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What You Should Know If You Love Someone With High-Functioning Depression

HuffPost logo HuffPost 4 days ago Lindsay Holmes

© WIN-Initiative via Getty Images Everything feels a lot harder when you’re dealing with high-functioning depression ― including relationships.

Experts say the condition often isn’t noticeable to most people, because those who experience it tend to mask it well. This arguably makes the disorder difficult for partners to detect and the people who deal with it hesitant to speak up in the first place.

The symptoms are aligned with those of depression, including irritability and extreme sadness. But the average observer wouldn’t necessarily know it based on how the sufferer is acting.

Luckily, knowledge is power. Education about mental health issues helps people who don’t experience them understand the disorders a little bit better. And in a world where only 25 percent of people with mental illness feel like others are sympathetic to their condition, compassion can go a long way.

We asked our Facebook communities to share some truths they wished their loved ones knew about high-functioning depression. Here’s what they had to say:

1. High-functioning depression zaps energy.

“I wish my fiancé understood that some days, I can’t turn my depression off. I can’t always just get out of bed immediately and take on the day like he does. I need to motivate and really push myself to do so, and it takes a great amount of effort.” ―Lindsey Diamond 

2. Just because the condition is hard to see, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

“I may seem happy and I am able to joke, but when I get home, the mask comes off and I cannot function beyond basic necessities ... Everything is difficult.” ―Theresa Allen 

3. Sometimes it stands in the way of social gatherings.

“[I want them to] stop demanding that I attend every party with them because they need to know I want some time alone.” ―Samra Suleman

© Pekic via Getty Images

4. Other times it helps to stay distracted.

“For me, it is having to be busy at all times. The point is to mentally exhaust myself so the bad thoughts don’t creep in as I lie in bed each night.” ―Katherine Deubner 

5. The condition isn’t anyone’s fault.

“I wish he knew when I’m at my low points it’s no ones fault. Sometimes I’m just sad, sometimes I just need to lay in bed, sometimes I need him to do what I normally do around the house.” ―Sandra Ringle 

6. There’s often no explanation for why it’s happening.

“I wish my partner knew that there is rarely (if ever) a specific ‘cause’ to my depressed states. I do not have a tangible answer to the question, ‘What’s wrong?’” ―Beranger LeFranc

© LaraBelova via Getty Images

7. It feels like an internal battle.

“Basically it’s like an argument between my heart and my brain. While I’m crying my heart out my brain thinks, ‘What the hell is wrong with you. Look at how great things are!’ And my heart says, ‘If you can’t figure it out, we’re going to die.’ That’s what it seems like when for no obvious reason I find myself in a total emotional meltdown.” ―Michael Aldieri 

8. High-functioning depression is unintentionally isolating.

Stress and Depression © ALTENUS_AppEx_Health_and_Fitness Stress and Depression “I wish he knew that I don’t want to shut him out, I just don’t know how to let him in.” ―Liv Kerr

9. An affectionate gesture goes a long way.

“I just need to be held and then left alone for a while. What I’m feeling is as if I’m underwater and my lungs can’t get air.” ―Sandra Ringle

© Tom Merton via Getty Images

10. It’s hardly in a person’s control.

“I wish my partner understood how little control I really have over my depression. I can do every little thing correctly, eating right, taking care of myself, exercising daily, centering my mind with yoga and all it takes is one trigger to undo all that work.” ―Emily Maia 

11. You’re not doing anything wrong.

When people get married — or even just together — there are immediate expectations set by one person for the other and most times these are never agreed upon if even articulated (which can lead to relationship meltdowns).

The Fix: Pretend you're not in a relationship with this person

One really simple and surprising thing is to change the expectations you have for your partner, by pretending they’re not your partner. “Sometimes telling people to just imagine they are not married [or coupled exclusively] and not having expectations for the other person will reduce the stress for everyone and immediately make things better,” say Desroches and Greco. "Expectations should be agreed and not assumed."

What this means is that if each partner does have legitimate needs that they need their partner to meet, they need to discuss these expectations with each other. Discussions must not be broad — as in "I need you to handle the finances" — but instead specific i.e., do you need them to balance the checkbook, complete financial planning for the family, start a college fund for your kids? Spell it out.

7 Things that make you more likely to divorce

Anything assumed or omitted is a chance for miscommunication. "It is a process and you most likely will not get it right the first time," say Desroches and Greco. "Better explanations are key and don't let the frustration lead to someone saying, 'Forget It, I will take care of it!'" © iStockphoto/Getty Images When people get married — or even just together — there are immediate expectations set by one person for the other and most times these are never agreed upon if even articulated (which can lead to relationship meltdowns). The Fix: Pretend you're not in a relationship with this person One really simple and surprising thing is to change the expectations you have for your partner, by pretending they’re not your partner. “Sometimes telling people to just imagine they are not married [or coupled exclusively] and not having expectations for the other person will reduce the stress for everyone and immediately make things better,” say Desroches and Greco. "Expectations should be agreed and not assumed." What this means is that if each partner does have legitimate needs that they need their partner to meet, they need to discuss these expectations with each other. Discussions must not be broad — as in "I need you to handle the finances" — but instead specific i.e., do you need them to balance the checkbook, complete financial planning for the family, start a college fund for your kids? Spell it out. 7 Things that make you more likely to divorce Anything assumed or omitted is a chance for miscommunication. "It is a process and you most likely will not get it right the first time," say Desroches and Greco. "Better explanations are key and don't let the frustration lead to someone saying, 'Forget It, I will take care of it!'" “I wish he knew that even though he is the most amazing man I’ve ever met, there is a piece of me that is broken and it has nothing to do with him. He could make me smile every day, but as soon as that switch gets flipped I will have a really hard time being able to pump the brakes on my depression and anxiety.” ―Emily Thomas

12. Your support is so important.

“I wish he knew how overwhelming being sad during a depressive state is ... sometimes it would be really nice to get a hug, instead of just the cold shoulder and being ignored because it is difficult to understand. Support is worth more than words could ever say.” ―Avarie Downs 

The bottom line is this: Don’t give up on someone with high-functioning depression. Your love means everything.

Some responses have been lightly edited or condensed for clarity.

As part of May’s Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re focusing on treatment and the stigma around getting help. Check out our coverage here and share your story at strongertogether@huffingtonpost.com.

Related video: 7 Celeb Moms Who've Opened Up About Postpartum Depression
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