High-functioning anxiety is not a recognized mental health diagnosis. Instead, it’s a generic term that describes people who have anxiety and are able to function in several areas of their lives.
You may notice that high-functioning anxiety causes you to move forward instead of causing you to fear.
On the surface, you appear to be successful, together, and calm—the typical Type A personality who excels at work and life. But the truth is that you may feel very different inside.
Signs Of High-Functioning Anxiety
High-functioning anxiety can make someone a picture of success. You may arrive at work earlier than others, dressed in a professional manner, and your hair styled neatly.
Your coworkers might say that you are focused on your work. They may also point out that you have never missed a deadline or failed to complete a task. You are always ready to help others, and that’s not all. Your social life seems full and busy.
You are fighting an anxiety-related constant churn that others cannot see and what you wouldn’t want to share with them.
It may have been fear of failure, nervous energy, and being scared of disappointing people that drove you to success.
Even though you need to take a day off to regroup, you are too scared to use a sick day. Because you have always portrayed yourself as fine, nobody would believe something is wrong.
People with high-functioning anxiety care deeply about the opinions of others, which can have a negative impact on their relationships. They seek approval in general but can become frustrated, angry, or distant if they feel abandoned, disrespected, or taken for granted.
Some characteristics that are common to high-anxiety sufferers in their relationships include:
- An inability to express emotions and emotional openness. Anxiety sufferers are often uncomfortable expressing their true feelings. They fear being judged and feel guilty about their inability to manage situations without worrying or anxiety.
- There is a desire to please and an inability to say no. High-functioning anxious men and women seek affirmation and love from their loved ones. They may become overly accommodating or neglectful of their needs in order to win their approval.
- Occasional need for isolation. Anxiety sufferers sometimes need to be alone to take a break and relax. Sometimes, loved ones might misinterpret anxiety sufferers’ absences as a sign they have done something wrong. However, anxiety is hard to bear, and those with high-functioning anxiety may need some space.
- Moodiness or irritability. High-functioning anxious people are often unhappy with their lives, leading to irritability. They might also experience depression.
- High level of sensitivity. High-functioning anxiety people are sensitive to criticisms and slights, even though they don’t feel it.
People with high-functioning anxiety often feel uncomfortable and unappreciated, despite their love for their loved ones. Their insecurity can get in the way of their happiness and their loved ones feeling happy.
People with anxiety problems may have difficulty extending their networks beyond their immediate family circle. They might feel more isolated as a result.
How To Get A “High-Functioning” Anxiety Diagnosis?
Although there is not much research available on high-functioning anxiety, we know that an optimal level (not too low or high) drives performance (the Yerkes-Dodson Law).
Based on this concept, your ability to function at a higher level might be increased if you had a mild to moderate level of anxiety (as opposed to severe anxiety).
Anxiety may also be affected by IQ. According to a 2005 study, financial managers who had high anxiety levels were the most successful money managers, provided they also had a high IQ.
High-functioning anxiety is evident in the successes and outcomes that you and others observe. You may seem very successful at work or in life. However, if you judge yourself solely on what you accomplish, this may be true.
High-functioning anxiety is often referred to as a positive aspect of a person.
- Outgoing personality (happy and tells jokes, smiles, and laughs).
- Punctual (arrive early to make appointments).
- Be proactive (plan for all possible outcomes)
- Organized (keep a calendar or make lists)
- Tidy and orderly
- It’s helpful
- He appears calm and collected in the public
- Loyalty in relationships
- Negative Characteristics
High functioning anxiety often hides a struggle beneath the success. However, your anxiety about your success must undoubtedly be exposed.
These actions can be caused by anxiety, but people don’t always realize it. As a result, they may mistakenly view them as part of you.
Even though you are considered “high functioning,” you might experience the following difficulties in your daily life.
- “People pleasers”: Fear of driving people away; fear of being a bad spouse, friend, or employee; fear of letting other people down.
- Talking a lot, worrying “chatter.”
- Nervous behaviors (playing with your hair and cracking your knuckles or biting your lips)
- You will need to do repetitive tasks (e.g., counting stairs or rocking back and forth).
- Don’t arrive too early to appointments, and you lose your time.
- You may need reassurance by asking for directions several times or checking in on others often.
- Procrastination is followed by prolonged periods of crunch time work.
- Avoid eye contact
- Rumination and a tendency for dwelling on the negative (“What If?” Thoughts and dwelling on past errors.
- Inability to say no, constantly being busy, and having a full schedule.
- Insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or waking up early and not being able to fall asleep again)1
- Racing mind
- Others believe you are “difficult-to-read” (stoic and unemotional, cold).
- Limiting your social life (turning down invites)
- Ability to not “enjoy” the moment (failing to relax, be present, and enjoy the moment or anticipate the worst)
- Fear of the future
- Comparisons with others can lead to disappointment.
- Physical and mental fatigue
- Loyalty in relationships is a problem.
- Possibility of alcohol and substance abuse as an unhealthy coping strategy
- High-functioning people are often seen as being overachievers. But, this is a shortsighted perception that fails to consider the effort (and anxiety) necessary to reach that level of success.
- You might accomplish essential tasks, such as housekeeping and work, but you feel like your life is restricted in other ways. For example, you don’t do much outside of your comfort zone.
- Your anxiety is likely to dictate your actions. Your anxiety will likely dictate your actions. You may choose to calm your racing thoughts over pursuing activities that you enjoy or expand your horizons.
- High functioning anxiety can lead to a distorted persona and a failure to express your true feelings.
- Instead, you hold it all inside and make a plan to deal later with them. But later never comes.
Talk to your doctor if you’ve never been diagnosed with a mental illness such as anxiety, but you identify with the symptoms or characteristics. Trusted medical professionals can offer support and refer you to a mental health professional.
What Therapy Can Do to Treat Anxiety
There are many effective treatments for anxiety disorders such as social anxiety disorder (GAD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and other anxiety disorders.
Anxiety disorders can also be treated using cognitive-behavioral treatment (CBT), medication such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), or techniques like mindfulness training.
A combination of treatments can help anxiety sufferers manage their symptoms.
Anyone suffering from anxiety can find help, even if they are high functioning. However, you may not have been able to seek help due to high functioning anxiety.
You might not have sought treatment for high functioning anxiety.
- It’s a double-edged weapon, and you don’t want it to affect your success.
- If you don’t work hard because of fear, your work may suffer.
- It is possible to believe that just because you appear to be doing well (strictly from an objective perspective) does not mean you “need help” with your anxiety. Or that you don’t deserve help.
- It is possible to believe that everyone experiences the same struggles as you and normal. You might think that you are “bad” at managing life stress.
- Your internal struggles are not something you have ever shared with anyone, and your silence only reinforced the belief that you don’t need help.
- It is possible to believe that no one will support you, asking for help or seeking it, because they have never seen you struggle.
- For information about treatment and support in your local area, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 if you or someone you love is suffering from an anxiety disorder.
High-functioning anxious sufferers can turn things around quickly, which is a good thing. They can make changes in their thinking and behavior to bridge the gap between a healthy, happier lifestyle quickly.
People with anxiety disorders should seek help to manage their anxiety and restore their peace and freedom.
- Recognize the symptoms and how they affect you. It can be lessened when anxiety sufferers see it from a different perspective. The first step in overcoming anxiety is recognizing anxious reactions as unreasonable and illogical.
- Refrain from engaging in anxious thoughts. Refusing to acknowledge anxiety can make it worse. Anxiety sufferers who can recognize it and not give in to it can begin to take control of their reactions and actions.
- Overthinking is not a good idea. Anxiety sufferers often avoid following their instincts and talk themselves out of it. Anxiety sufferers shouldn’t be impulsive. However, if something feels right, they should do it or say it without reflection. Over time, this approach may become the norm.
- Embrace a healthy lifestyle. An anxiety sufferer can improve their self-esteem and calmness by eating a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise.
- Trustworthy confidantes are essential. Find trustworthy confidantes. This will help them share their feelings and thoughts openly with others without any restrictions. It can also prove that others accept them despite their imperfections and flaws. Even one person can help, and most people are happy to take that role.
- Keep in mind that small victories can lead to significant changes. People who have high functioning anxiety can already participate in the world, giving them many opportunities to win small victories in their battle to overcome fear. It is helpful to overcome anxiety. Over time, small victories will lead towards real and sustainable progress.
- Accept help and ask for it. Mental health professionals can help High-functioning anxiety sufferers to understand their anxiety and make changes in their lives. People with high-functioning anxiety are highly receptive to treatment. They can see significant improvements in their symptoms when they make a genuine effort to recover.
Many people have a particular image of anxiety. For example, you might imagine someone housebound or unable to work or who struggles with maintaining relationships.
It is not common to think of inner turmoil like anxiety as an internal struggle that needs to be considered a reason to seek treatment.
Anxiety can lead to a life of denial. Sometimes you might convince yourself that there’s nothing wrong with you–that you are just a workaholic or germaphobe, or list-maker.
We prefer to call it “high functioning anxiety” rather than just anxiety.
It is different than other anxiety types, and it can still affect a person’s daily life.
It’s difficult to connect with others when you feel alone and isolated. It may be easier to find help if more people identify with “high functioning anxiety.”
It may be helpful to think of anxiety in both positive and negative terms to help reduce stigma. To get things done in our lives, we all need to experience some anxiety.
Instead of viewing anxiety as a weakness, society has reduced stigma and highlighted the benefits that anxiety can bring to people’s lives.