By Alyx Douglas
For most people, juggling the struggles of everyday life is hard enough, but for Jerita Phan and the thousands of other Australians just like her, the reality of living with High-Functioning Depressive Disorder (HFDD) makes simple day-to-day activities a constant battle.
While many are aware of the signs and symptoms of clinical depression, high functioning depressive disorder differs in that sufferers don’t outwardly exhibit any signs or symptoms and can continue to maintain work, social and other commitments.
Sufferers of HFDD learn to hide their depression from friends, family and coworkers and, in some cases, are themselves unaware of their own depression or the severity of it.
Clinical psychologist Flavia Bises believes depression should be viewed on a continuing scale, with young adults and HFDD sufferers often presenting with more severe cases due to their ability to hide their condition.
“Young people are often more reluctant to reach out for help. Very often there is a fear of being judged and a fear of stigma,” said Ms Bises.
Often thought to be over-achievers and perfectionists, sufferers of HFDD push themselves beyond what are considered to be healthy mental, emotional and physical limits.
Those affected by this disorder regularly resort to different forms of mental and physical self-punishment when the impossible goals and standards they set themselves have not been met.
Jerita Phan, 22, has been suffering the effects of depression for close to 10 years, having only recently discovered that she is a high-functioning depressive.
“For as long as I can remember I have always suffered from depression, I just didn’t know what it was until the age of 12,” said Ms Phan.
Ms Phan explained that living with HFDD means that every day is a constant struggle, and while some days are harder than others her disorder affects nearly everything she does, including both personal and professional interactions.
Also suffering from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Borderline Personality Disorder, Anxiety and various eating disorders, Ms Phan is no stranger to the stigma and lack of awareness associated with mental illness.
“I just wish some people would realise that mental illness is as serious and as real as physical illnesses. Just because you can’t see the damage, doesn’t mean it’s not there,” she said.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from the effects of depression, help can be found at:
Life Line: https://www.lifeline.org.au/ or 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/ or 1300 22 4636