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High Functioning Depression

5 Signs of High Functioning Depression in Immigrants

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I’m Dr. Judith, and my team and I at Manhattan Behavioral Medicine are on a mission to shed light on a lesser-known facet of mental health – High Functioning Depression (HFD) in immigrants. As a dedicated researcher and mental health advocate, I’ve made a large part of my life’s work to understand how this condition uniquely impacts immigrants, and the challenges they face in their pursuit of happiness and success in a new land.

My journey into this research is deeply personal. I immigrated to the US from Trinidad when I was just four years old. Growing up in a religious community, with my father serving as a pastor, sparked my interest in exploring the intersection of spirituality and science. Before I began practicing, I had the opportunity to travel to more than 30 countries, where I gained insight into how mental health is approached in different cultural and religious communities. This experience inspired me to work towards developing mental health treatments that are inclusive of diverse backgrounds and beliefs.

High Functioning Depression is a condition that can affect anyone, including immigrants facing the challenges of adjusting to a new country and culture. For immigrants, the pressure to succeed and provide for their families while adapting to a different environment can be overwhelming. High-functioning depression may manifest as persistent feelings of sadness, exhaustion, and self-doubt, but individuals often mask these symptoms to meet their responsibilities and societal expectations.

In my research of HFD, I’ve found that immigrants often don’t feel worthy of joy, so they sacrifice their own happiness for others and may even give away resources instead of enjoying them. These individuals may exhibit unique signs of HFD, such as:

1. Sending Money Back Home Despite Financial Struggles: Immigrants often feel a strong sense of responsibility to support their families in their home countries. Even when facing financial difficulties in their host country, they may continue to send money back home, sometimes at the expense of their own well-being.

2. Excessive Packing for Home: Immigrants may find themselves packing excessively to take items back to their home countries, even if it becomes a logistical burden. This could reflect a deep-seated need to maintain connections with their roots and a fear of losing their cultural identity.

3. Overcommitting to Translate and Advocate: Immigrants often take on the role of family translator and advocate, attending numerous appointments and meetings on behalf of family members who may not speak the language. This added responsibility can lead to burnout and emotional strain.

4. Being the Go-To Emergency Contact: Immigrants, especially those who have been in the host country for a longer time, often become the go-to emergency contact for their families and communities. They are expected to navigate complex systems, such as healthcare or legal matters, which can be emotionally taxing.

5. Pursuing Multiple Academic Degrees: The pressure to seize opportunities and achieve success in their host country can lead immigrants to pursue multiple academic degrees. This pursuit may not be driven by personal passion but rather by the weight of expectations from family members who may never have had such opportunities.

These signs illustrate the unique ways High Functioning Depression can affect immigrants, often driven by the complex interplay of cultural, familial, and societal pressures. It’s essential to recognize these signs and offer support to those silently wrestling with these challenges.

I’m committed to providing insights into HFD in immigrants and finding ways to address it effectively, bridging the gap between mental health science and the diverse communities we serve. Together, we can create a more inclusive and empathetic world for immigrants and everyone facing the silent struggles of High Functioning Depression.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational purposes only and does not replace professional medical advice. Always consult a qualified healthcare provider for personalized guidance. Dr. Judith Joseph does not endorse specific products or treatments mentioned in this content. Use this information at your own discretion.


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