Part 2: High-Functioning Mental Illness – Positives and Negatives

“It’s going back and forth between everyone else has it together but you, and so many people have it tougher than you.”[1]

If you read part 1, you may be thinking that individuals with high-functioning mental illness have it easy, or at least easier than the other side of the spectrum. In some ways, this is true. But in some ways, it’s not. Depression or anxiety is still depression or anxiety and it can be hard for everyone who has it, no matter their level of function.

Click here to read part 1.

Below I will list the positives and negatives of having high-functioning mental illness(es) when compared to low-functioning. These may surprise you. The list below may not apply to everyone. Everyone is different. They are also mostly based on my experiences/opinions unless otherwise stated.

Positives

The mental illness(es) is not severe or paralyzing. People with high-functioning mental illness(es) can get out of bed and have normal (or seemingly normal) everyday lives. They can be productive, social, healthy and even happy.

It can be easier to take care of self. Based on the stories I’ve heard or read on major depression or anxiety (low-functioning), it’s hard to take care of oneself. Even taking a shower can be difficult. Sometimes medications don’t completely work. For me, I make sure I take care of myself and engage in self-care activities almost everyday, including exercising, journaling, going for walks, listening to music, treating myself to something, etc.

Not every day is a bad day. For me, there’s even more good days than bad, as long as I’m taking care of myself and remember to take my medications. And when a bad day comes, I allow myself to have it.

It can be less isolating. As I mention before, we can be sociable. Being sociable makes me feel better, even if I have to push myself to get out sometimes. Even if I feel alone internally or I’m just not that into it, I’m still surrounded by people.

It can be easier to treat. I take medication and it works really well. Sometimes, people with major depression or anxiety can still feel symptoms when they’re on medication, which calls for either more intense therapies or hopelessness.

Negatives

The mental illness(es) may go unnoticed or can be easier to hide. This may seem like a good thing but it’s really not.

There is a lack of understanding. When it comes to people with mental illness(es), there’s a “lack of understanding that comes with blending in so well.”[2] I love my life; I have amazing friends and I love what I do to help others. I’m on a lookout for a job and taking a few online courses. All on top of taking care of myself. Some people have a hard time comprehending that people with mental illness(es) can live great productive lives. Some people have a hard time understanding our mood switches, and how we can go from having a full schedule to cancelling everything and staying in bed all day. “But you were doing so well!” “Yeah, well, today I’m not.” Only a couple of my closest friends truly understand me.

These people can be overachievers. For me, being busy keeps me distracted from depressive thoughts. I keep myself busy, sometimes to the point where I wear myself out. This can be exhausting. “We have a tendency to praise people who push through exhaustion.”[3] Also, sometimes we have an hard time saying no because we know how it feels to be let down.

It is unpredictable. For me, I can have a good week, or even weeks where I am productive and happy, then suddenly, for no reason, I can have a bad day where I want to stay in bed all day. Or sometimes I have periods where every day is different and I never know what to expect.

There is an increased risk of sudden, major depressive episodes. Research shows that people with high-functioning depression have an increased risk of major depressive episodes than people who are low-functioning.[4] I believe this to be true for a few reasons. When I fall, I tend to fall hard and unexpectantly; basically, I just break down from being strong for too long. Other reasons being the above points.

Here is a really informative video about living with high-functioning anxiety, originally posted by The Mighty.


References

[1] Schuster, S. (2016). What It’s Like to Have ‘High-Functioning’ Anxiety. The Mighty. Retrieved from https://themighty.com/2016/06/living-with-high-functioning-and-hidden-anxiety/

[2] Holmes, L. (2016). 9 Things People With High-Functioning Depression Want You To Know. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/things-people-with-high-functioning-depression-want-you-to-know_us_57ed52d8e4b024a52d2d9160

[3] Timberline Knolls. (n.d.). High-Functioning Depression Signs & Symptoms. Retrieved from High-Functioning Depression Signs & Symptoms

[4] Olson, S. (2016). What Is High-Functioning Depression, Anxiety? Low-Grade Mood Disorder Can Be Dangerous. Medical Daily. Retrieved from http://www.medicaldaily.com/what-high-functioning-depression-anxiety-low-grade-mood-disorder-can-be-394309

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