While you may not be familiar with the term dysthymia, you are likely familiar with its effects. Otherwise known as high-functioning depression, the condition is commonplace in contemporary society yet hard to recognize. From the outside looking in, it appears that an individual has everything under control, but in reality, they are struggling with their career, relationships, and enjoyment of life. People with high-functioning depression often can’t admit to themselves that there is a problem, leading to more stress and anxiety. Because it can be challenging to self-identify, this blog will discuss some of the most common ways dysthymia manifests in everyday life.
- Lack of joy: A person with high-functioning depression will find it difficult to find happiness – even when participating in activities that they typically loved in the past. Going out with friends or pursuing a hobby feels more like a chore than a desirable pastime.
- Pervasive self-doubt: Dysthymia causes a sense of doubt about relationships, self-worth, abilities, and future possibilities. The lack of confidence is characteristic whether it arises in specific situations or encompasses everyday life.
- Lack of energy: A person with high-functioning depression may appear quite productive, but their energy levels are running on empty. Dysthymia can cause mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion, and make every day an effort to get through.
- Critical thought patterns: Those with high-functioning depression can be exceptionally critical of themselves and others. Not only do they feel that the people surrounding them are incompetent, but they also repeat a self-talk narrative about their own incompetence. Nothing and no one – including themselves – is up to par.
- Extreme irritability: While they may not identify as depressed, people with this mental health condition are prone to episodes of irrational anger and outbursts. They are typically on edge, and their negative emotions are unpredictable.
- Guilt and worry: Everyone has moments of regret or anxiety, but those living with high-functioning depression experience these emotions excessively. They may constantly obsess over choices and berate themselves for past decisions; conversely, they may worry about what is coming for them in the future.
- Coping mechanisms: Those with underlying or unidentified depression often seek ways to decompress and escape life’s pressures. They may indulge in alcohol or drugs, binge-watch television shows when they have other responsibilities, or procrastinate by scrolling through internet stories for hours. They begin to need these respites from reality in order to cope.
- Overarching sadness: People with high-functioning depression often smile broadly when facing the world but dissolve into tears when they shut their door. The sadness, while profound, has no discernible cause or source.
- Striving for perfection: There is a fine line between positive ambition and destructive perfectionism. While pushing oneself to achieve goals is admirable, those with high-functioning depression will begin to beat themselves up over perceived failures, missed timelines, or unsatisfactory results. These “imperfections” are typically irrational and unrealistic and can cause distress, sadness, or self-directed criticism.
- Inability to rest: This indication of dysthymia does not refer to insomnia or other sleep disorders; instead, it relates to one’s inability to sit still. They may come home from an exhausting day only to force themselves to clean the house, finish the laundry and pay all the bills. Allowing themselves to sit and ignore what they see as glaring “to-dos” seems impossible.
It is important to note that everyone experiences most situations on the above list at one time or another. However, these characteristics can become detrimental and destructive when they become habitual.
If you feel depression may be adversely impacting your life, an experienced counselor can help. Denise Schonwald is a nationally certified mental health professional who works with clients nationwide. Call today to learn more about her services and flexible treatment options.