Depression is a tricky thing to pin down due in no small part to the broad range in diagnosis. Terminology has also shifted over the years (DSM classifications) and even how it’s referred to in casual conversation.
For myself, my diagnosis was classified as dysthymia or more commonly these days persistent depressive disorder. While on the lower side of the spectrum along with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), it’s the persistence that can be most difficult to live with from a day to day basis. Other more intense forms of depression such as postpartum, major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder are often the most stigmatized adding even more difficulty for those who want to seek help.
Another phrase I keep hearing thrown about is high functioning depression as opposed to crippling depression. I almost feel like this is something of a misnomer, as it covers such a wide range of the depression spectrum that it seems silly to me. Do not misunderstand, I’m aware that for people who are battling severe depression it can become crippling and literally prevent you from being employed in a conventional work environment, but I feel like the identifier of ‘high functioning’ gives off the wrong message to people. To me it almost marginalizes depression as something that “is there but doesn’t matter” which in part is one of the reasons why it goes undiagnosed and untreated for many of us. I fell into that trap, I figured I could still do my job well enough despite not feeling much of anything (anhedonia) and my isolation and anxiety I just attributed to getting older and being something of a curmudgeon. Friends I’ve talked to often miss the fact that depression isn’t static, it isn’t that you are diagnosed as bi polar and that’s all you ever are, or that having mild SAD or dysthymia means you’re just sort of “feeling the blues”. It’s hard for folks to fathom that triggering events, stressors can tip the scales from mild depression into a full major depressive episode. Once that happens it can be a very high risk time for someone, this is where people ‘snap’ or find themselves spiral so far that suicide becomes a consideration. The best option is to head off the problem before it becomes that severe where possible.
The warning signs are something to be aware of, especially to employers I think, but if you see anything of yourself in these symptoms, I do urge you to get a diagnosis and see about making changes in your life, your prescriptions or just starting the process by talking to someone.