There are tons of stereotypes and misconceptions about people who struggle with mental illness that attempt to paint them into an easily categorized, but ultimately narrow box.
But the truth is not everyone fits into our preconceived notions of mental illness.
So who do we miss, in our narrow definition of what a mentally ill person looks like?
“We don’t see the student with the 4.0 GPA. We don’t see the student who’s active in choir and theater or a member of the National Honor Society. We don’t see the student who takes on leadership roles in a religious youth group. No matter how many times we are reminded that mental illness doesn’t discriminate, we revert back to a narrow idea of how it should manifest, and that is dangerous.”
Leventhal is describing what many on the internet are calling high-functioning depression. They are the overachievers, workaholics and perfectionists who are too hard on themselves and often don’t let their struggles with mental illness show in the typical, easy to spot ways.
Often times we think of depression as something that completely puts your life on hold. You withdraw, you act out, you lose grip, you outwardly struggle. These are all symptoms of the disease that can be spotted.
But in so many cases, those symptoms don’t manifest.
Tom Wootton is the founder of Bipolar Advantage, an organization that focuses on helping people gain better functionality with their mental illness.
In an article he wrote for Psychology Today, Wootton talks about the deceptiveness of being productive while depressed.
“After giving a keynote speech about functioning during depression, I was told that I was not depressed by Aaron Beck, the person behind the Beck Depression Inventory. When I shared with him my list of “symptoms’ he agreed that I was depressed after all.”
For Wootton, the key to identifying high functioning depression is to realize the difference between the feelings associated with depression and the response to depression.
Some people respond in the stereotypical ways. Others respond in unexpected ways. Either way, it’s depression.
Related: Why We Need To Talk About High-Functioning Depression by Emily Laurence for Well+Good via The Huffington Post