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High Functioning Depression in Motherhood

June 25, 2024

High-Functioning Depression in Motherhood: Recognizing and Coping with It

Motherhood is often painted as a picture of pure joy and fulfillment. While it certainly can be, it's important to acknowledge that it also comes with significant challenges, many of which can affect a mother's mental health. One such issue is high-functioning depression, a condition that is often overlooked because the person appears to be managing well on the outside while struggling internally. In this blog post, we'll explore what high-functioning depression looks like in mothers, how it manifests, and some strategies to cope with it.

Understanding High-Functioning Depression

High-functioning depression, also known as dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder, is a form of depression that allows a person to maintain their daily responsibilities while battling inner turmoil. Unlike major depression, which can be debilitating and more obvious, high-functioning depression can be more subtle. Mothers with this condition often continue to fulfill their roles as caregivers, employees, and partners, masking their struggles behind a facade of normalcy.

How It Presents in Motherhood

  1. Persistent Low Mood: Mothers with high-functioning depression often experience a continuous low mood. It's not always the intense sadness associated with major depression but rather a chronic sense of emptiness or numbness. This feeling can be pervasive, casting a shadow over daily activities and interactions.
  2. Overwhelm and Irritability: Everyday tasks can feel overwhelmingly exhausting. A mother might find herself easily irritated by minor inconveniences or the normal chaos of family life. This irritability can lead to guilt and self-criticism, further feeding the cycle of depression.
  3. Perfectionism and Overachievement: Interestingly, many mothers with high-functioning depression are overachievers. They set incredibly high standards for themselves, striving for perfection in their parenting, work, and personal life. This perfectionism can be a way to distract from their internal struggles but often leads to burnout and further depression.
  4. Lack of Enjoyment: Activities that once brought joy may no longer feel fulfilling. A mother might continue to participate in these activities out of obligation or habit, but they no longer bring the same satisfaction. This can extend to family time, hobbies, and even social interactions.
  5. Fatigue and Sleep Issues: Persistent fatigue is a common symptom. Despite feeling constantly tired, mothers with high-functioning depression may also experience difficulty sleeping or staying asleep. This sleep disruption exacerbates the fatigue and can further impact mood and energy levels.

Coping Strategies

Acknowledging the presence of high-functioning depression is the first step toward managing it. Here are some strategies that can help:

  1. Seek Professional Help: Therapy can be incredibly beneficial. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is particularly effective for managing depression. A therapist can help a mother understand her thought patterns, develop healthier coping mechanisms, and provide a safe space to express her feelings. We developed our best selling course Beyond Baby Blues for exactly this reason. See more info below.
  2. Medication: In some cases, medication may be necessary to help manage symptoms. Antidepressants can be prescribed by a healthcare provider and can be used in conjunction with therapy for a more comprehensive approach to treatment.
  3. Self-Care: Prioritizing self-care is crucial. This can include activities that promote relaxation and well-being, such as exercise, meditation, or simply taking a few moments each day for oneself. Self-care isn't selfish; it's essential for maintaining mental health.
  4. Set Realistic Expectations: It's important for mothers to set realistic expectations for themselves. Recognizing that it's okay to not be perfect and to ask for help when needed can alleviate some of the pressure they place on themselves.
  5. Connect with Others: Building a support network can make a significant difference. This can be through friends, family, or support groups for mothers. Sharing experiences and knowing that others are facing similar challenges can provide comfort and reduce feelings of isolation.
  6. Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, and journaling, can help mothers stay grounded and reduce stress. These practices encourage living in the moment and can provide a break from the constant mental chatter of depression.


High-functioning depression in motherhood is a serious and often hidden condition. Recognizing the signs and taking steps to address it is essential for the well-being of both the mother and her family. By seeking professional help, practicing self-care, and building a support network, mothers can manage their symptoms and find a path toward a healthier, more fulfilling life. Remember, it's okay to not have it all together all the time, and asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

We know you are exhausted from trying to keep up with it all. We developed Beyond Baby Blues our best selling online course for moms like you, those who have little energy but know that you need help. Check it out here and use MOM10 for $10 off!

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