High functioning anxiety is not a recognized mental health diagnosis but it can be used to describe people who live with anxiety but also live reasonably well, in different aspects of their life.
If you have high functioning anxiety, you probably notice that your anxiety propels you forward rather than leaves you frozen in fear.
On the surface, you appear to be successful, together, and calm, however, the way you feel on the inside may be very different.
What It Looks Like
Someone with high functioning anxiety may appear successful on the outside but that isn’t the whole story.
Coworkers may describe you as driven, efficient, capable and organised. What others might not know (and what you would never share) is that beneath the veneer of a seemingly perfect exterior, you're fighting a constant churn of anxiety.
It may have been nervous energy or a fear of failing that drove you to success. You may also find it hard to tell anyone that something is wrong, you will just soldier on.
If these characteristics sound familiar, here's a look at what you might experience or what others might observe of you if you have high functioning anxiety.
There are potential benefits of high functioning anxiety, which is demonstrated by the way you may appear very successful in work and life. This may be objectively true if you only evaluate yourself based on what you achieve.
Characteristics of people with high functioning anxiety that are often thought of as positive include outgoing personality, punctual, organised, tidy, high achieving, helpful and passionate.
In the case of high functioning anxiety, a struggle often lies beneath that veil of success for the sufferer. The anxiety you feel about your success inevitably must come out. These symptoms can cause a great deal of stress for the person suffering from the anxiety.
People don't know always know that these actions are caused by anxiety.
Despite being regarded as "high functioning," you may experience the following struggles in your day to day life.
Being a People pleaser
Talking a lot, nervous "chatter"
Need to do repetitive things
Need for reassurance
Dwelling on negative thoughts
An Inability to say No
Insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or waking early and being unable to fall back asleep)
The tendency to compare yourself to others (falling short of expectations)
A high-functioning person is often regarded as an overachiever but this overlooks the underlying anxiety that is being experienced to achieve that level of success.
You may find that your actions are dictated by your anxiety. You likely choose activities that calm your racing thoughts rather than pursuing other activities
If you have high functioning anxiety, you've likely become adept at presenting a false persona to the world and never show your true feelings to anyone and this can result in frustration and more anxiety from living an authentic lives.
There is help out there for people who are dealing with any form of anxiety, including high functioning forms. However, certain characteristics of high functioning anxiety may have prevented you from seeking help.
Some possible reasons you might not have sought help for high functioning anxiety could include being worried your work will suffer if you’re not working as hard, perceiving that your anxiety struggles are normal, you may be scared to ask for help and you might believe that you wouldn’t receive support as people would be surprised that you’re struggling with anxiety. Many people have a pre conceived idea of anxiety and what an anxious person looks like and it doesn’t always look like a supposedly successful person.
When you feel isolated and alone, it's harder to reach out to others. As more people talk about and identify with having "high functioning" anxiety, it could become easier for people to seek help. Rather than view anxiety as being a weakness, reducing stigma has allowed society to highlight when people with anxiety are able to live full and productive lives and realise that we all need a level of anxiety in life. It only becomes a problem when it takes our lives over.
If you've never been diagnosed with a mental illness such as anxiety but you identify with the symptoms or characteristics, talk to your doctor. A medical professional you trust can provide support and give you a referral to be assessed by a mental health professional. Hypnotherapy and Counselling can both be applied to Anxiety with good results.
Many people with anxiety find that using a combination of treatments best helps them manage their symptoms, including medical treatments, therapy and lifestyle changes.
Whether you've already sought professional help or are still in the process, here are some tips you can try on your own to reduce anxiety
Commit to spending 10 minutes a day working on your mental health.
Before you do any cognitive work (changing your thoughts), look at lifestyle changes such as limiting caffeine and alcohol, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise.
Sleep is important too, such as sticking to a regular bedtime, and not staying in bed if your mind is racing. Instead, get up and do something else until you feel tired
Look at some of your thought patterns and try to change any negative automatic thoughts
When you notice a negative thought, try countering it with something more realistic or positive.
Find coping strategies for nervous habits such as biting your lip or chewing your nails. Practicing deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation can help control tension.
Learn how to use a competing response to address your nervous habits. This technique has you perform an action that is incompatible with the nervous habit—such as chewing gum to keep you from biting your lip.
Ask yourself why you hold on to your anxiety and think about what anxiety gives you?
These are real concerns that you will need to address as you work on reducing the effect your anxiety has on your life. This will involve refuting the belief that you can't accomplish things without your anxiety and embracing a new way of thinking, a more authentic less anxious way of thinking.