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How To Deal With High Functioning Anxiety

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People with high functioning anxiety often appear to be in control and have a perfectionist lifestyle. But this is in fact just a facade. While they may appear as overachievers on the outside, they constantly battle feelings of unease, worry, and anxiety within.

It is characterized by restlessness, obsessive beliefs, irritability, difficulty saying no, insomnia, unconscious nervous habits, false disposition, inability to fully express personal feelings and emotions. High functioning anxiety is usually undetected and is overlooked, and may co-occur with other anxiety disorders.

What Is High Functioning Anxiety?

High functioning anxiety is neither a type of disorder nor a diagnosis and has an unknown prevalence rate. However, it may co-occur with other disorders and lead to psychiatric conditions when untreated and in excess level. It is mostly an anxious feeling that drives you to do more than you would normally do.

For someone with high functioning anxiety, you feel you have to accomplish so much for people to value you; you please others more; you overwork yourself; you are that person who gets everything done despite all odds, you like doing things to a perfectionist level. To others, you portray the attributes of someone who has got everything planned out, meanwhile you are constantly plagued by anxiety.

If you experience these or similar issues, then you are most likely suffering from high functioning anxiety. Many people misinterpret these signs as a natural symptom, while others think it is just anxiety. High functioning anxiety can have both negative and positive effects and, although required to an extent, it can become detrimental.

Most people suffering from this disorder think it helps them get the job done and increases their performance and productivity levels, they have notions that their value revolves around their achievements. They feel they won’t measure up to standards without these achievements. While this may appear to be the case since it acts as a propelling force, it actually has drastic effects.

You find it hard to say no; you are so afraid of failing and getting judged by others that you overwork yourself without considering health factors or taking a break. You also do not know when to draw the lines between being productive and taking up a workload that affects your physical, emotional, psychological, and mental health.

What Are The Signs Of High Functioning Anxiety

High functioning anxiety is characterized by symptoms that may appear as positive impacts, but are in fact, associated with underlying negative effects.


A common symptom of high function anxiety is overachievement. You May likely suffer from low self-esteem along with this sensation and feel you have to make up for it by doing so much and going beyond limits.


Are you so obsessed with success? Do you feel like your relevance is attached to your achievements? Do you have believe that people would appreciate you more because as you have something more to offer them? Individuals with high functioning anxiety have obsessive thoughts of success and acquiring more to validate their self-worth.

Difficulty saying no

Are you a people pleaser? Do you find it hard to decline extra work? Is it difficult for you to say no? Even when it is a responsibility that is harmful to your mental health? Most people with high functioning anxiety usually find it hard to say no, please and put others first.


Overthinking, over contemplating and over-analyzing every situation and its outcome can lead to difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. This is sometimes accompanied by restlessness and irritability.

False Disposition

Many sufferers of high functioning anxiety have this false outlook, they seem so happy, have an extra sunny disposition, make jokes and act like everything is so easy. While they may appear this way and tend to do well in their lives, they still have chronic inner battles with anxiety.

Nervous Habits

Unconsciously biting your fingernails, tapping your legs or fingers, playing with your hair, difficulty sitting still, hyperactivity, among others are bad habits associated with this anxiety.


Most people with this condition are perfectionists and workaholics. They are finicky and expect things to be perfect and organized. Perfectionists are always on time and see mistakes as evitable.

Other signs of this anxiety include:

  • Occasionally comparing yourself to others
  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms
  • Fatigue
  • Dwelling on negative what if’s
  • Easily intimidated
  • Inability to enjoy present moments
  • Shyness and nervous chatter.

What Are The Causes Of High Functioning Anxiety

High functioning anxiety has a variety of triggers as people suffering from this anxiety are sensitive to different things. Here are some common triggers:


Violence, abuse and trauma can cause sufferers to become overachieving primarily to avoid history from repeating itself. These experiences can be from childhood memories or traumatic events.

Demanding Situations

Certain life conditions can place you under a lot of pressure and require you to push yourself beyond limits. Constantly trying to meet up with these expectations can lead to high functioning anxiety.

Highly Tasking Jobs

Stressful jobs that put a strain on your mental, emotional and psychological health can also result in this anxiety.

Depression and personal history

History of depression or family history is also a risk factor of high functioning anxiety. Children with strict, disciplined parents or guardians are more likely to grow up to individuals with high functioning anxiety than others.

Low self-esteem

The need for validation from others and feeling like your self worth and value is tied to your accomplishments can result in you doing more than is requested of you, even when it has drastic effects on you.

Effects Of High Functioning Anxiety

While people with high functioning anxiety are mostly seen as overachievers, with a concentration on the sunny side of things. This anxiety also has a variety of impacts

Development of conditions

If you experience high functioning anxiety, you are most likely to suffer from some conditions which originate from focusing so much on achieving and ignoring other important aspects of your life. They can also result as coping methods, these are:

Eating disorders, either eating too much or too little which can lead to obesity or health issues.

Sleep disorder, sleep apnea and insomnia can occur from overthinking and worry.

Substance use, sometimes individuals use alcohol or drug use to cope with pressures which may lead to addiction.


Most people battle with depression and fatigue, and while this is an impact or cause of some disorders and medical issues, it can also arise from this anxiety or become aggravated in this condition.

Maladaptive behaviors

Anxiety can cause responses or reactions that interfere with your daily routine and overall functionality. You might get things done, but not without restriction or disruption to other areas of your life.

Unhealthy coping mechanisms

Coping mechanisms are skills that help one adapt to situations, they vary from one person to the other. While some individuals practice positive and healthy coping techniques, others are prone to unhealthy types.

High functioning anxiety can also put your nervous system in overdrive mode.

How To Get Relief From Functioning Anxiety


Medication is not really recommended for everyone and does not necessarily cure anxiety. However, specific medications can help balance your hormones and nervous system.


Talk therapy is a psychological method where your therapist gets to the roots of the problem and uses Cognitive-behavioral methods to help expose, adopt and adapt positive attitudes.

Here are some self-induced methods to help combat high functioning anxiety
Practice healthy sleep hygiene and regular sleep patterns. Adopt relaxation exercises until you get tired rather than stay up in bed thinking and contemplating life decisions.

Counteract negative thoughts with positive ideas

Notice when you get those negative thoughts of what if’s and change them to realistic thoughts. For example, instead of thinking of why it wouldn’t work out, or what if people laugh at you?. Focus on what if it actually works out well, and what interests you most in what you are doing. Remember to always check the pros and cons before pleasing people. Saying no does not mean you are selfish.

Embrace deep breathing and relaxation techniques to control tension and replace nervous habits like scratching your hair.

Take time out to focus and work on your mental health.

Discard unhealthy lifestyle habits and practice regular exercise, eating healthy, reduce and limit alcohol and caffeine use.


It is possible that high functioning anxiety confuses you into believing that it is a good response mechanism because it helps get the work done and you do so well in your life. However, despite its positive characteristics, it has negative outcomes that leave you with a variety of anxiety disorders and symptoms co-occurring together or separately.

These disorders can eventually lead to severe conditions that are crippling. Be sure to treat abnormal anxiety as soon as you notice it or seek your doctor or therapist for recommendations on the most suitable treatment for you.



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