Breaking Down Stigma: Shattering Stereotypes of High Functioning Mental Illness

When you think of someone with mental illness, you may think of someone who is home alone and unable to get out of bed to work and do their daily tasks. But many people with mental illness now still manage their responsibilities daily while suffering in silence. These people are said to have a high-functioning mental illness. This non-medical term describes people who meet the criteria for a clinical diagnosis of depression but manage to function daily. 1 Since they do their daily activities so well, their mental condition typically remains unknown to others.

People who have high-functioning mental illness are often misunderstood and stereotyped since they are different than others with mental health issues. We will look at common negative stereotypes surrounding people with high-functioning mental health issues and how to recognize that someone may be dealing with these problems. We’ll also explore the challenges people face and how Healing Foundations Center can help.

Types of High-Functioning Mental Illness

There are several common types of high-functioning mental illness that people may suffer from. These include:

High-Functioning Depression

High-functioning depression was previously referred to as dysthymia. 2 It is a less severe form of major depressive disorder. While people with high-functioning depression may experience the same symptoms as someone with major depressive disorder, these symptoms are usually less severe and don’t prevent someone from living their life.

High-Functioning Anxiety

A person with high-functioning anxiety can overcome their emotions and still appear to live normally on the surface. But, deep down, they are dealing with the same complex issues that someone with a typical anxiety disorder is.

High-Functioning Schizophrenia

While many people with schizophrenia experience hallucinations and delusions, those who are high-functioning may still have these symptoms but be able to go about their daily lives.

Common Myths & Stereotypes About High-Functioning Mental Illness

There are several common myths surrounding those who have a high-functioning mental illness. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Since someone is high-functioning, their mental disorders don’t exist.
  • If they aren’t visibly struggling, their condition is insignificant.
  • People with mental health issues, including those managing their symptoms, can’t tolerate the stress of holding down a job. 3

These myths are compounded by misconceptions in the media when it comes to mental health issues. TV shows, comedy sets, and other outlets often refer to “crazy people,” “looney bins,” and other terms that only add to the stereotypes that people with mental health issues face. 4 When people with high-functioning mental health issues hear these terms, they don’t want to be classified that way and may be more likely to hide their conditions. Since no one speaks up against these labels, the stereotypes continue and often worsen.

To combat these myths, people must realize that just because someone does not outwardly show signs of mental illness doesn’t mean they are not suffering. Minimizing or dismissing people with a high-functioning mental illness can be harmful. It can lead to isolation and further distress.

Signs of High Functioning Mental Illness

To combat myths of high-functioning mental illness, it’s essential to recognize the signs since they can present themselves in many ways. Here are some to look for:

  • Perfectionism is common among those with high-functioning mental disorders. They may have a fear of failing or making mistakes.
  • People with high-functioning mental disorders may also be highly self-critical. They set unrealistic goals and can be extremely hard on themselves when things don’t work out. This can lead to depression and anxiety.
  • Trouble with social interactions can also be a sign if someone has trouble keeping conversations or forming relationships.

Any of these signs can be difficult to spot because people with high-functioning mental illness are so good at hiding their issues. But, being aware of the red flags can increase the chance that someone will notice and recommend treatment.

Challenges for Those with a High-Functioning Mental Illness

People with high-functioning mental illness face specific challenges. This includes constantly maintaining the façade that everything is okay. The constant self-inflicted pressure can become exhausting, leading to excess stress and burnout.

Being misunderstood and overlooked is a constant challenge. Since they seem to be functioning well on the outside, people don’t understand what’s happening inside. This can prevent people from getting the help they need because they may fear that no one will believe them.

Feeling isolated can also be hard for people with a high-functioning mental illness. The difference between how they feel on the inside and what they’re showing the world can lead to loneliness and isolation.

Seeking Help for High-Functioning Mental Illness and How Healing Foundations Center Can Help

Many people with high-functioning mental illness may be skeptical about seeking help or not know where to turn since they don’t fit the mold. Professional help in the form of therapy and support groups is an excellent place to start. When people realize others are dealing with the same issues, seeking treatment will become easier.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is known to help people with various mental health issues. It can help to cancel negative thought patterns and develop healthier thinking.

Support groups are also another vital part of the treatment puzzle. This allows people to learn from others and not feel as alone. This can be extremely helpful for people with high-functioning anxiety, which can be overlooked.

If you or a loved one is dealing with a high-functioning mental health illness, Healing Foundations Center is here to help. Our team offers various professional services to help people battle many different conditions. We provide compassionate care to help those who may feel overlooked but desperately need professional mental health treatment. Call Healing Foundations Center today to learn more, or reach out to us online.