Do You Have High-Functioning Depression?

How to know so you can move forward.  Interview Dr. Colleen Cira

Dr. Colleen Cira is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who specializes in Women and Trauma. She has worked with hundreds of people struggling with depression.

What exactly is “high-functioning depression?

  • High functioning depression refers to someone who struggles with depressive symptoms (sadness, tearfulness, apathy, guilt, etc), but who continues to function quite well in their everyday life by going to work, maintaining social commitments, fulfilling responsibilities, etc.

  • The problem with this term is that it is fundamentally inaccurate.  According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), one of the main criteria of Major Depressive Disorder is that the symptoms cause “clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”

  • This basically means that if someone has symptoms of depression, but they can still function, they do NOT meet criteria for Major Depressive Disorder and instead are simply sad or grieving.

  • As someone who not only treats Major Depression, but has also suffered from it as well, Major Depressive Disorder is NOT something that you can simply decide to be over, even if you are incredibly well-versed in it and have an abundance of coping skills and resources at your disposal.

Why has the term become so commonly used?

  • The term may be so commonly used because in Western culture, we are intolerant to feelings other than happiness.  Most of us walk around with this idea that we should be happy all of the time and if we aren’t, something is wrong with us, but this simply isn’t true.  The human experience is complicated and research is clear that our emotional journey over the course of our lifetime is quite complicated as well. No feeling, including happiness, is a constant state and contentment or peace is mostly about accepting that fact.

How might it be problematic and potentially discouraging for people who fall somewhere into a gray area on the depression spectrum?

  • It can be enormously upsetting for people who have actual, diagnosable, clinical depression because it leads people to believe (and continues to perpetuate) the antiquated idea that depression is a choice.  That with a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps attitude, you can simply “snap out of it”. All of which couldn’t be more inaccurate. Major Depressive Disorder is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that is underpinned by very real and serious changes in one’s brain and body chemistry.  This is NOT true of sadness, which will all experience from time-to-time and couldn’t be more normal.

 

Available for Interviews: Dr. Colleen Cira, Psy.D.

Dr. Colleen Cira received both her Masters and Doctorate from The Illinois School of Professional Psychology and is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the State of Illinois.  She’s the Founder and Executive Director of Cira Center for Behavioral Health, PC, a boutique group practice specializing in Women and Trauma with locations in Chicago and Oak Park.

She was named one of the “Top 100 Women in Chicago Making a Difference,” by Today’s Chicago Woman. Dr. Cira is a trauma and anxiety expert, clinical supervisor, writer, speaker, consultant, activist, wife, and Mommy to two little ones.

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