How to Treat High-Functioning Anxiety?

Some people just seem to have it all. They arrive first at the office early in the morning, always looking trim, friendly, and ready to conquer the world. They have a perfect plan, a seemingly ideal family, a well-functioning social circle, and a managing position with way too many responsibilities they somehow cope with. Sounds like the dream life for many, right?


You’ll probably be surprised to know that the overachiever’s inner world rarely matches their outer appearance and behavior. The person who excels at work and life is, in fact, the most probable high-functioning anxiety sufferer. And today, we are opening the discussion on how not every type of anxiety looks and feels the same.


What Is High-Functioning Anxiety?


Unlike generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorders, or phobias, high-functioning anxiety is not a recognized mental health diagnosis. It can often go completely unnoticed because people with high-functioning anxiety seem to do pretty well in life. Better than most people, actually.


Unfortunately, that outer glow is often in sharp contrast with how those people feel. High-functioning anxiety is characterized by almost ceaseless inner tension. Some describe feelings of worry, ongoing stress, and obsessive thoughts, while others have sleep disorders, restlessness, and irritability.


There is limited research and basically no reliable data on how many people in the world suffer from high-functioning anxiety. The first reason is probably that they simply don’t seem like they suffer. And the second reason is that scientists have been investigating the issue for way too short a time to present reliable statistics.


Do I Have High-Functioning Anxiety?


High-functioning anxiety is often overlooked and simplified with the brief “that’s just me” explanation. What’s more – that type of inner restlessness, agitation, and a strange feeling of disturbed excitement is frequently perceived as the main reason for the person actually to excel at life.


There is still no reliable high-functioning anxiety test approved by psychology experts, but there are several signs you can notice and analyze. If you are highly organized, competitive, ambitious, and impatient, you’ll probably need to read on. If you’re kind of obsessed with productivity and time management, if you have skyrocketing standards for yourself and others, and if you always need to be busy and see self-care activities as a waste of potential… We might have some food for thought for you.


If you ask the social circle of a person with high-functioning anxiety, they will describe them as a confident, reliable, and usually very smart acquaintance. If people see you that way, but you don’t really feel that way at all – you are most probably living with high-functioning anxiety without even realizing it.


buried in anxiety

7 Signs of High-Functioning Anxiety


Described briefly, the most common high-functioning anxiety signs are as follows:


  • You are proactive, organized, and detail-oriented. As a result, you usually achieve a lot in whatever you undertake, and you do it passionately, sometimes clearly ignoring your work-life balance.
  • You have insanely high standards in your professional and personal life. Yet, you can remain stoically loyal to a fault while still feeling intimidated by the large gap between you and the people you surround yourself with, thus becoming unemotional and cold in the long run.
  • Your mind is always racing, and you can’t even process your own thoughts at all times. You can talk a lot, be totally restless, have nervous habits such as biting your nails and even engage in alcohol or substance abuse as an unhealthy coping mechanism.
  • You usually can’t enjoy the moment and simply relax. Instead, you are either anxiously planning for the future, nostalgically dwelling on the past, or merely feeling guilty that you’re “wasting time” instead of getting something done.
  • You often overthink and procrastinate, after which you destroy yourself with crunch-time work and deadline-driven overtime hours. You overanalyze and sometimes fail your future plans and ambitions, waiting for things to get perfect.
  • You find it hard to say no and perceive every request as a challenge you can’t turn down. As a result, you have a rather unhealthy schedule and sometimes limited social and intimate life.
  • You experience physical and psychosomatic symptoms such as sleep disturbances, fatigue, muscle tension, and sometimes even a tingling sensation in the area of your head, shoulders, or arms.


Last but not least, some experts argue that a high IQ is also closely connected with high-functioning anxiety. In fact, a 2005 study found that financial managers with high anxiety levels made the best money managers as long as they also had a high IQ.


Is It Normal to Have High-Functioning Anxiety?


Though not an official mental health disorder, high-functioning anxiety is definitely not the optimal state of mind. Furthermore, if the condition goes untreated, it can easily progress into a generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive behavior, or depression.


Suppose you spot and recognize a tendency toward the behavior described above. In that case, you are highly advised to consult a mental health professional and address the issue before it escalates beyond your control.


anxious at work

How to Deal With High-Functioning Anxiety?


The high-functioning anxiety treatment is very similar to the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. It can include therapy, prescription medications, or a combination of both.


Of course, reaching out to a certified mental health practitioner is always the best thing you can do. But still, there are different tips you can try in the meantime in order to manage the difficulties caused by high-functioning anxiety.


Some techniques you can try to implement into your everyday routine include:


  • Build a self-care routine that circles around relaxation, mindfulness, and rest. Take 10 minutes a day to practice meditation or other mental health techniques to teach your mind and body how to simply do nothing.
  • Reflect and work on your thought patterns. Try to limit pessimistic predictions, competitiveness, and assumptions that you will let yourself (or somebody else) down by taking your personal time off.
  • Try to maintain a regular sleeping pattern. Sleep deprivation will gradually worsen your anxiety, and taking eight hours of sleep during the night will balance your stress hormones on an entirely physical level.
  • Mind your lifestyle. Little details can change a lot, so begin with limiting your caffeine intake, eating more fresh and raw food, and exercising at least two times a week outdoors, if not more.
  • Practice healthy egoism. Learn how to say no to things you don’t want to do, delegate responsibilities, and don’t overthink for years before you leave unsatisfying relationships that drag you down emotionally.


Finally, get ready to let your high-functioning anxiety go. You will be the same person with the same qualities even when your unhealthy overachiever mentality is far gone. With just one essential difference – you will have replaced anxiety with calmness and peace.

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