According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), “A total of 167,783 adolescents aged 12 to 17 years were assessed annually using national surveys from 2009 to 2019. Rates of adolescent depression increased from 8.1% in 2009 to 15.8% in 2019.” It is also important to note that many professionals in the mental health field believe that adolescent depression numbers may be significantly higher as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These statistics include those adolescents who are struggling with high-functioning depression.

What Exactly Is High-Functioning Depression?

As with most mental health disorders, depression is an overarching term for a much larger category of depression types. Some types of depression include major (or clinical) depression, perinatal depression, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). One type of depression that can be overlooked, especially among younger people, is persistent depressive disorder (PPD), more commonly known as high-functioning depression.

The primary difference between high-functioning depression and other forms is that the symptoms of high-functioning depression tend to be less severe. In turn, however, symptoms also tend to be more persistent and last much longer.

According to authors Patel and Rose in their publication, Persistent Depressive Disorder, “The patient must have a depressed mood for at least 2 years. For children or adolescents, the mood can be irritable instead of depressed, and the time requirement is 1 year.” The authors also explain that two of the following six criteria must be met within that timeframe. These include:

  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Low energy/fatigue
  • Poor concentration/decision making
  • Low self-esteem
  • Hopelessness

The Warning Signs of High-Functioning Depression

It should be noted that the previously mentioned criteria can also double as some of the warning signs of high-functioning depression. The truth is that the warning signs of high-functioning depression can be hard to spot because individuals often try to hide them. However, they are there if you are vigilant. Some of the other more common signs, especially in adolescents, include:

  • Exhibiting an academic decline in school
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Having trouble communicating
  • Using life-controlling items to cope with negative emotions
  • Feeling separated from the rest of their peers
  • Expressing feelings of self-harm or suicide

The Effects of Untreated High-Functioning Depression

As you can see based on the aforementioned warning signs, high-functioning depression is not something to be minimized or ignored. Just because the symptoms may not appear as severe, dealing with underlying depression over a long period of time can be a crushing way to live. Also, if it goes untreated, the side effects can be dangerous and, in some cases, life-threatening.

The following are just a few of the effects that can manifest in adolescents as a result of untreated high-functioning depression:

  • Increased risk of developing co-occurring mental health disorders, such as anxiety disorders, personality disorders, and eating disorders
  • A greater likelihood of acquiring a co-occurring substance use disorder (SUD)
  • Long-term damage to developmental social skills
  • A greater likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors
  • Increased potential to engage in self-harming behaviors or attempt suicide

Treatment Options for High-Functioning Depression

Fortunately, many effective treatment modalities have been shown to help adolescents struggling with high-functioning depression. The primary treatments live in the realm of evidence-based recovery. These may include medication, individual psychotherapy, and group therapy.

These evidence-based therapies are highly recommended as a foundation of a recovery plan due to the fact that there have been more studies showing their efficacy. For example, psychotherapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) have been shown to get to the underlying emotional issues of high-functioning depression so they can then be addressed and worked through. However, some very effective experiential and holistic options can be great supplemental treatments to an evidence-based foundation.

For example, equine therapy has been shown to help positively increase mood, aid communication skills, and combat hopelessness. Also, holistic practices and low-impact exercises such as yoga have been shown to reduce stress and help with racing thoughts. Both of these can be highly beneficial in treating the negative effects of high-functioning depression.

The Importance of Comprehensive Care at Clearview Girls Academy

Here at Clearview Girls Academy, we understand that one type of treatment is rarely enough to establish sobriety and lasting healing. Every person possesses unique strengths, needs, and recovery goals. For this reason, individualized treatment plans must be utilized with an emphasis on comprehensive care.

We don’t see disorders or poor life choices at Clearview Girls Academy. We see students in need of help and guidance. Students struggling with high-functioning depression just need a little light to walk out of the dark and get well. That is the light we are proud to provide and eventually pass on.

High-functioning depression is often only associated with adults. However, this type of depression can also affect adolescents. The issue with high-functioning depression is exactly how it got its namesake. People with this type of depression often appear to lead active and healthy day-to-day lives, but underneath, they are struggling to keep it together emotionally and cognitively. If not treated, high-functioning depression can be destructive and lead to other comorbidities of mental health and life-controlling issues. If you feel like your daughter may be struggling with high-functioning depression or other issues of mental health, we can help. for more information on effective treatment options for high-functioning depression, please reach out to Clearview Girls Academy today at (888) 796-5484.