Persons suffering from high-functioning anxiety usually look normal and worry-free. However, these people suffer in silence. Approximately 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety and 18% of these people fall into the category of ‘high-functioning anxiety.’
The condition might seem new, though quite strange. This guide covers all information about high-functioning anxiety. Furthermore, this guide will familiarize you with the symptoms of high-functioning anxiety.
Even more critical, the guide will help you discover the latest studies on this condition, its treatment options, and the current trends of this fast-rising condition.
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Below are the chapters to look into while analyzing this condition:
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: What Exactly Is High-Functioning Anxiety?
High-functioning anxiety isn’t a definite medical diagnosis, according to previous studies by health experts. Instead, the condition covers extensive experiences from people suffering from this condition. Research into this condition is currently ongoing. Today, health experts have a better understanding of the condition.
The condition has similar symptoms to specific anxiety disorders. Individuals suffering from high-functioning anxiety exhibit signs and symptoms that usually resemble those of other anxiety disorders. Luckily, victims of the conditions can easily manage their symptoms.
Victims of high-functioning anxiety are also able to perform their everyday duties. Thus, it means the condition can remain hidden in a person suffering from it. But there is a distinct difference between high-functioning anxiety and anxiety.
What Is the Difference Between Anxiety and High Functioning Anxiety?
A more straightforward way to explain this question is that a person with high-functioning anxiety will experience rapid heartbeat, worrying thoughts, negative emotions, gastrointestinal issues, fear, nausea, and headache but can still manage these symptoms.
While the response to simple anxiety is a steady-state of fight and flight motion, a person is fully aware of the anxiety symptoms and recovers back to the normal state once the anxiety source is removed.
High-functioning anxiety makes your brain hustle more than a simple anxiety reaction and increases the overall workload and stress on the brain.
What Are the Challenges of Suffering from High-Functioning Anxiety?
The biggest challenge of high-functioning anxiety is that the person suffering from it becomes a high achiever. These people have higher goals but lack the motivation to stay persistent towards the effort to achieve them.
So, are they even aware of what might be causing the struggles?
Well, sadly many people don’t even know that they are struggling with high functioning anxiety, keeping them from achieving any goals in the long run. Although there is extensive literature supporting the concept that people suffering from high functioning anxiety can complete their daily, short-sighted goals but their life remains restricted in many other ways, for example, a person may never be able to come out of his comfort zone, travel or even socialize.
High-functioning anxiety has both negative and positive attributes, unlike other mental disorders. Let’s start with the positive attributes of this condition.
Positive Characteristics of High-Functioning Anxiety:
- Active personality
Negative Traits of High-Functioning Anxiety:
Negative characteristics of high functioning anxiety are something to worry about. These might look like a part of your personality or nature, but that is where you go wrong.
In reality, people never know that the negative characteristics are not a part of their personality or trait; instead, these are driven by anxiety deep down. Despite enjoying the positive attributes of high-functioning anxiety, the condition comes with these negative characteristics.
- Being afraid of being the wrong person to those that are close to you
- Repetitive behavior
- Substance abuse
- Mental fatigue
- Avoiding eye contact
- Missing on crucial details
- Racing mind
- Lack of punctuality
- Cold behavior
- Inability to socialize
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Chapter 2: What Does Having High-Functioning Anxiety Feel like?
Anxiety disorder can manifest in some apparent ways amongst sufferers of this condition. However, high-functioning anxiety isn’t a clinical diagnosis. So you might be thinking about whether you are suffering from this condition. Well, your concern is impossible to address as a single-liner.
Instead, there is a need to have more elaborate descriptions of experiences of whether a person is suffering from high-functioning anxiety. Below are some scientific-based facts on what the condition feels like. If the below signs sound more of a reality to you, you are probably suffering from this condition.
Your Personal Life Is in Chaos
Victims of high-functioning anxiety usually excel in their respective professional careers. However, they don’t apply the level of excellence in their personal lives. When you have high-functioning anxiety, your loved ones become like your workmates. You tend to live a chaotic personal life, which can be messy and uncomfortable. You have no boundaries of the things to avoid in your relationships. Victims of high-functioning anxiety usually have a hard time solving their personal problems.
Anxiety Prompts You to Have a Considerable Workload
People with high-functioning anxiety usually work for long hours. They strive to meet their deadlines. Moreover, they do extra hard work, analyze details and go ahead of their fellow workmates regarding workload. The anxiety in them pushes them to work hard. When you have high-functioning anxiety, your inner insecurities and complexities may push you to go the extra mile for fear of lagging behind your workmates.
Going through Your Day Becomes Tiresome
Trying to go the extra mile can make your life tantalizing and hectic. Victims of high-functioning anxiety are usually excellent task organizers and planners. Due to performance anxiety, you are likely to suffer from fatigue. Thus, you are likely to exhibit avoidance behavior. This avoidance behavior will highly increase your anxiety levels over time.
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Disruption Increases the Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety can make you uncertain about your daily routine, making it challenging for you to get through your day. Such disruptions aggravate the feelings of intense stress and fear.
Racing Thoughts and Exhaustion
Like ordinary people, people suffering from high-functioning also need to balance their emotions and rest their thoughts. However, relaxing isn’t an easy job for people living with this mental disorder. Victims usually procrastinate about slowing down in their daily chores. The best way for them to relax is by opting for less demanding tasks or hobbies.
High-functioning anxiety can prompt you to process everything in a hurry. You will also remain with pending tasks for a long time. Your to-do list will continuously scroll through your mind. Persons with high-functioning anxiety tend to think about their undone tasks. Their minds are preoccupied with the possible consequences of remaining with undone tasks for long.
High Possibility of Misunderstanding
The major problem with high-functioning anxiety is that victims develop a feeling of facing invalidation from other people. Apart from the eternal feeling of invalidation, victims also fear missing out on crucial tasks and duties. Their biggest worry is getting out of control. Consequently, people view individuals living with this mental disorder as trouble-makers.
Chapter 3: Signs and Symptoms of High-Functioning Anxiety
High-functioning anxiety is poorly misunderstood despite anxiety being the most prevalent mental health issue worldwide. Persons with high-functioning anxiety exhibit unique behaviors. These behaviors include:
- Having strict and rigid routines
- Having an unending busy schedule
- Cold behavior
Signs of High-Functioning Anxiety
Whereas there is no definite criterion to identify high-functioning anxiety based on symptoms and signs, these signs below will help you diagnose the condition:
- Physical tension
- Muscle tightness
- Sweaty skin
- Insomnia and problems falling asleep
- Increased heart rate
- Shaky chills
- Excessive worrying
- Alcohol and substance abuse
- Memory deficits
- Secret pessimism
- Difficulty in relaxing and racing thoughts
- Anger and dissatisfaction
- Problems concentrating
- Increased irritability
Chapter 4: Triggers and Causes of High-Functioning Anxiety
A blend of internal and external factors is to blame for high-functioning anxiety. Victims usually react to internal factors rather than external circumstances. Some of the internal factors that cause high-functioning anxiety include fears and stressors due to bad experiences, past traumatic events, and childhood personality traits. Before digging deeper into the leading causes of mental health disorders, it is crucial to identify the risk factors or triggers of high-functioning anxiety. These factors include:
- Childhood shyness
- Highly critical parents
- Legal issues
- Stressful jobs
- A history of depression in the victim’s family
- Child abuse
- A history of depression in the victim’s personal history
The causes and triggers of high-functioning anxiety are due to a combination of both environmental and biological factors. Some victims might exhibit stronger predispositions to high-functioning anxiety. Other victims exhibit stronger correlations with ecological experiences and stressors. The leading causes and triggers of high-functioning anxiety include:
- Conditions such as thyroid dysfunction and heart problems
- Personality traits of being nervous and shy
- Family history of various mental health disorders
- Stressful events like trauma, child abuse, and family crises
- ADHD medication
- Substance abuse disorder
A victim of high-functioning in some cases might exhibit a particular for this condition. But in most cases, there are multiple triggers and causes behind high anxiety. There is a balance of protective factors and risk factors of high-functioning anxiety. Ordinary persons experience a moderate amount of anxiety. It is optimal for helping them survive their everyday crises. But unfortunately, the risk factors overwhelm the protective factors among victims of high-functioning anxiety.
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Diagnosing High-Functioning Anxiety
Changes in living patterns are to blame for mental health disorders. Suppression of such patterns is crucial for establishing whether a person has an underlying mental illness. Both mental and physical signs are crucial for making the final diagnosis of mental illness.
But high-functioning anxiety is different from other health disorders because it isn’t a medical diagnosis. The only clues for diagnosing high-functioning are a comprehensive screening and a patient’s history. However, the ultimate diagnosis doesn’t usually have clinical significance since mental health experts are yet to recognize the condition officially. Nonetheless, the condition still has a meaningful existence. High-functioning anxiety has high impact symptoms that only sufferers can describe.
High-functioning anxiety doesn’t have a clinical reputation in today’s medicine. Hence, mental health experts utilize the patient’s symptoms, extensive sessions, experiences, and signs to detect whether a person has high-functioning anxiety. The health experts further conduct an in-depth evaluation to determine which course of action to take.
The prevalence of high anxiety is unknown since the condition isn’t itself a psychiatric condition. The causes usually overlap with those of other anxiety disorders. Statistical information on this condition depends on the prevalence of other anxiety disorders. Here is an overall overview of the statistical information of high-functioning anxiety:
- About 18% of the US population suffers from either one or even more anxiety disorders.
- The lifetime incidence of anxiety of the entire American population is about 28%.
- A recent study shows that the one-year incidence for certain anxiety disorders is as below:
- Specific phobias 9%
- PTSD 3.5%
- OCD 1.0%
- Panic disorder 2.7%
- GAD 3.1%
Only 37% of the American population seeks treatment for mental health disorders.
Chapter 5: Unknown Dangers of High-Functioning Anxiety
It is usual for humans to experience anxiety as they undergo intense situations. The typical reaction to anxiety includes an increase in heart rate, sweating, respiratory rate, and racing mind. These signs are psychological responses of the human body as it withstands intense external environments.
Nevertheless, a constant state of anxiety-like in high-functioning anxiety is ultimately an abnormal brain reaction. This abnormal reaction can detrimentally affect the entire body. Even if the criterion of a definite anxiety disorder isn’t met, the presence of anxiety and stress hurts both mental and physical health.
Complications of High-Functioning Anxiety
Depression is the most common complication among half of the entire American suffering from high-functioning anxiety. There is a direct relationship between brain function in depression and anxiety. One condition can be the cause of the other condition. It is difficult to understand the scientific relationship between depression and anxiety. However, there is a high possibility of these two conditions co-occurring.
Substance Abuse Disorders
Victims of high-functioning anxiety have a very high possibility of suffering from substance use disorders.
Anxiety issues are likely to cause eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Some victims of high-functioning may incline towards binge eating. Other victims might experience a gradual loss of appetite. Although there is a specific trend in eating disorders among high-function anxiety victims, victims, however, don’t stick to regular eating habits.
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Chronic Physical Illnesses
High-functioning anxiety can trigger or worsen the underlying chronic physical illnesses. The chronic illnesses that may occur from high-functioning anxiety may include:
- Gastric irritability
- Heart disease
- Irritable bowel disease
In the long run, high-functioning anxiety can suppress normal body functioning. The condition releases stress hormones and worsens the symptoms. Being anxious all the time can flood your brain with harmful chemicals. Such chemicals are detrimental to the body’s systems in the long run.
Systems affected by high-functioning anxiety are given below:
High-functioning increases heart rate, chest pain, and rapid pulse. Victims have a high possibility of suffering from chronic cardiac diseases and hypertension. There are high risks of suffering from heart failure if you have underlying heart disease.
Nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea are also common symptoms of high-functioning anxiety. Victims of the condition experience frequent stomach aches. The victims also suffer from bowel inflammation and irritable bowel syndrome.
High-functioning anxiety causes high adrenaline levels in your body. Although your body gets a temporary boost, it is likely to experience occasional stress over time as a result of high adrenaline levels. Ultimately, this weakens your immune system, subjecting to possible infections.
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Chapter 6: Is High-Functioning Anxiety Curable? Current Treatment Options
Although diagnosing the condition is very challenging, your doctor can administer some effective treatment options after diagnosis. The best treatment for the condition usually incorporates a combination of medication and therapy.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
The treatment option helps treat several types of anxiety disorders. The psychotherapeutic method helps overcome symptoms of high-functioning anxiety. CBT combines multiple approaches in treating specific anxiety disorders. Thus, the effects of CBT vary from one patient to the other. However, the main objective of CBT is to treat irrational beliefs and negative thought patterns. The treatment options cover the following areas when it comes to treating high-functioning anxiety:
- Wrong perceptions about oneself
Selective Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
They are a particular group of antidepressant drugs. They were initially valuable in the treatment of depression. However, they have anxiolytic properties as well. Some of the SSRIs used for curing high-functioning anxiety include:
How do they work in treating high-functioning anxiety?
SSRIs affect serotonin production, a naturally occurring neurotransmitter that is responsible for regulating mood and behavior. They work by stopping the nerve cells from reabsorbing the neurotransmitter. They further increase the time that the serotonin regulates behavior and mood.
These are also antidepressants that can be used for treating high-functioning anxiety and chronic stress. They include drugs such as Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, and Ativan. Though these drugs are effective in treating high-functioning anxiety, they have more side effects than SSRIs and should be taken under a physician’s guidance.
Try Practicing Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a form of meditation method that allows you to perceive internal and external information correctly. Your mind can perform and make critical situations better after practicing mindfulness. Here are some forms of mindfulness techniques you can use for curing high-functioning anxiety.
- Concentration practice sessions
- Walking meditation
- Sitting meditation
- Deep breathing exercises
- Body scan meditation
Chapter 7: How Can I Deal with High-Functioning on My Own?
It is hard to avoid the signs and symptoms of high-functioning anxiety. The worst bit about this condition is that you can’t realize when your body is undergoing bouts of anxiety. Anxiety can be uncontrollable in some people. Below are some of the actions that can help you deal with high-functioning anxiety on your own:
Concentrate on Your Breathing Patterns
Long-term anxiety affects your breathing patterns. It becomes abnormal and shallow. Concentrate on your breathing cycle. Try taking deep breaths. Start inhaling from your mouth and exhaling from your nose. The breathing pattern will make you aware of your breathing patterns. It also helps your mind relax as you are concentrating on a particular project.
Stop Overthinking about Your Condition
Anyone suffering from high-functioning anxiety is likely to overthink their condition. People suffering from high-functioning anxiety usually think about their mental health a lot. Instead of overthinking that you have high-functioning anxiety, believe in healing from the condition through therapy and medication. The more you overthink about your condition, the more you will suffer from negative thought patterns.
Consistent relaxation methods give excellent results in controlling a frazzling mind. Anxiety doesn’t just cause nervousness and headaches. It can also affect the entire body. Muscle tension is the main symptom of high-functioning anxiety. Progressive relaxation method aids with releasing spasm and tight end muscle, resulting in a soothing effect.
Check Your Symptoms
Understanding your symptoms and acknowledging them can save you from high-functioning anxiety. So far, no one knows the symptoms of this condition. However, previous documentation, personal experience, and reporting will ultimately help you acknowledge the specific symptoms of high-functioning anxiety.
Face Your Fears Head-on
We understand that anxiety can bring various forms of fear. You will never outgrow your fear if you keep running, ignoring, and running away from your fear. Instead, strive to face your fear. They will ultimately vanish once and for all.
Keep in Touch with Supportive People
It is vital to connect with close family and friends while dealing with high-functioning anxiety. Surrounding yourself with supportive people gives you an invaluable source of positivity. Connect with a supportive person anytime your anxiety goes beyond your control. Supportive people usually have a harmonious mindset. Such people will help guide you through challenging times and situations.
Reading through this section of the guide has familiarized you with the basics, signs, symptoms, treatment options of high-functioning anxiety. Do you still doubt if you have high-functioning anxiety?
Take an easy quiz on high-functioning anxiety. In the end, you will discover whether you are subject to this mental health disorder.
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It is challenging to label high-functioning anxiety a clinical diagnosis. However, an insidious mental disorder exists among us. Moreover, the mental condition has negative and positive traits, though millions of Americans unknowingly suffer from it. Fortunately, a combination of medications and therapies can help bring positive results.