Imagine someone who is struggling with anxiety.
Chances are, the person that popped up in your head probably looks a bit crazy and unkempt. They may be frazzled, jittery, and uneasy because most of us think that this is what living with anxiety looks like. But actually, there are some people who go on to be successful and accomplish great things in spite of their battle against this mental illness. This is known as “high-functioning anxiety.”
While on the surface, people with high-functioning anxiety may seem just as relaxed and at ease as the rest of us, they may be experiencing a constant state of anxiety without even realizing it themselves. High-functioning anxiety isn’t a diagnosable condition, and so, it can be difficult to identify because those who have it appear to cope with their problems well. However, that doesn’t make it any less real, serious, or painful for those who have it.
With that said, here are 12 things you may not realize you’re doing because of your high-functioning anxiety:
1. You turn down things you want to go to
You eagerly await events and get-togethers with friends, but when the day finally comes, you often decide not to go at the very last minute. Even though you were looking forward to it for so long, you’ve talked yourself out of attending because the thought of going out leaves you wracked with worry and dread.
2. You dislike having to meet new people
You’re not the type to mingle at social functions, not because you’re a shy or introverted person, but because you don’t want to meet new people. You’d rather stick to your close-knit group of friends than introduce yourself to someone else, because it makes you feel self-conscious. You’re so worried about making a good first impression that it takes all the enjoyment out of it.
3. You’re uncomfortable with slow responses
The moment you send someone a text or leave them a voice message, you wish they’d respond immediately. The longer you have to wait for them to get back to you, the more anxious you begin to feel. You overthink about why they haven’t replied yet and somehow take it to mean that you did something wrong.
4. You sleep late but wake up early
Your anxiety may wake you up early and keep you from having deep, relaxed sleep. But it can also keep you up at night, with so many racing thoughts occupying your mind. This is why sleep-deprivation is such a common complaint amongst those of us who suffer from high-functioning anxiety.
5. You fixate on the tiniest details
It’s common for people with high-functioning anxiety to have obsessive thoughts over trivial things, especially when it concerns social interactions. They tend to obsess about the change of tone in someone’s voice, the shift in the facial expressions they make, or their particular choice of words. They analyze everything and spend hours and hours wondering what it could all mean.
6. You get hung up on old conversations
Do you find yourself playing back old conversations in your head, thinking about what you should or shouldn’t have said instead? High functioning anxiety makes you overthink every single social interaction you’ve ever had, and it’s not unusual for people who struggle with it to get hung up on what happened in the past, no matter how long it’s been.
7. You can’t forgive yourself for your mistakes
Often times, high-functioning anxiety can look a lot like perfectionism, and one of its most problematic characteristics is that it turns us against ourselves whenever we mess up. You have a hard time getting over your mistakes because your anxiety makes you think that what you did was much worse than it actually was.
8. You constantly compare yourself to others
It’s normal to compare yourself to other people from time to time, but those with high-functioning anxiety take it to an extreme. They are overly concerned with how they measure up against their peers, and they’re constantly worried that they’re not fulfilling their full potential. No matter how much they accomplish, they never feel like it’s enough.
9. You’re an incurable people pleaser
Do you work hard to make other people happy, even if it comes at the cost of your own well-being? Do you feel like you will never be good enough until you attain everyone’s approval? This might be because you have high-functioning anxiety, and so, you’ve convinced yourself that the only way others will ever accept you is if you go above and beyond what everyone expects of you all the time.
10. You need to keep yourself busy all the time
Being busy is not the same as being productive. An anxious person often feels restless and tense when they’re doing nothing, so they try to occupy themselves with whatever tasks they can find. If you are suffering from high-functioning anxiety, you might keep yourself busy with your work, your studies, or your hobbies to distract yourself from your thoughts and worries.
11. You’re afraid to think about the future
For a lot of people, the future is filled with hope and possibility, so if you feel terror and dread every time you think about what’s to come, this is a clear sign that you have high-functioning anxiety. Anxiety can paralyze you with fear about what you don’t know or can’t control, and it can keep you from looking ahead and moving forward with your life.
12. You always focus on the worst case scenario
Finally, if you’re someone who’s struggling with anxiety, people might misjudge you as a pessimist because of how you always seem to think of the worst possible outcome. But the truth is, you just can’t help it. Your mind automatically comes up with all the ways a situation could go terribly wrong, so it’s hard for you to just let it go and enjoy the moment like most people do.
Do you relate to any of the things listed here? Living with high-functioning anxiety is never easy, though most people may not see the emotional toll it can have on a person. If you are starting to feel overwhelmed with your anxiety, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental healthcare professional now and get the help you need.
• American Psychological Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Ed. Washington, DC, USA; APA Publishing.
• National Institute of Mental Health (2017). What Are Anxiety Disorders? Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/anxiety-disorders.shtml
• National Alliance Against Mental Illness (2018). Mental Health by The Numbers. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/learn-more/mental-health-by-the-numbers