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November 26, 2021

High-Functioning Anxiety

Millions of people worldwide live with anxiety, a mental health challenge characterized by irrational worries, hypervigilance, irritability, trouble concentrating and feelings of impending doom. In extreme circumstances, anxiety can be crippling, trapping sufferers in a vicious cycle of fear and avoidance. 

However, some people with high-functioning anxiety may outwardly appear to have it all together – to be successful, motivated and driven in their personal and professional lives. As a result, they can keep their anxiety hidden from the world, continuing to manage their daily responsibilities.

What are some typical features of high-functioning anxiety?

1. Perfectionism

If you have high-functioning anxiety, you may obsess over tiny details of your interactions with others, picking apart everything you say or do in an average day. Even if others compliment you or you get high marks on performance reviews, you may still feel inadequate or believe you could do more. 

2. Overthinking

Anxiety can cause you to second-guess your decisions, even long after making them. You might also overanalyze other people’s behaviors, worrying that they think less of you even if they have always been friendly and polite. 

3. Inability to Relax

People with high-functioning anxiety struggle to stop and smell the roses. They have trouble living in the moment because they are always worrying about the past or fretting about future events that may never come to pass. Even when things are going well, your anxiety may make you feel like disaster is looming around the next corner, leaving you on edge. 

4. Unhealthy Boundaries

An overarching fear of failure or unwillingness to be honest about your genuine feelings might compel you to accept every request that comes your way, no matter how time-consuming, challenging or complex it is. Discomfort with expressing your emotions can also make you avoid confrontation in case it affects others’ opinion of you. If you never say no, your ability to set healthy boundaries will suffer. 

5. Unconscious Habits

Anxiety can manifest physically in a range of automatic tics such as nail biting, knuckle cracking, lip chewing or hair pulling. Your sleeping and eating patterns may also be erratic, resulting in insomnia or weight fluctuations. 

What Causes High-Functioning Anxiety?

Often, the underlying causes of anxiety trace back to past traumas, or relate to innate personality traits that have been with you since early childhood. You may also have a family history of anxiety, depression or other mental health challenges. In some cases, people can develop high-functioning anxiety in response to demanding careers such as those in the military, legal, medical or hospitality fields. 

How to Seek Help for High-Functioning Anxiety

Outwardly, people living with high-functioning anxiety may seem confident, but inside, they struggle with low self-esteem. They work to make up for their insecurities by continually challenging themselves to do better or to please others. Unfortunately, this constant push will eventually lead you to set unattainable goals, and failing to reach them will reinforce your persistent feelings of stress and inadequacy.

Like many other mental illnesses, anxiety disorders exist on a spectrum. Symptoms affect people differently and may vary in severity from one day to the next. Still, if your anxiety is interfering with your quality of life or causing you to make unhealthy choices, see your general practitioner or a therapist. Health professionals can ask you questions to determine the extent of your anxiety and the degree to which it’s affecting you. They can also perform screenings to rule out other illnesses. 

Addiction Recovery in Florida

If you have been self-medicating your anxiety symptoms with alcohol or drugs, your mental health will gradually worsen alongside a growing substance use disorder. However, with compassionate, customized, evidence-based treatment, you can start your journey to recovery and health. To learn more about addiction and address the root of your high-functioning anxiety, please reach out to our admissions counselors today.