High Functioning Mental Illness

Treatment Options for People Who Suffer in Silence

Are you someone who maintains a brave face no matter what? Is it hard for you to get help or let other people take some of the load off of your plate? Alternatively, are you someone who doesn’t want people to know quite how bad things are?

If so, you could be someone with high functioning mental illness. Often, those with high-functioning depression or another mental health condition avoid getting support because they believe they can hide it and keep going. However, this can have serious repercussions.

So, what exactly does high-functioning mental illness mean, and what are the consequences of leaving a mental health disorder unaddressed? This page will answer those questions and discuss how Icarus Behavioral Health can help if you’re someone who could use our support!

What is a “High Functioning” Mental Illness?

High functioning Mental Illness

There are many different kinds and categories of mental health conditions. While it’s estimated that around one in five adults in the United States have a mental disorder of some kind, not everyone gets help.

In the context of mental health, “high functioning” usually refers to a person’s ability to fulfill obligations such as work, school, or social events despite living with a diagnosable mental illness. It is not a clinical term. Instead, it is a colloquial term not found in the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM).

Having a high-functioning mental illness doesn’t necessarily mean that your condition is less serious, and it definitely doesn’t mean that getting help is not worthwhile. Instead, it usually means that it’s hidden more easily because you’re able to fulfill demands as expected by society.

Suffering in Silence is Not Required!

This can often lead people with mental health conditions to suffer in silence. Other people may not notice how severe your symptoms are or how much mental health challenges impact your life and well-being. On hard days, you might beat yourself up, calling yourself “overly dramatic” or telling yourself that you don’t need to get or have time to get help because it “could be worse.”

One of the riskiest parts of living with a high-functioning mental illness is that many people who fit the description don’t get help. After all, if you feel unseen or as though things “aren’t that bad” because you can function in daily life, you may not get the mental health support you need. However, this can backfire long-term.

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Repercussions of Untreated Mental Illness

How can untreated high-functioning mental illness affect a person? Functioning right now does not mean you will function forever. It’s imperative not to push yourself too hard. Even if the kind of care you need is less intensive than another person (e.g., once-weekly therapy vs. inpatient treatment), it is still critical to get help. Here are some of the potential repercussions of leaving mental health challenges addressed.

Worsening symptoms

When you leave a medical or mental health condition untreated for long periods of time in hopes that it’ll get better, one of the major consequences can be a worsening of symptoms. For example, you might start to experience panic attacks more often if you have an anxiety disorder, or you could find yourself with increasingly severe depression symptoms (e.g., low mood and feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or guilt).

Additional physical or mental health concerns

Unaddressed mental health issues and concerns may be associated with a higher likelihood of developing some other physical and mental health problems. Substance abuse, for example, could lead to organ failure or death. Similarly, trauma, depression, and anxiety are all associated with concerns such as sleep disorders and chronic pain.

3 Surprising Examples of High-Functioning Mental Disorders

High-functioning depression

What does high-functioning mental illness look like? Knowing the answer to that question can help you identify it in yourself. A person with any mental disorder can present in a way that would be considered high-functioning according to the American Psychiatric Association. So, if you have a condition other than one of those listed below, this information may still apply to you.

With that in mind, common examples of what it’s like to live with high-functioning mental health disorders include but aren’t limited to the following.

  • High-functioning depression. A person with a depressive disorder, such as major depressive disorder (MDD), persistent depressive disorder (PDD), or postpartum depression may meet the full criteria for their disorder but maintain a full-time job. Despite, for example, meeting the criteria for an episode of major depression, they may move through their work week and come home to care for their family while hiding their symptoms from others.
  • High functioning anxiety. A person with an anxiety disorder, whether that’s a generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, or another condition, may experience intense, excessive worry. They may also notice other symptoms, such as GI distress, trouble sleeping, body aches, irritability, or restlessness. However, like the person with high-functioning depression, they may hold a job or show up in social situations. Even if it is with clinically significant distress, their ability to do this might prevent them from reaching out for help.
  • High-functioning eating disorders. A person with an eating disorder like bulimia, anorexia, binge eating disorder, or otherwise specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED) who is experiencing life-threatening symptoms daily may be able to hold a job, get through college, or care for their family. Other people in the person’s life may not even know that they have an eating disorder. However, they are consumed by their symptoms, and their physical health is at risk.

If you resonate with these experiences, even if you face symptoms of another condition (such as high-functioning bipolar disorder or substance abuse), getting help is worth it.

Best Treatment Options for High-Functioning Mental Health Conditions

Best Treatment Options for High-Functioning Mental Health Condition

Icarus Behavioral Health provides a full continuum of care for people with most mental health disorders. Conditions we treat include but aren’t limited to depression, OCD, PTSD and CPTSD, personality disorders, substance use disorders, eating disorders, schizoaffective disorders, and more. Here are the levels of care we offer and what they entail.

Inpatient treatment

Being high-functioning doesn’t mean that your symptoms aren’t severe enough for inpatient care. In fact, those of us who push ourselves the hardest to function as other people do can be among those who need this form of care the most.

Inpatient mental health treatment entails living at your treatment facility for the duration of your program. Often, people stay in inpatient care for around 1-3 months. During your stay, you will get extensive support and care from licensed mental health providers in groups, individual therapy, and other treatments. By the time you exit inpatient care, you’ll have new healthy coping mechanisms and an aftercare plan to help you move forward without sliding back to a place where you are struggling in silence.

Icarus Behavioral Health’s inpatient programs provide clients with luxury amenities, enriching recreation activities, and comfortable living spaces.

Outpatient treatment

Outpatient treatment comes in different forms. It can be an ideal option for clients who do not need as much support as inpatient treatment provides, have obligations that prevent them from attending inpatient treatment or are transitioning from a higher level of care.

Icarus Behavioral Health provides multiple levels of outpatient care. Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) at Icarus Behavioral Health provide the most intensive level of outpatient care. In PHP, clients engage in groups, individual therapy, and other treatments applicable to their situation most days throughout the week for the duration of their program but live off-campus.

Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) are more flexible and require a lower time commitment. Even so, treatment activities are similar to those seen in PHP, including a combination of individual and group therapy. It’s common for clients to move down to IOP after inpatient treatment for continued support.

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Other Forms of Support for Attaining Mental Health

In addition to inpatient and outpatient programs, various other forms of support are available for those with high-functioning mental illnesses of any kind. Depending on your unique needs and concerns, the following may be helpful.

  • Support groups: Support groups can be key and give people an opportunity to share personal experiences or learn from and connect to others. This can help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illnesses. Usually, support groups are free of cost and peer-led.
  • Therapy: Working with a mental health professional like a trained counselor, therapist, or clinical psychologist for talk therapy is often the first form of help recommended to someone with a mental health condition. Therapy gives you a space to speak openly, develop coping strategies, and meet goals.
  • Medication management: There are medications available for the treatment of most mental health conditions, and they can be highly effective. Combined medication and therapy is a recommended treatments for many mental illnesses, so you may engage in both. All of our treatment programs provide medication management for those who need it.

Many of our clients find that continued therapy, medication management, and support groups are beneficial additions to their aftercare plan. No matter how you ask for help, what matters is that you do.

Reach Out Today for Options and to Get Support

Support in Recovery

If you’re interested in one of our mental health treatment programs, our staff members are here to help. We will answer your questions and verify your insurance coverage for free when you contact us. All calls are strictly confidential, so you can rest assured of our discretion.

If you’re not sure what level of care is right for you, one of our staff members can help. To get in touch with us, call our compassionate team to get answers and options, today!

Many Insurances Accepted for Mental Health Treatment

FAQs on High Functioning Depression and Other Illnesses

What does it mean to have a high-functioning mental illness?

For most people, high functioning in the context of mental illness means that a person can successfully engage in daily life activities despite their condition. Even if they’re hurting inside, they might seem fine to the outside world.

Sometimes, “high functioning” can also indicate a less severe form of a condition. The term can be used for other disorders, too. For example, someone with an autism spectrum disorder might say that they have “high functioning autism” if they have lower support needs.

What is functional depression?

If a person says they have high-functioning depression, it means that they have a depressive disorder (such as major depressive disorder) but can engage in daily life activities like work or school. While the individual may meet the diagnostic criteria for the condition, they may appear to have less severe symptoms, whether that is or is not the case.

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