Silent Signs You Could Be Suffering From Depression
High-functioning depression can seriously dent your quality of life, dampening your enthusiasm for work, school and family.
You decline social invitations
High-functioning depression can impact your quality of life, dampening your enthusiasm for work, school, family, and even social activities. A change in social activities can be one of the earliest warning signs. “People with high-functioning depression still go to work and interact with people, but outside of work, they may stop hanging out with friends, and make excuses like ‘work’s been really stressful,'” says Jason Stamper, MD, a doctor of osteopathic medicine and psychiatrist in Pikeville, Kentucky. “They will be somewhat isolative, and this often translates into distance in relationships.”
You have other health issues
This is a two-way street. On one hand, underlying medical conditions may prompt depression. “Co-occurring medical conditions, like diabetes or cancer, cause stress and strain that can lead to depression,” says Michelle Riba, MD, a clinical professor and associate director at the University of Michigan’s Comprehensive Depression Center. On the other hand, she explains, depression can lower immunity, making you more vulnerable to getting sick.
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You’re sleeping differently
Whether you can’t nod off as easily, you’re snoozing more than usual, or you’re tossing and turning, sleep problems can warn of possible depression—and it can make your symptoms dramatically worse. “Good sleep is key to good mental health,” says Carol Landau, PhD, a clinical professor of psychiatry and medicine at Brown University in Rhode Island.
You’re worried or anxious
You may be so quick to equate depression with sadness that you overlook another strongly linked emotion: anxiety. Contrary to what many people think, it’s not just about fearful feelings. In fact, Dr. Stamper says it can manifest itself in multiple ways. Therefore, you might experience mental restlessness, confusion, and that feeling of having a “pit in your stomach.”
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You’re relying more on your vices of choice
If you have high-functioning anxiety, you may attempt to offset feelings with a detrimental emotional crutch. Examples include drinking more alcohol than usual, taking drugs, eating more food, or playing video games more than normal. “If you’re feeling sad or lonely or otherwise ‘off,’ you may drink more wine more often to cover it up,” Landau says. “This kind of self-medicating is especially troubling because substance abuse adds an extra layer of care that you need.” In addition to being addictive, drugs and alcohol especially can exacerbate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and sleep problems, further hindering people’s abilities to cope.
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You’re a successful, type A personality
High-functioning depression can affect affluent, educated people. Wealth and education are not necessarily synonymous with a stress-free, joy-filled life. “The paradox of high-functioning depression is that these are very often people who are educated and have important jobs,” Stamper says. “They have the benefit of education and status, yet often their careers can be huge stressors.”
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You’re pretty grouchy
Irritability can be another common symptom of high-functioning depression, according to Landau. More subtle depression symptoms like irritability can be missed when it comes to getting a diagnosis.
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You have a family history
Awareness of your family background can be helpful in predicting some of your likelihood to develop depression. Experts think that a combination of biology and life experiences can lead to symptoms associated with depression. “Knowing your genetics and family history can be enormously helpful,” says Dr. Riba. Life changes and stress can trigger your biological predisposition to depression. Therefore, knowing your history can help you not only predict but shape your future.
Next, find out how to help someone who’s struggling with depression.