A comprehensive overview of the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety

Top Signs of High-Functioning Depression and Anxiety

April 1, 2023

People who have anxiety and depression disorders often experience significant disruptions to day-to-day activities. These disorders affect how someone feels, thinks, and behaves, and can lead to many emotional and physical problems. 

Experiences with depression and anxiety exist on a spectrum. In some cases, the person is unable to go about living a normal life, while in others the signs aren’t as clear. The latter case is called high-functioning depression and anxiety. Those with high-functioning depression and anxiety are often able to manage everyday activities, causing them to suffer in silence.

If you suspect that you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety, this article will help you gain a better understanding of the disorders. Most importantly, it will also give you the solutions to live a more happy, joyous, and free life. 

What is High Functioning Anxiety?

Virtually everyone experiences anxiety at some point. For many people, anxiety is a healthy emotional experience that alerts them to important or dangerous situations. However, anxiety becomes a problem when worry and fear—the most common traits of anxiety—intensify to the point of interfering with life. When anxiety becomes a problem, it is diagnosed as an anxiety disorder.[i]

The most common signs of an anxiety disorder include:

  • A racing heart
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Muscle tension
  • Sweating 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Intrusive thoughts 
  • A feeling of impending doom or “going crazy”

People who have high-functioning anxiety also experience these symptoms. Although they may be overwhelmed by them while alone, they can hide the effects when around others. The ability to “power through” the symptoms can make it very difficult to see high-functioning anxiety as a real problem.

What is High Functioning Depression?

After experiencing a loss or disappointment, sadness or an emotional low are healthy responses. Everyone goes through these spells from time to time. When they persist or seem to be caused by nothing in particular, it could be due to depression.  

Depression is generally illustrated by persistent low moods and sadness, or feelings of overwhelming gloom and melancholy. While there are numerous forms of depression, the most common form is major depressive disorder. This type of depressive disorder is characterized by persistent depressed moods, loss of interest in activities, and a significant impairment in daily life.

Common signs of depression include: 

  • Disruptions to sleep 
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Low energy or fatigue 
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities 
  • Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, emptiness, worthlessness, or guilt 

Some individuals experience similar symptoms to major depressive disorder, but with significantly less severity. Sometimes referred to as persistent depressive disorder but more commonly known as dysthymia, this form of depression can be continuous and long-term. Many professionals consider dysthymia to be high functioning depression. With less severe symptoms, many people put up with the adverse effects for years without seeking adequate treatment. 

Symptoms of High Functioning Depression and Anxiety 

Although depressive and anxiety disorders have different symptoms, they are highly comorbid with each other.[ii] In other words, any individuals with depressive disorders likely also have one or more anxiety disorders.  

It’s important to note that not everyone living with high-functioning depression and anxiety experiences the same symptoms. In fact, anxiety can be a major motivator to help the person accomplish a lot at work. It’s when they are alone that symptoms of depression tend to emerge.

In addition to the common symptoms listed above, signs of high-functioning depression and anxiety can often be hidden within justifiable reasons:

  • Consistently declining social invitations
  • Sleeping more or less
  • Overreliance on coping mechanisms (excessive exercise, overeating, overindulging in alcohol or illicit substances) 
  • Pervasive self-criticism 
  • Excessive worry 
  • Excessive guilt over past or future decisions
  • Inability to slow down or feel joy 

When left untreated, the symptoms of high-functioning anxiety and depression will only worsen over time.

Seeking Treatment for High-Functioning Depression and Anxiety 

Unfortunately, only a small percentage of people seek treatment for depression and anxiety. This number tends to be even lower for people with high-functioning depression and anxiety, usually because they are able to hide their symptoms and continue with daily activities. Nearly 60 percent of people with depression do not seek medical help, and only 43 percent of people with anxiety seek treatment.[iii, iv]

Those who are left untreated are simply surviving rather than thriving.

Chronic Illnesses and Mental Health Disorders 

Putting off treatment for depression and anxiety doesn’t only restrict the joys of life; evidence shows that certain body systems change when mental health disorders are present, which can lead to chronic illnesses.[v]

Some changes include:

  • Fluctuations in heart rate and circulation
  • Increased inflammation in the body 
  • Metabolic changes
  • Irregularities with stress hormones 

There is also an increased risk of diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and substance abuse. Seeking out treatment as soon as possible can help prevent depression and anxiety from getting worse, and prevent additional mental or medical health issues from developing.

Treatments for High Functioning Depression and Anxiety 

Identifying the signs and symptoms and realizing that there is a problem can be difficult. Seeking treatment is less so because of the number of options available. 

Just like other depressive and anxiety disorders, high-functioning depression and anxiety can be treated through one or a combination of the following: 

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a form of talk therapy in which the patient and therapist work collaboratively to develop an understanding of the problem and create a treatment strategy that seeks to change thinking and behavioral patterns.
  • Medication: For some cases, antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications are recommended in order to moderate symptoms. Most mental health professionals recommend that medication is taken in conjunction with a form of therapy, but this is not always the case. Dr. Nedley recommends an all-fronts attack on anxiety, which includes employing evidence-based lifestyle interventions for anxiety with any medications and therapy.
  • Dietary modifications: The brain operates on high-quality food. Life-giving nutrients from vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other key nutrients can help prevent depression and foster optimal brain health. 
  • Depression and anxiety programs: Comprehensive mental health education programs that focus on enhancing the mind and body through education, nutrition, lifestyle adjustments, and other factors. These programs are often more accessible than ongoing therapy—through online, residential, or community programs—as well as more affordable.

Lasting Recovery from High Functioning Depression and Anxiety 

If you are currently experiencing symptoms of high-functioning depression and anxiety, there is hope for you through tools, medications, and lifestyle interventions that you can employ to find relief from the burden of these underlying conditions. 


Please contact us first before publishing this or other Let’s Talk Mental Health articles.

The Nedley Depression and Anxiety Recovery Program™ (NDARP) is dedicated to using complementary medicine and interventions to educate, equip, and motivate participants to experience lasting recovery from high-functioning depression and anxiety. If you’re ready to find help, our compassionate, loving, dedicated staff is ready to work with you so that you can achieve lasting recovery and experience hope and happiness in life.

Talk to an NDARP expert to learn more about which program is best for you. 


[i] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Anxiety Disorders. National Institute of Mental Health.

[ii] Kalin, N. H. (n.d.). The Critical Relationship Between Anxiety and Depression. The American Journal of Psychiatry.

[iii] Chand, S. P., & Arif, H. (2022). Depression. National Library of Medicine.

[iv] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Generalized Anxiety Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health.

[v] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Chronic Illness and Mental Health: Recognizing and Treating Depression. National Institute of Mental Health.

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