Experts say the condition often isn’t noticeable to most people, because those who experience it tend to mask it well. This arguably makes the disorder difficult for partners to detect and the people who deal with it hesitant to speak up in the first place.
The symptoms are aligned with those of depression, including irritability and extreme sadness. But the average observer wouldn’t necessarily know it based on how the sufferer is acting.
Luckily, knowledge is power. Education about mental health issues helps people who don’t experience them understand the disorders a little bit better. And in a world where only 25 percent of people with mental illness feel like others are sympathetic to their condition, compassion can go a long way.
We asked our Facebook communities to share some truths they wished their loved ones knew about high-functioning depression. Here’s what they had to say:
1. High-functioning depression zaps energy.
“I wish my fiancé understood that some days, I can’t turn my depression off. I can’t always just get out of bed immediately and take on the day like he does. I need to motivate and really push myself to do so, and it takes a great amount of effort.” ―Lindsey Diamond
2. Just because the condition is hard to see, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
“I may seem happy and I am able to joke, but when I get home, the mask comes off and I cannot function beyond basic necessities ... Everything is difficult.” ―Theresa Allen
3. Sometimes it stands in the way of social gatherings.
“[I want them to] stop demanding that I attend every party with them because they need to know I want some time alone.” ―Samra Suleman
4. Other times it helps to stay distracted.
“For me, it is having to be busy at all times. The point is to mentally exhaust myself so the bad thoughts don’t creep in as I lie in bed each night.” ―Katherine Deubner
5. The condition isn’t anyone’s fault.
“I wish he knew when I’m at my low points it’s no ones fault. Sometimes I’m just sad, sometimes I just need to lay in bed, sometimes I need him to do what I normally do around the house.” ―Sandra Ringle
6. There’s often no explanation for why it’s happening.
“I wish my partner knew that there is rarely (if ever) a specific ‘cause’ to my depressed states. I do not have a tangible answer to the question, ‘What’s wrong?’” ―Beranger LeFranc
7. It feels like an internal battle.
“Basically it’s like an argument between my heart and my brain. While I’m crying my heart out my brain thinks, ‘What the hell is wrong with you. Look at how great things are!’ And my heart says, ‘If you can’t figure it out, we’re going to die.’ That’s what it seems like when for no obvious reason I find myself in a total emotional meltdown.” ―Michael Aldieri
8. High-functioning depression is unintentionally isolating.
“I wish he knew that I don’t want to shut him out, I just don’t know how to let him in.” ―Liv Kerr
9. An affectionate gesture goes a long way.
“I just need to be held and then left alone for a while. What I’m feeling is as if I’m underwater and my lungs can’t get air.” ―Sandra Ringle
10. It’s hardly in a person’s control.
“I wish my partner understood how little control I really have over my depression. I can do every little thing correctly, eating right, taking care of myself, exercising daily, centering my mind with yoga and all it takes is one trigger to undo all that work.” ―Emily Maia
11. You’re not doing anything wrong.
“I wish he knew that even though he is the most amazing man I’ve ever met, there is a piece of me that is broken and it has nothing to do with him. He could make me smile every day, but as soon as that switch gets flipped I will have a really hard time being able to pump the brakes on my depression and anxiety.” ―Emily Thomas
12. Your support is so important.
“I wish he knew how overwhelming being sad during a depressive state is ... sometimes it would be really nice to get a hug, instead of just the cold shoulder and being ignored because it is difficult to understand. Support is worth more than words could ever say.” ―Avarie Downs
The bottom line is this: Don’t give up on someone with high-functioning depression. Your love means everything.
Some responses have been lightly edited or condensed for clarity.
As part of May’s Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re focusing on treatment and the stigma around getting help. Check out our coverage here and share your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.