The "sneaky symptom" of depression that others struggle to understand

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Anna Brech

One of the major frustrations of suffering a mental illness - beyond the obvious trauma - is how difficult it is to describe to other people.

Because they are a product of the mind, symptoms tend to be elusive and unpredictable.

Seen from the outside, they defy all rational logic, and it’s not clear whether they’re a cause or an effect of the condition. 

Which is why one woman’s attempt to spotlight an illogical quirk of depression went viral recently.

Chicago-based author M. Molly Backes took to Twitter last week to describe what she calls “The Impossible Task”; a very real but often overlooked struggle for those who live with depression. 

In a series of incisive tweets, Backes captures the essence of what The Impossible Task feels like, and why it’s so hard to understand:

Backes’ simple, compassionate thread struck an immediate chord on Twitter, with thousands clamouring to join the discussion and share their own experiences of The Impossible Task. 

The writer said she was “overwhelmed and deeply gratified” by the outpouring of support and stories she’d received, adding “it has been beautiful to see you lifting each other up.”

The symptom Backes describes is known in medical terms as Executive Dysfunction and it’s not always a side-effect of depression; it can be associated with many different conditions.

For those suffering from it, she recommends being gentle with yourself, breaking tasks down and seeking professional help such as CBT therapy. 

And she warns people supporting their loved ones that those who grapple with The Impossible Task may be too embarrassed to ask for help: “That’s OK! In those cases, you can always leave the door open to future help and just love them fiercely in the meantime. “

If you suffer from depression or are concerned about a loved one, seek confidential support with the NHS or Mind

Images: Getty


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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.

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