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Why you’re seeing the term ‘high-functioning’ all over social media


On TikTok you’ll find millions of users diagnosing themselves using the term “high-functioning” — high-functioning anxiety, high-functioning depression, high-functioning autism.

The term “high-functioning” isn’t actually clinical, but, generally, it refers to those who perform well in work and in school. So if someone has high-functioning depression, it means they are excelling at their job, despite being in poor mental health.

After the pandemic, when levels of depression and anxiety both spiked, people became more aware of the fact that you can have depression or anxiety and still be excelling in certain parts of your life, says Irina Gorelik, a psychologist with Williamsburg Therapy Group.

“After Covid, the focus on mental health has been much more significant,” she says. “And people are much more aware of signs that might have been subtle in the past.”

While the idea of a high-functioning depressed or anxious person isn’t new, our recent obsession with the term is. And experts believe it might signal a shift in how we believe mental health presents.

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