Anxiety disorders themselves are extremely common, however high-functioning anxiety, is a type of anxiety condition that isn’t as well know. But, yet still affects a lot of individuals, many types of anxiety disorders share the same symptoms, however, there are a few that are based more on high-functioning anxiety in itself. It doesn’t mean that all anxiety disorders are the same, when the actual symptoms appear, how they actually come on, and how the person feels in general, determines how the anxiety disorder impacts the individual differently. 

What is high functioning anxiety?

High functioning anxiety is a specific type of anxiety condition, where those that suffer from it may experience symptoms that are associated with anxiety disorders. But, it may mean they don’t meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder in general. With this particular type of anxiety, it is common that the individual who has it can function well in their day-to-day lives, some of those that have it may be good at hiding their symptoms from others and may actually appear calm and confident. With the anxiety, it may actually give them the boost they need to be able to achieve rather than holding them back. With the term high functioning, it can mean that the mental health issue at hand, is something that seems to function mentally and physically at a higher level than others who have the same issue.

Positives vs Negatives

It is possible to actually have a load of benefits when it comes to high functioning anxiety and this can be seen in your successes in general. It can be being outgoing, happy, always making jokes, punctual, proactive, organised, tidy, always wanting to achieve, active, helpful, passionate, loyal in relationships, and appears calm and collected. Then, on the other hand, having it can be quite difficult and a big struggle. Being a ‘people pleaser’ always being worried you’re pushing people away, fear of being let down, talking in a very nervous manner, nervous habits (nail-biting, cracking knuckles), needing to repeat things, overthinking, needing reassurance constantly, procrastination, irritability, racing mind, limited social life, comparing yourself to other and mental and physical fatigue.

Symptoms

The symptoms for high functioning anxiety are very similar to anxiety in itself, but there are a few that are solidly based on high functioning. Some of them include feelings of worry and anxiety that ruin the attempt to relax, or they might actually appear when things seem to be going well. Perfectionism and having this feeling of constant dissatisfaction with performance. Overthinking and overanalysing everything, constantly second-guessing after the choices you make. Discomfort with emotional expression, not being able to discuss true feelings. Obsession with fear of failure and having a negative judgment from others, insomnia, difficulty saying no, getting frustrated easily.

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Causes

People that suffer from high-functioning anxiety are actually suffering from the fears that they generate internally that end up taking on a life of their own. The root of the anxiety itself can actually be linked to many different things. It can often be traced back to past experiences, or perhaps a certain personality trait. Some of the common causes can be to do with shyness in childhood, childhood abuse, exposure to traumatic events, demanding or highly critical parents, history of anxiety disorders and depression, long-term financial problems, and highly stressful jobs.

It can also be to do with personality in general, having that shyness or anxiousness in new situations, which can then increase the risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Having a lot of exposure to stress or any trauma can then trigger anxiety. Misuse of drugs and alcohol are also the main causes of concern when it comes to triggering anxiety as a whole. It can actually make you feel a lot more anxious when you’re in contact with drugs and alcohol and even though it may not seem like it can be a huge trigger for anxiety. If you’re already someone who is very anxious, it can make it a whole lot worse especially in social situations, causing you to be very panicky and not in a good place.

Treatment 

There is help out there for anyone that is suffering from anxiety, including high functioning. It’s so important to talk to a professional about how you’re feeling. Most anxiety disorders are treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) working on things such as misperceptions you may have about your abilities and self-worth, guilt or any embarrassment you may be feeling, tackling perfectionism, dealing with procrastination, worried that others are judging you. Psychotherapy, in general, is a great way to help with high-functioning anxiety, helping to purpose a treatment plan to help with different strategies and learning how to reduce symptoms.

Professionals can help by building up an understanding of the actual anxiety itself, making sure they provide education about the issue, teach new coping skills, promote the importance of self-care. Anti-anxiety medication could be given, working quickly to reduce anxiety effectively. Antidepressants are another that may be considered, helping modify the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. If you’re ready and willing to get the help, make sure to speak to a professional and someone you trust in general. Contact a friend or a loved one, a doctor, a therapist, or anyone else in the mental health sector.

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Self-help tips 

If you’ve sought professional help or are still in the process of it, then it’s good to know some daily tips that you can do in order to help yourself, to try and help reduce the anxiety you’re feeling. It can be good to be able to commit to spending at least ten minutes a day to work on your mental health, look at lifestyle, reducing caffeine, eating a healthier diet, getting regular exercise. A good sleep schedule, trying to think more positively in general, finding different coping strategies, practice breathing techniques.

When anxiety begins to flare up, think about what it actually is that is triggering you to feel that way and ensure that you try and do what you can to afford that. Rather than worrying about the past or the future, just try to live in the present moment. Get in a comfortable position, close your eyes and inhale slowly, continue to breathe deeply, and be present as you breathe. Focus on what you can change, many times anxiety even hyper-functioning can spike when you’re fearing what is to come. But, it’s important just to be able to focus on what you have control over and what you can change.

Do some chores, organising, engage in a creative activity, go for a walk or engage in another exercise, listen to music, meditate or read a good book or watch a funny movie. Recognise your symptoms, understand and acknowledge them. Learn to make friends with your fear, it’s something that none of us like to have and it can really affect your life massively. Any type of anxiety can’t be ignored or just pushed away, it’s sometimes a benefit to face fear head-on. Rather, than feeding it with more and more anxiety. Learn to reconnect with your body, living with high-functioning anxiety means that they tend to live in their heads and it can be hard to break that cycle. Make sure to have a support system and invest in self-care and be sure to try and not talk to yourself so negatively, instead take on that more positive thinking approach.

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Words: Karley Myall