow Jackie!
      Believe me I know it’s hard. I’ve been sleeping my life away lately. But your post has brought me to tears. I don’t wish this emptiness on anyone and I am only alive for my husband and daughters. No one else would even notice I’m gone. We have not chosen to be depressed we just are. Some days my performance is flawless. Despair is undetectable. Other days I am in puddles, sometimes for days. But when I pull it together, the payoff of love and support from my husband and our girls is indescribable. I feel love, acceptance, appreciated, smart, pretty so many things. But, alas, my struggle continues. Please Jackie, find your payoff and fight to get it as often as you can. Live this life. Because ALL women named Jackie are majestic and elegant beautiful and cherished. We just FEEL the pain and suffering of this world in such a personal way. It’s why we are special. And I know you are, because my name is Jacquiline, too. God Bless you!

  • July 11, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    This describes me, to a T. Add to that many years of autoimmune health problems, specifically 5 years of untreated Hashimoto’s/hypothyroid and it is a bad combination. Somehow I “woke up” enough a number of months ago to realize I HAVE to do something differently. Really the somehow is that my ability to function at work was affected by my untreated thyroid and that scared me. I am on a leave of absence from work. I have gone to several different doctors but today, FINALLY, found a medical doctor who can treat the Hashi’s correctly. I am feeling 100% confident in his suggested regimen. He kept saying “we can bring you back” and we will fix you right up. I also FINALLY found a therapist I am confident I can work with successfully. After a number of recommendations I actually looked up names of in network providers on my health insurance companies website. I am so happy because not only is she terrific and right for me, but I will have unlimited in network visits!!!!!

    • July 11, 2013 at 11:56 pm

      Does “unlimited” actually mean unlimited? That’s what my insurance company claims too. They don’t care about me, they are a business trying to save as much money as possible. Some insurance companies do a treatment review if the number of sessions you go to falls outside the norm. Since I have chronic pain & spastic cerebral palsy & have dealt with my insurance company denying claims, delaying preauthorization, etc. for years, I plan to either take a break from therapy or pay out of pocket, depending on how depressed I am at the time. Just to have a plan so I don’t panic when they do a review. If you go to the website http://www.navigatingtheinsurancemaze.com/ a therapist tells you all about how to get your insurance company to cover mental health. Make sure you subscribe to her e-newsletter.

      I’m glad you found the right doctors. That’s awesome! It’s not easy to find the right ones. At least it wasn’t for me.

  • July 12, 2013 at 10:56 am

    I can never lead a balanced life because of my aspergers and social isolation. I see others get married and have families. For me it is to late. I have never been on a date, had a girlfriend and sex so as you can see i’m a total loser. I feel ashamed and at the age of 47yrs there is no hope.

  • September 12, 2013 at 10:07 am

    I can’t tell what I have. I always thought it was dysthymia but though I have melancholy and rumination, I also enjoy my friends, exercise, intellectual stimulation, and simple things like nature, movies etc. I do have very strong and sometimes extended moments of despair and isolation, overeating, too, but even within these, if I can push myself, I’ll enjoy life. At times I feel resilient, at other times vulnerable. I’ve been on and off anti-depressant medication and in and out of therapy. It’s hard to know what to do – mostly I feel that I regress because I don’t catch it when it starts to happen and develop a set of tools that’s stronger than my negative thoughts when they rear up.

    I’ve had talk therapy and CBT, each which have helped in different ways – I think a combination in one therapy would be the best, somewhat like a watered-down form of dialectical behavioral therapy for people who don’t have borderline personality disorder. I’ve never known a therapist to combine both methods unless BPD was present but it’s an intriguing combination. I found that CBT didn’t help in areas where one just needs to talk and understand a situation without needing to modify it, and talk therapy can offer understanding but not always a practical method of moving ahead, if that’s what you feel you need.

  • February 25, 2015 at 10:18 am

    This was me. I was upbeat, very functional and depressed. My personal physician suggested I was depressed due to other symptoms I was physically displaying, not my outward disposition. Inwardly, I thought I was ok but wasn’t awake and aware enough to understand that I was not emotionally functional.

    Based on the usual definition for “depression”, I didn’t fit it. I’m glad that I did start work with a therapist I could build trust with. I’ve done a lot of work to create a life worth living.

    Notice * Pause * Choose

  • May 9, 2015 at 10:45 pm

    I am so glad to find this site and to get a description of what I’ve been experiencing. I’ve lived much of my life going through the motions. It seems to be worse now that I’m older. I just turned 64.

    I had to move recently after being in the same place for 10 years and I’m realizing just how much of a huge change and trauma that was for me. I actually ended up having to move everything twice due to the weather! I don’t have contact with family. My mother passed away a couple of years ago. We were never really close; however that is a loss of course. My son, unfortunately is not in contact with me and I have yet to meet my little granddaughter who is 2 1/2 years old.

    I’m grateful to have a part time job. It is a good arena for me to have some socialization and I appreciate that very much. I interact constantly with the public and I definitely am a lot of the time putting on an act. When I come home I check out with Dvds & ice cream or some kind of comfort food.

    I’ve been going to a church recently that caters to people who are recovering from addictions and disciples them. Is a no nonsense, genuine group of people that are very encouraging. I have hopes of connecting with some like-minded women.

    It’s good to share here. Thank you for this forum.

  • November 16, 2015 at 7:44 am

    The best description of the challenging attitude in social living;(esp).

  • July 31, 2016 at 12:05 am

    Informative article,thankyou so much but I have a question what if the person who is acting all weird all of sudden starts hating his family and girlfriend and doesn’t like anyone at all.Its not me but my boyfriend and he has blocked me and told me he wants no one in his life.All this happened all of sudden he was very good and normal but suddenly he stopped all communication and he never had any friends .When I entered his life he told me I saved him from suicide he loved me a lot, he says I try to come back to you but something stops him and he cries . I know he is not fine, can you help me suggest what’s wrong?

  • September 1, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    Omg… This is me to a “T”

  • February 26, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    What the hell is life supposed to be if not getting through the unpleasant shit you need to do to survive, and then going home to be alone and enjoy yourself?


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