Why Low-Functioning Depression Can Make It Impossible to Work

February 18, 2020 Mahevash Shaikh

I have been struggling to function throughout the day -- from waking up to eating on time, everything seems like an arduous chore. I turned to Google for an answer and it seems like I have something called "low-functioning depression." Now I had heard of the term "high-functioning depression," but never this term. After further browsing, it then dawned on me that low-functioning depression wasn't an anomaly, it just wasn't talked about nearly half as much as high-functioning depression. I wondered how many depressed people must feel inadequate because they are not high-functioning, so I decided to write a post about low-functioning depression.

Signs of Low-Functioning Depression

As the term indicates, "low-functioning" depression is the kind of depression in which your ability to function is impaired to such an extent that you have trouble getting everyday tasks done. The definition of "low-functioning" varies from person to person. For example, person A may be able to work for three-four hours a day before they feel too tired to go on; whereas, person B may be unable to maintain basic personal hygiene and self-care.

Regardless of whether one is like person A or person B, one has low-functioning depression as one's ability to function is below normal. Due to this, individuals who have this kind of depression can be easily recognized by their behavior and appearance. This is in sharp contrast to high-functioning depression, which can be difficult to detect because the person is able to function just as well as someone who is productive and does not have depression.

Low-Functioning Depression Is Not a Choice

Many of us are aware that our depression is not a choice, but how many of us know that neither is our level of functionality? Yes, no one can choose to be either low-functioning or high-functioning, yet people think it is a conscious choice. 

I believe the media is largely to blame for this school of thought because when it comes to mental health awareness, the media tends to focus on celebrities who have made a name for themselves in their chosen field. What the media fails to mention is that these people made it because they have high-functioning depression, not because they are "brave" or have "strong willpower." But I guess mainstream media prefers to stay away from the non-glamorous, ugly side that we know as low-functioning depression. Owing to this choice, society at large remains ignorant of the reality that depression is on a spectrum and sometimes, its effects cannot be tamed.

Be Kind to Yourself

Whether you ever get to hear this from anyone else or not, I am here to tell you that if you are unable to work full-time because of depression, you are not weak or lazy. If you think you are lazy or unmotivated because you feel apathy, please know that apathy itself is one of the signs of depression. No matter what the rest of the world says, you did not choose to be low-functioning. However, you should choose self-preservation -- even if that means working part-time or going on disability. As I say in the video below, low-functioning depression isn't your fault, so it's high time you stop blaming yourself.

APA Reference
Shaikh, M. (2020, February 18). Why Low-Functioning Depression Can Make It Impossible to Work, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Author: Mahevash Shaikh

Mahevash Shaikh is a millennial blogger, author, and poet who writes about mental health, culture, and society. She lives to question convention and redefine normal. You can find her at her blog and on Instagram and Facebook.

August, 22 2023 at 9:41 pm

I really appreciate this article. I've had depression my whole life but it has gotten harder to maintain in my adult years. I have days where I can get simple tasks done, very sparse days where I have energy to do more, and then I have days where I can barely get out of bed and it takes every ounce of strength I have to just move. My first thought is what vitamin am I deficient in or what is going on in my brain. But now, after months of mental health therapy, I now know I have low functioning depression. I never know what day is going to be a hard one and when it does my husband always thinks that something is bothering me. I have tried explaining to him what I'm feeling; I have nothing in me, I can't move, it's taking every ounce of energy just to put one foot in front of the other, etc. I hate these days because I want to accomplish so much and it's not possible at all. I recently quit my job because of this problem, and I can't even imagine going back to work at all. I'm just glad I have found articles and posts on it so I can find support and not feel like I need to "get it together".

June, 16 2024 at 7:29 am

I can totly relate have been running my own dog grooming business single handled for past 17 years.3 weeks ago a was unwell with a severe flu virus. NOW have extreme anxiety 24/7 have panic attacks at the thought of going back to work ( which I really enjoy). Some days I don't even want to get out of bed,other days I do the bare minimum house hold chores.These last 3 weeks have been awful, can anyone else relate ?

May, 10 2023 at 1:25 am

I’ve been depressed a long time and I feel like I’m always simultaneously high-functioning and low functioning. It’s like i can only really manage to perform in one or two facets of my life at a time- and generally those are the ones that sustain me: usually working.
It’s really hard because I perform at work and effectively fake it, because my ability to get healthcare and afford food and shelter are bound to my work, but the rest of my life is in total shambles.
I never understood why holding down a job makes me high functioning, if i often can’t eat or shower for days, have basically no relationships, and never leave home.

May, 7 2023 at 3:22 pm

Very good article! I struggle every day with low functioning depression. It’s a lot of emotional pain. I used to blame myself for being lazy and slow but I realized it’s not my fault. I am doing my best using coping skills such as yoga.

November, 11 2022 at 9:15 am

Thank you for making this low functioning depressive feel a little less worthless and ignored. You're a beautiful and compassionate human being.

January, 4 2022 at 1:48 am

Thank you for the information. My husband is very supportive and very patient with me.. I seem to have many low functioning depression symptoms.. I need some coping skills. I'm worried he is slowly becoming less interested in loving me. Can you point me in the right direction for daily structure?

October, 15 2021 at 5:26 pm

Thank you for this article. It s nice to be reminded you re not alone. :)

October, 12 2021 at 12:53 am

I feel relief finding this. For so long I felt awful about myself for being so behind everyone my age. I needed to see this, and I'm so glad I did.

October, 19 2021 at 5:32 am

Hey Jasmin, you are certainly not alone. I've learned that there's no point in comparing with either neurotypical or neurodivergent people. What we can do is try to do our best and leave it at that. Please be kind to yourself.

August, 1 2021 at 5:06 pm

This is amazing! thank you!

June, 23 2021 at 9:03 pm

I loved finding this, honestly! Granted, it's been a whole year and you'll probably never see this, but I'm so happy to see it said that high-functioning gets talked about a lot more, and feeling very down about not being able to compare to that image. I needed to hear it right now especially, as I am struggling to even take care of myself through the day.

June, 25 2021 at 9:41 am

I'm sorry you're struggling with LFD, Dan. It sucks that you can personally relate to the glorification of HFD and I hope you feel better soon.

February, 19 2020 at 7:59 am

I lost my job recently due to low-functioning depression. I am freelancing as that's what I can handle. Shame most workplaces care about productivity more than being human.

February, 19 2020 at 8:31 am

I am sorry to hear that, Ravi. It must be hard to lose your job for no fault of your own. Yes, there needs to be more mental health awareness and empathy in general at workplaces around the world. We are not machines, we are not resources, we are people. Real people with real problems need to be accommodated instead of discriminated against. It's disgusting and downright inhumane to not be inclusive in this day and age.

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