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High Functioning Depression and Anxiety: 8 Signs That You Need a Break

Keep a finger on the pulse of your high functioning depression and anxiety with these signs and practical tips to help you take a break.

Having high functioning depression or anxiety is like having all of the symptoms without the receipt. Many people often go undiagnosed because they are able to meet their responsibilities and perform daily tasks seemingly without issue. (Even if this looks like underperforming to them.)

But that doesn’t mean that their symptoms are any less severe. It’s just that they might struggle to tell when they actually need a break.

8 Signs That You Need a Break

Recognizing when you need a break is crucial, especially if you have high-functioning depression and anxiety. Despite being able to function well enough to meet general standards, you still need to take care of your mental health.

Here are some signs and tips to help you identify when it’s time to take a step back:

1. Increased Irritability or Frustration

If you notice that you’re feeling more easily annoyed or angered by small things, you’re probably one piece of bad news away from a meltdown. Being aware of how you’re reacting to situations, especially if you’re reacting more strongly than usual, is the first step to healthier habits.

2. Physical Symptoms

If you can’t tell how compromised your mental health is, anxiety and depression often present themselves physically. Watch out for frequent headaches, stomachaches, or muscle tension. And especially take a closer look at your well-being if you’re feeling constantly tired despite adequate sleep.

3. Changes in Sleep Patterns

Our ability to sleep is directly tied to our mental health. Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up feeling unrested can be a sign of burnout. If you find yourself oversleeping or struggling to get out of bed, it might be time to take a break.

4. Difficulty Concentrating

Thoughts, feelings, and actions are often directly impacted by high functioning depression and anxiety, but you might not realize exactly what’s occupying your attention. Trouble focusing on tasks or making decisions and frequently forgetting things or feeling mentally foggy can be symptoms of increased anxiety and depression.

5. Loss of Interest or Motivation

When you’re burned out on depression and anxiety, high functioning or not, you lose enthusiasm for activities you usually enjoy. When you find yourself procrastinating or avoiding responsibilities, it’s time for a recharge.

6. Heightened Anxiety

People with high functioning depression and anxiety are often, well, anxious. But if you find yourself worrying or having panic attacks more often than you normally do, then you’ve surpassed your threshold. It’s not healthy to feel constantly on edge or overwhelmed.

7. Emotional Exhaustion

Daily tasks and relationships should not leave you feeling detached or numb. By this point, you’ve reached emotional exhaustion, and pushing through it doesn’t do any good.

When you find yourself withdrawing, experiencing mood swings, or crying more easily, then take a step back.

8. Social Withdrawal

Relationships are an important part of our lives. When you find yourself avoiding social interactions or feeling drained by them, then your high functioning depression and anxiety has reached its peak. Take a break, but try not to isolate yourself from friends, family, or colleagues for too long.

Tips for Recognizing the Need for a Break

Discussing when you need a break is easy. Recognizing these signs out in the wild of high functioning depression and anxiety is a bit more difficult. Here are some tips for keeping a finger on your mental health pulse:

Have Regular Self–Check-Ins

Set aside time daily or weekly to assess your mental and physical state by meditating, writing in a journal, or doing whatever you need to, to make it an important part of your routine. Use this time to reflect on your energy levels, mood, and overall well-being.

Listen to Your Body

Pay attention more attention to your physical cues such as tension, fatigue, or pain. Noticing how they change with your activities, stress levels, sleep patterns, meals, and more will give great insight into when you need a break.

Track Your Mood

Use a journal or app to monitor your mood and identify patterns or triggers. Record instances of stress, anxiety, or depressive episodes. Watching for when it escalates and de-escalates will help you react more quickly and efficiently.

Set Boundaries

Don’t try to push through the overwhelm just because you can. Be mindful of your limits and learn to say no when needed by prioritizing tasks and delegating or postponing non-essential activities.

Seek Feedback

Sometimes an outside opinion is the best judge. If you can’t tell how you’re feeling, ask trusted friends, family, or colleagues if they’ve noticed changes in your behavior or demeanor. Accept their observations and consider them when assessing your need for a break.

Taking Action

Many people with high functioning depression and anxiety are not used to taking breaks. They just keep working through it, even at the absolute minimum level of functionality. However, making time for self-care and relaxation is so important.

So how do you take care of your mental health when you still feel like you can (and should) be productive?

Plan Breaks

If you’re not able to accommodate some time off, or you want to prevent the need to taking time off, schedule regular short breaks throughout your day to rest and recharge. But when your vacations finally roll around, take longer breaks or vacations to fully disconnect and relax.

Set aside Time for Things You Want to Do

Although your motivation and enthusiasm might be lacking, engage in activities that you usually love. Focus on things that  promote relaxation and well-being, such as exercise, hobbies, or spending time in nature. And of course, ensure you’re getting enough sleep, eating well, and staying hydrated.

Communicate Your Needs

Because people can’t see what you’re going through with high functioning depression and anxiety, make sure to communicate. Inform your employer or loved ones if you need time off or a lighter workload. There’s nothing wrong with being honest about your limitations and seeking support when necessary.

Seek Professional Help

As mentioned above, “high functioning” does not mean that the symptoms are less severe. No matter what kind of anxiety or depression, therapy is a great resource for improving well-being. If you find yourself struggling to manage your symptoms, consider consulting a therapist or counselor. There are plenty of options out there, ranging from infrequent counseling sessions to medication options.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to have a mental health condition to benefit from seeing a therapist. Recognizing the need for a break, no matter your state of mind, and taking proactive steps to address your mental health can help prevent burnout and maintain your overall well-being.

Books That Help Manage High Functioning Depression and Anxiety

The cover of the book Joy from Fear.

Joy from Fear

The cover of the book Stressed Out! For Parents

Stressed Out! For Parents

The cover of the mini book Happiful.


Shaelyn Topolovec earned a BA in editing and publishing from BYU, worked on several online publications, and joined the Familius family. Shae is currently an editor and copywriter who lives in California’s Central Valley.

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