How to Recognize and Manage High-Functioning Anxiety

Feeling a bit of anxiety every now and again is normal: you might get anxious before giving a speech, prior to a job interview, or as you’re getting ready for a first date. But for someone living with an anxiety disorder, those worries and fears are intensified to a point that it disrupts their everyday lives.

People living with high-functioning anxiety feel the same extreme emotions of others who have anxiety; however, they are often able to hide those emotions and power through to outwardly manage responsibilities in their life. They live at a high level with anxiety, to the point that it doesn’t impeded their abilities to carry out daily tasks, complete their jobs, or affect their interactions with others. And yet  they still have anxiety.

Their anxiety can serve as an energizer for them, driving them towards their goals. Some might even describe them as overachievers or type-A personalities. Instead of being frozen by their fears, they almost serve as a source of energy for them much like a surge of adrenaline would  which gives them the stamina they need to finish tasks and get through the day. Often, it’s only in private that their symptoms of anxiety emerge and they feel depleted and exhausted.

Some signs of high-functioning anxiety include:

Pervasive self-criticism

  • Excessive worry, fear, or guilt over past or future decisions
  • An Inability to slow down or to feel true joy
  • Declining social invitations with the excuse that work has been busy or stressful
  • Sleeping more or less
  • Reliance on coping mechanisms like excessive exercise, overeating, or overindulging in alcohol or illicit substances
  • Inability to create boundaries and say no
  • Overthinking, over talking, racing thoughts, irritability

According to studies, only about a third of those who have anxiety seek help and those numbers are even lower when it comes to people who experience high-functioning anxiety. In part because they might not even realize they have a problem. Eventually though they get to a point in their lives where they’re merely surviving rather than thriving and after time it affects their health, as there is a direct correlation between mental health and chronic illness.

Hidden Dangers of High Functioning Anxiety:

  • Cognition impairment
  • Memory
  • Ability to reason
  • Ability to make decisions
  • Chronic medical issues, including heart, respiratory, and gastrointestinal

If you suspect you might have high-functioning anxiety, the best way to manage it is to recognize and address it. There are many things you can do to handle your anxiety, including:

  • Talking to someone, whether that’s a life coach, therapist, or a trusted friend who understands what you’re going through
  • Starting and sticking to a daily exercise routine
  • Adult coloring books
  • Journaling/writing about it
  • Meditation
  • EFT tapping
  • Spending time with family and friends
  • Being consistent with your self-care
  • Setting boundaries with yourself and others, and holding yourself accountable to find balance in your life

Additional Resources:

Releasing Stress and Overwhelm with Tapping

7 Signs You Have Too Much Stress and What You Can Do About It

Mantras and Affirmations for Stressful Times