High Functioning Anxiety

All Your Questions About High Functioning Anxiety

All Your Questions About High Functioning Anxiety


Did you know that high functioning anxiety isn’t officially a diagnosable condition? This is because it can be so subtle, and yet not as debilitating as anxiety disorders. As such, there is very little research on the subject compared to general anxiety disorders.

High functioning anxiety is also different from diagnosed anxiety disorders because there is very little acute biological response. Their palms aren’t getting sweaty, no significant increase in heart rate, no dizziness, and yet the chronic stress can definitely make a physical impact through lack of sleep and overworking. 

High functioning anxiety refers to the fact that people with this condition usually appear outwardly successful, calm or put together, though inside they are suffering. They are “functioning” at a “high level” despite how they feel inside.


What Does It Look Like?

To someone on the outside, people with high functioning anxiety are hyper successful, driven and organized. They may be perceived as being stoic or unemotional, even cold, or abrupt. On the flipside, they can be very outgoing and passionate about what they do. 

When people have diagnosed anxiety disorders, they are frozen by fear. This is the more typical media representation of anxiety. People who can’t leave their homes because they are so afraid, or break down and have panic attacks when triggered, or who even need medication in order to cope with day to day life. 

The high achievement, organization and attention to detail with the elusive high functioning anxiety makes it hard to see that anything is wrong at all. In fact, the high functioning anxiety sufferer may appear to be thriving. 


What Does It Feel Like?

For the person dealing with high functioning anxiety, it’s a different story. On the inside, they feel a constant churning of anxiety, usually related to feelings of perfectionism, overthinking and need for approval. 

  • Fear of failure
  • Need to be liked
  • Need for approval
  • Rumination, racing thoughts
  • Obsession over the most minor details
  • Unwilling to be vulnerable, a fear of vulnerability
  • Fear of seeming stupid or uneducated
  • Inability to enjoy the present moment
  • Insomnia


What Causes Anxiety?

Even with diagnosable anxiety disorders, uncovering the cause can be a long, mysterious process. Sometimes, there may not even be an obvious cause, rather a complex synergy of many factors. 

Factors could be environmental, genetic, the result of a trauma or brain injury: there are so many potential factors even for diagnosable anxiety disorders, so the elusiveness of high functioning anxiety is even tougher to pin down. It may be possible to identify triggers for your anxiety, even if you never uncover how it began in the first place. 


The Downside of High Functioning Anxiety

High functioning anxiety can have numerous adverse effects in your life and on your health. Including:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Chronic stress
  • You may avoid eye contact
  • You may be a people pleaser 
  • A cycle of procrastination
  • The inability to say “no” even when you’re too busy or overwhelmed
  • Loyal to a fault
  • Never go beyond your comfort zone
  • Never show your feelings
  • May think your feelings are normal and never seek help because outwardly you’re successful
  • Living a life of denial, simply labeling yourself as a “workaholic” or “list-maker”
  • A reliance on substances to cope, such as alcohol, weed, caffeine or sleeping pills.


The Benefits of High Functioning Anxiety

Having high functioning anxiety isn’t all doom and gloo m however. Many studies have proven that those with a livable amount of anxiety are more driven, more organized and even have less accidents causing injury. Other benefits include:

  • Punctuality
  • Outgoing
  • Detail oriented
  • Helpful
  • Loyal
  • A good leader
  • A person of action
  • Focused 
  • Incredibly driven
  • More successful than non anxious peers

While these are all excellent qualities that clearly great for achieving success in your career and following your dreams, there are ways to find a healthier balance so you don’t have to put up with the negative aspects of your high functioning anxiety. 


How to Cope

It is worth noting that even if you feel like you have an undiagnosable condition like high functioning anxiety, if you feel overwhelmed or need help figuring out how to make your life easier you should seek out a therapist. 

We’re not just for crises, we can help you overcome anxiety, depression, and anything that is making life difficult by giving you the tools for coping and thriving. 

Some steps you can begin to take on your own include meditation to encourage stillness and stopping the cycle of rumination. 

Channeling anxious energy through exercise can be helpful, and avoiding caffeine may help with insomnia and feelings of anxiety. 

Proper sleep hygiene can increase your quality of life drastically. This means taking time to wind down at the end of the day, avoiding caffeine after lunch and no screen time an hour or two before bed. Try reading a fiction book, soothing yoga or sleep meditations to prepare your mind for rest. If you find you can’t fall asleep, try leaving your bedroom and reading somewhere else until tired again. 


If It Isn’t a Real Disorder, Is It All In My Head?

When your thoughts, habits and behaviors are impacting your quality of life negatively, then it doesn’t matter if there is an official definition or diagnosis. Something can still be done, and there is no need to suffer that deeply for success. 


Can a Therapist Still Help Me? 

Therapists don’t just deal with diagnoses, we help you uncover the root of your high functioning anxiety and build a plan for coping with it to make your life as enjoyable as possible. We can help you harness the positive benefits of high functioning anxiety and minimize the negative aspects in a healthy way. 

If you think you are living with high functioning anxiety, know that you don’t need to struggle and can find help! It may be hard to admit you need help or aren’t “fine”, and overcoming your high functioning anxiety will certainly be worth it! 

If you have any questions, or for clients hoping to take their intimate lives to the next level through personalized sessions on YOUR terms, learn more about our Text Therapy Program.

Life Coaching and Therapy (LCAT) is a relationship coaching and sex therapy practice that transforms our clients lives through our flexible, multi-technique approach and pleasure-skills training provided by systemically-trained and licensed therapists! 

Our team of compassionate, licensed therapists and certified sex therapists help Millennials and Baby Boomers alike who visit us for a variety of relationship, intimacy and sex problems. 

LCAT provides on-site appointments, as well as video chat and text therapy programs. 

Learn more about how LCAT can help improve your life at What We Do

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