When Someone is ‘Too Functional’ to Have Mental Illness Taken Seriously

Here’s the thing about having a mental illness – you can’t always see it or hear it if you’re on the outside. Unlike other illnesses like the flu or cancer where the symptoms show up visually or you can hear it in the voice of someone who has been up coughing all night, you can’t always see or hear that someone is experiencing depression or anxiety. And despite the misconception that people who are depressed don’t get out of bed or can’t find the energy to participate in their lives consistently, the majority of people experiencing depression are functioning members of society. So what do you do when you’re too “functional” to be taken seriously for experiencing depression or anxiety?

Karen Lowinger addresses this in her article, originally posted on The Mighty. Her best advice is, “If you struggle with not being taken seriously, my advice to you is to trust you know yourself so much more than anybody else. Nobody has the right to undermine your difficulties. If they do, it’s their issue. Keep looking for the person who listens to you and takes your feelings into account.”

Karen isn’t the only person who is speaking out about functioning and participating in society. In the clip below, Tom Johnson, the former CEO of CNN has talked about being diagnosed with depression and what he’s done to recover and start living his life again.

The important thing to remember about high-functioning individuals experiencing a mental illness, is that they want to participate and create some normality in their lives. Part of the reason these individuals are met with skepticism and disbelief is the lack of open discussion around mental illness and the reality of it’s day to day impact on someone’s life.

The next time someone opens up to you or you choose to open up to someone about experiencing mental illness, don’t be discouraged if you are met with disbelief. Trust yourself to know what is going on with you and continue looking for the person that listens and engages with you.