Do you have high functioning depression?
June 07, 2022
If you go to work, manage your household and push through to complete your normal daily tasks with effort and consistently feel mentally weighed down or don’t have much hope for what the future may bring, you might be suffering from what is sometimes referred to as high functioning depression. To the rest of the world, your life may seem picture-perfect. However, only you know the pain and distress that you feel inside.
What is high functioning depression?
High functioning depression is often referred to as dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder. Unlike major depression, dysthymia may not be completely debilitating. It does, however, take a lot of effort and energy for an affected individual to push through each day while hiding the condition from those around them.
Although not completely debilitating, this condition can also impact the affected person’s overall well-being. An individual with this condition may be able to do well with certain aspects of their life, such as going to work, keeping a house, raising the kids, or maintaining a social life. Unfortunately, the person may have to put all of their efforts into just one or two of these areas, leaving them unable to do anything else. Someone with dysthymia may spend hours in bed or be unable to get off of the couch until it’s time to do the next activity that they’re putting the most effort into.
Although the symptoms of high functioning depression may not be as acute as with major depression, they still impact a person’s ability to make it through each day. Someone with dysthymia may experience the following:
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyable or everyday activities
- Moodiness, irritability, or anger
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt over past mistakes
- Difficulty focusing on even simple tasks
- Lack of energy
- Changes in sleep patterns or eating habits
An individual may not experience all of these symptoms, but they definitely affect the quality of life. With dysthymia, symptoms may not be present for up to two months at a time, but they recur repeatedly over a period of years.
The most common treatment methods for any type of depressive disorder are medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two.
Medications, typically in the form of antidepressants, help to level out a chemical imbalance in the brain that can be a leading cause of depression. Someone who experiences dysthymia may not think their symptoms are bad enough to take medication on a daily basis that can take weeks to begin working or go through the potential side effects that are associated with antidepressants. It’s important to note that more than 30 percent of patients can be resistant to these medications.
With psychotherapy, often referred to as counseling or talk therapy, an individual can learn to identify potential triggers for depressive episodes and learn ways to effectively handle situations before they become too serious. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to mental illness, and someone with dysthymia may feel that the issue isn’t bad enough to bring this type of attention to the issue.
Ketamine for depressive disorders
A more recent development in the treatment of high functioning depression is the use of ketamine. In the past, ketamine has been mostly used for anesthesia and sedation. Over its years of use, ketamine has shown antidepressant properties, which led to research on the medication’s effect on various depressive disorders.
Ketamine has been proven to act faster than other types of antidepressants, with alleviation of symptoms in little as hours or days. While ketamine may need to be readministered on a scheduled basis, it’s not necessary to use it daily since its effects can last for weeks.
Because this medication acts on different receptors than regular antidepressants, someone who hasn’t responded well to traditional treatment may have a better response to ketamine. This is especially promising to someone with dysthymia since this specific type of depression doesn’t always have the same cause as other variations of this mood disorder. In fact, dysthymia may be linked to physical variances in brain structure, traumatic life events, or a genetic factor. The most popular antidepressant therapies don’t help with these causes whereas ketamine can.
Why choose ketamine IV therapy for treating high functioning depression?
When delivered intravenously, a ketamine solution immediately reaches the bloodstream, allowing it to begin working more rapidly than oral medications that have to pass through the digestive tract. Also, since ketamine leaves the body more rapidly, there are fewer side effects, and they don’t last as long.
This is significant because there’s a potential suicide risk in depressed patients. The decreased resolution in symptoms with ketamine compared to other antidepressants can significantly reduce this risk.
How it works
Each ketamine IV therapy session lasts about 45 minutes. Once the ketamine has been delivered, the individual remains under observation due to the medication’s dissociative effects.
While in this transcendent state, an individual may recall buried memories or attain alterations in thought processes that may allow them to uncover past trauma or look at new ways of dealing with troublesome situations. A therapist will be on hand for the person to discuss the experience both during and after the disassociation phase.
The counseling provided after the side effects wear off allows an affected individual to more effectively process the information they gleaned during the treatment. This is especially impactful when compared to the use of other antidepressants that don’t provide for this type of connection.
Self-help at home
Even if someone with dysthymia is involved with ketamine IV therapy, it’s good to keep up with regular maintenance and self-care at home. This can help to prevent the return of depressive symptoms.
Eating a healthy diet is not only beneficial to overall wellness, but it can also help with mild symptoms of this condition. Sugars and saturated fats are directly associated with a higher risk of depression, so minimize foods that contain these elements. Foods that have been shown to fight depressive symptoms include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.
Getting enough activity is important in maintaining a strong body and healthy weight, but exercise can also improve symptoms associated with depression. Moderate- to high-intensity activities boost certain chemicals in the brain; these feel-good chemicals provide benefits that last long after an exercise session is over. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of activity every day for the most impact.
Maintain a treatment schedule
A patient with a depressive disorder may be likely to stop treatment once they start feeling better, and this is especially true for those with dysthymia who already feel their symptoms may not be that bad. For ketamine IV therapy, an individual should stick with the treatment plan agreed upon with the provider to prevent relapse and a recurrence or worsening of symptoms.
Fortunately, high functioning depression is treatable. Current medications and counseling can help someone who is affected to live a more fulfilling life. With the increasing use of ketamine as a viable treatment option, an individual may experience results that last for months or years.
Where to get IV therapy
If you’re in the Chicagoland area, MD Infusions is available to help. With more than 50 years of combined experience, physicians who are board-certified in emergency medicine have the experience you can trust to get you on the right track.
 Mihaljevic, S., Pavlovic, M., Reiner, K. & Cacic, M. (2020). Therapeutic mechanisms of ketamine. Psychiatria Darnubina.32(3-4), 325-33. https://hrcak.srce.hr/file/364584
 Rot, M., Zarate Jr., C.A., Charney, D.S. & Mathew, S.J. (2012 October). Ketamine for depression: Where do we go from here? Biological Psychiatry. 72(7), 537-47. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006322312004179