On the outside, you’re highly productive, successful and motivated. You have a big group of friends, a great job and seem to have life all sorted out. But on the inside, you’re gripped by low self-worth and the pressure to be perfect.
This is the reality for those who have high functioning depression. They suffer in silence while doing what they need to just to get by.
Most commonly, the condition is referred to as dysthymia, or Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD). It carries all the same symptoms of major depression but it’s a lot harder to spot.
“Major depressive disorder relates to a combination of emotional, cognitive and physical changes,” explains SANE Australia psychologist Suzanne Leckie.
“These can include sadness, guilt and a sense of hopelessness, trouble concentrating and remembering, experiencing less pleasure in usual activities, fatigue, trouble sleeping and changes to appetite.”
“With PDD, people experience many of the same symptoms but to a lesser degree which enables them to still get out of bed in the morning and do much of what they need to do.”
“This means that the depression may not be evident to others and can come as a surprise to extended family and colleagues.
The symptoms generally last for two or more years, at which point sufferers often start to consider PDD their “new normal.”
“They lose sight of what it was like to feel better,” Suzanne explains. “It’s often the case that people only seek help when they can no longer meet their obligations.”
While there’s no clinical test for PDD, primary care doctors and mental health professionals can use screening tools to assess patients’ risk.
“A GP, psychologist or psychiatrist diagnoses PDD through asking questions relating to the symptoms. This could be done via a questionnaire that is scored to reveal levels of depression but can also be undertaken more conversationally.”
If any of this rings true for you, talking to your GP is a great first step.
You can also call the SANE Australia Helpline on 1800 187 263 to talk to a mental health professional from 10am-10pm AEST, or visit the SANE Online Forums at saneforums.org.