Successful & Suicidal: The Picture of High-Functioning Depression in America

By Jessica Bullock | Feb 18, 2023



Within the past few years, we have seen an increase in the number of high-profile suicides. Among the most recent is the ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ superstar, Stephen “Twitch” Boss. As this news reverberated through our communities- as clinicians- we take a step back to look at some of the symptoms of individuals who are considered to be High Functioning and Depressed. We refer to these individuals as those who always appear to have it together, a great help to others, and they always seem to be ‘ok’. The clinical name for what we call ‘High Functioning Depression’ is Persistent Depressive Disorder. 

Some of these symptoms include the following: 

  • Feelings of Hopelessness 
  • Poor Eating 
  • Inability to make decisions/ Poor concentration 
  • Low Self Esteem 
  • Low Energy/ Fatigue 


These symptoms usually persist for two years, and other similar disorders have been ruled out. 

So how do Highly Functioning Individuals break out of their depressive state? Here are 4 ways: 

  1. Begin talk therapy and see if there is a need for medication exploration. Many times, talking through pain points in life can bring a successful individual relief. However, don’t be afraid to explore medication options if the suicidal ideations persist. Talking through those options can provide hope. 
  2. Avoid Perfectionism. Feeling the pressure to be the best at your work and not allowing room for mistakes can lead to unnecessary stress and unrealistic expectations. 
  3. Say No. As a perfectionist, you may need to learn to say No, clear your schedule and avoid being busy. No room for rest, fun, or relaxation can create internalized stress, increasing cortisol levels. This prolonged stressful state can lead to more than a mental health breakdown but also physical illness. 
  4. Lean into spiritual practices. What can you practice to bring peace to your mind and spirit? Research suggests that daily spiritual practices can lead to higher satisfaction in life. Whether prayer, meditation, or attending a high-spirited service, however you practice your spirituality, try to incorporate those practices as a part of your daily routine.


If you or someone you know are looking for a counselor to help them navigate a place of depression, do not hesitate to refer your friend to to assist them in talking through a strategy with a trusted counselor. 


About The Author

Since 2010, Jessica is the CEO and Founder of BE WELL COUNSELING & CONSULTING (, where she and her team have served thousands of families and individuals. She is passionate about bringing education and research that highlight BIPOC communities. Jessica also enjoys working as a consultant for counseling centers and churches, serves as a board member of several nonprofit organizations, and teaches. She graduated with her second Master’s Degree at Seton Hall University and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision. 



Jessica Bullock


  1. Monika Poole on March 15, 2023 at 5:01 pm

    This article is great! Thank you!!!

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