What Is High Functioning Anxiety and Why You Deserve Help

high functioning anxiety

high functioning anxiety

There are many different types of anxiety. And within each of them, you can exist on a spectrum in terms of the different ways that it affects you. Many people with high functioning anxiety don’t even realize that they deserve help to reduce the impact of this condition in their lives. However, you do. No one should have to live with the stress that anxiety brings. So, let’s explore what this condition is and why it deserves all of the help that you can get.

What Is High Functioning Anxiety?

High functioning anxiety is a term that people in society use to describe when someone experiences anxiety and yet manages to function well in the world most of the time despite those symptoms.

It Is Not a Diagnosis

Important Note: high functioning anxiety is not a diagnosis. There are different anxiety disorders such as social anxiety, separation anxiety, and phobias. There’s no diagnosis for high functioning anxiety. It’s a term used by people throughout our society, but it’s not a medical diagnosis.

One of the reasons that it’s not a diagnosis, per se, is that mental health diagnosis often requires the component that the condition significantly impairs one or more areas of your life. For example, everyone lives with some anxious feelings some of the time. It becomes a problem when those feelings interfere with your ability to work, attend school, have healthy relationships, take care of your physical health, etc. People with high-functioning anxiety often “perform” well and therefore aren’t diagnosed with anxiety.

how are you really

People Often Function Well Despite Mental Health Conditions

Anxiety isn’t the only condition that can present as “high functioning.” People with all different types of mental health conditions can have a range of symptoms. Moreover, they can present in different ways. High-functioning just means that you’re holding it all together well enough that you get done the things that you need to get done. However, you still continue to suffer from the symptoms of the condition. Often, people eventually do reach a breaking point where functioning becomes harder and harder.

What Does “Functioning” Even Mean?

Here’s where we get into why this term is problematic. Functioning isn’t living. However, in our society, functioning is not only equated with living but often equated with success. If you’re able to “keep it together” in order to do your job, get your kids to their activities, meet social obligations, etc. then you’re seen as not just functioning but doing well. But do you just want to function in life? Or do you want to thrive, experience a range of emotions, have joy in your daily life? Just because you’re functioning doesn’t mean you aren’t suffering. Do you want to survive or do you want to thrive?

productivity guilt

Society Rewards High-Functioning Anxiety

Unfortunately the very things that make anxiety challenging for the individual often lead to rewards in our society. Americans often define their value and self worth by all that they get done in a day, the way that they rise in the work place, the money they earn. Even if these things don’t align with your values, it’s hard to escape that messaging.

Oftentimes, the very things that we do because of high functioning anxiety reap that positive societal feedback. For example, many people with anxiety are perfectionists who will work extra hard, extra long hours in order to try to make something perfect before they present it. Schools and workplaces reward this. But underneath, the individual is suffering.

Suffering and Symptoms of High Functioning Anxiety

Just because you look like you’re doing great on the outside doesn’t mean that you’re not suffering. Some of the symptoms of high functioning anxiety include:

  • Constant worry; you’re always thinking about the worst case scenario and trying to plan for disaster
  • Constant fear; you’re afraid that you won’t get the thing done, it won’t be enough, you’re not going to survive this
  • Inability to flow with change; you over-plan and over-schedule in an attempt to control the anxiety. However, life always throws curveballs and you find it difficult to adapt.
  • Procrastination; yes, you eventually do get all of the things done. However, you’re so worried that they aren’t going to be perfect that you put off doing them as long as possible. This creates constant stress, self-denigration, and worry.
  • Restlessness; you can’t slow down, let alone stop. You don’t know how to rest, relax, be in the moment. You can’t sleep, and you suffer the effects of insomnia.

Because our society rends to reward high-functioning anxiety, you might not even really realize that these are problematic symptoms. Oftentimes, people first realize that they’re suffering from the physical effects of anxiety which include muscle tension, headaches, stomach and digestive issues, racing heart and rapid breathing, and fatigue with an inability to sleep. Long-term anxiety can lead to stress-related conditions such as heart disease.

you deserve better

Why You Deserve Help for High Functioning Anxiety

The larger society might tell you that there’s no problem here. You’re doing great! Look at all that you’re getting done in the world. However, you know better, deep in your gut. You know that you’re suffering, that things are off, that you’re living with constant worry and stress and the feeling that you’re one step away from all of it falling apart.

Everyone who suffers from anxiety deserves to get help. Unfortunately, people with high functioning anxiety often don’t think they deserve that help. We are very hard on ourselves. We think, “so many other people have it worse.” Because society tells us we’re doing great, we think it’s petty and self-indulgent to get help. Additionally, we fear what getting help means; after all, who are you if you’re not working hard all of the time? Moreover, you might think, “I can’t afford to stop all that I’m doing and slow down.”

For that reason, people with high functioning anxiety might actually need more help and support that people with completely debilitating anxiety. Society supports the idea of therapy for people who aren’t functioning much more so than for people who want to change their lives in a way that supports slowing down. But you deserve peace. You don’t have to suffer from constant worry, fear, rumination, self-pressure. There’s another way.

What’s Next?

And yes, you can still “be productive” after getting help to reduce your anxiety. In fact, you will be in a better position because you’ll know what you truly want in life and can go after it with more peace, joy, and internal motivation.

Therapy can assist you in understanding high functioning anxiety and finding a new way of thinking and being that works better for you. Search our therapist directory to find a therapist or contact us today for more information.

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