You arrive to work early every day. Your co-workers describe you as hard-working, detail oriented, and always professional. You are the person that has it all together. When the boss asks how you are doing, you always reply “I’m fine or I’m great”. Or you are the person that always has to win, pushes their body to the extreme when working out, or always presents themselves as the picture of success. Yet on the inside, you worry constantly, feel stressed, overwhelmed, and anxious. If this description sounds familiar, you may be experiencing some of the signs and symptoms of high-functioning anxiety.
The reality is you are not the only one. Experiencing anxiety disorders and anxious feelings is common. According to The National Institute of Mental Health, up to 31.1% of American adults have experienced an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. While high-functioning anxiety does not meet the requirements for an anxiety disorder, it can still have an impact on a person’s life and can require the help of a mental health professional.
What is High-Functioning Anxiety?
High-functioning anxiety is similar to an anxiety disorder but does not meet the criteria for an actual diagnosis. High-functioning anxiety can be a less extreme form of anxiety disorder, but still impacts a person’s life. High-functioning anxiety is when someone has anxiety symptoms, but still manages to function relatively well in their daily lives. While from the outside the person struggling with high-functioning anxiety looks like they have everything together, on the inside that is not the case. On the inside, this person may feel burned out, be driven to perform by anxious feelings, or exhausted.
In a culture where presenting your best self is valued, it is more difficult to admit when you are struggling with these symptoms. This may mean that a person struggling appears to be the perfect employee, the “yes” person, and the one everyone can depend on to get the job done. The signs and symptoms of high-functioning anxiety are often praised as desirable qualities by others in overachievers. The truth for the individual struggling is that they are being driven to achieve by their feelings of anxiety.
Signs and Symptoms of High-Functioning Anxiety?
While a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder may be easier to determine because the signs and symptoms can be more visible or extreme, detecting high-functioning anxiety can be more difficult. This is due to the fact that the signs and symptoms of high-functioning anxiety can be hidden under the guise of “I am fine, I know what I am doing”. High-functioning anxiety can be hidden, brief, mild, reoccurring, or even more moderate to extreme.
Signs and symptoms you may be struggling with high-functioning anxiety may include:
- Being an overachiever
- Poor sleep/Insomnia
- Decision fatigue-feeling tired after too many decisions
- Perfectionism-fear of failure
- Poor boundaries-unable to say “no”
- People pleasing
- Chronic physical fatigue
- Fidgeting (pen tapping, hair twirling, nail biting)
- Inability to relax-needing to keep busy all the time
- Changes in appetite/Digestive issues
- Elevated heart rate
- Faster breathing
- Anxiety before certain events (before that big meeting at work)
What Causes High-Functioning Anxiety?
There is not a consensus from experts on what exactly causes high-functioning anxiety. This is due in part to lack of research on high-functioning anxiety itself. High-functioning anxiety may be the way anxiety disorders begin to present in people.
Some potential causes of high-functioning anxiety may be:
- Exposure to stress
- Drug and alcohol usage
- Other underlying, undiagnosed health issues
- Individual personality traits-shyness or nervousness
- Genetics-if there is a family history of anxiety or other mental health disorders
How Can I Cope With High-Functioning Anxiety?
If these signs and symptoms seem familiar and like something you are struggling with, then you may need some help dealing with high-functioning anxiety. Not facing feelings of anxiety can lead to other issues arising later, like depression. To avoid other mental health issues from arising alongside high-functioning anxiety, facing these feelings can be helpful.
Some of the ways you can cope with high-functioning anxiety include:
- Self-care-an attitude of self-awareness/self-reflection
- Meditation/deep breathing exercises
- Practicing gratitude-keeping a list of things you are grateful for
- Recognizing thoughts are just thoughts
- Getting help from a mental health professional
Seeking Help From a Mental Health Professional
While deciding to cope with high-functioning anxiety by yourself may be helpful initially, you may also need to seek some help from a mental health professional. This can be especially difficult for individuals struggling as they think they can “do it on their own” or “I don’t need any help, I’m fine”. No one should have to suffer in silence. Seeking help from a mental health professional can be very beneficial for someone experiencing high-functioning anxiety.
Some signs you may need to seek additional support from a mental health professional include:
- Anxiety is affecting your health or relationships
- Using alcohol or drugs to manage your feelings of anxiety
- Other symptoms are arising-like depression
- Unable to control feelings of anxiety
- Feeling significant distress due to anxiety
Intervening early may also prevent further mental conditions like depression from arising.
Anxiety Treatment in Colorado
High-functioning anxiety can be treated. You do not have to struggle alone. Make yourself a priority and seek the support you need by calling us right now. At Continuum Recovery Center of Colorado, we can help you overcome your battles with anxiety.