Cindy Gullo, LCPC - Therapist & Counselor
The Blog

What You Need to Know About High-Functioning Anxiety

Although high-functioning anxiety does not meet the criteria of a mental health disorder in the DSM V, high-functioning anxiety is still a disruptive and distressing condition affecting millions of people. Despite the lack of an official diagnosis, experiencing a cluster of anxiety symptoms can make day-to-day life difficult. Below are the signs, symptoms, treatment, and coping mechanisms for people with high-functioning anxiety

Signs and Symptoms

People with high-functioning anxiety often appear successful, put-together, and ambitious on the outside. But despite these positive and healthy characteristics, a person with high-functioning anxiety will experience persistent feelings of failure, fear, and nervous energy. In many cases, these anxious feelings are what drive the sufferer to succeed. A persistent and marked fear of failing or disappointing others can give someone the drive to pursue their goals and achieve, but internalizing negative emotions and acting on them can compromise a person’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Below are the common symptoms of high-functioning anxiety.

  • Persistent fear of failure
  • Fear of disappointing others
  • A drive to succeed to mitigate feelings of anxiety or disappointment
  • Problems sleeping or relaxing
  • Burn out, mental and physical exhaustion
  • An inability to say no
  • People-pleasing
  • Being loyal to causes or people that are unhealthy (fear of disappointment)
  • Overthinking
  • Nervous habits or talking
  • Negative thinking, or expecting the worst

A person with high-functioning anxiety will appear to others as an overachiever and will limit enjoyable activities to calm the anxiety about missing work deadlines or ‘failing’ in some endeavor. People who experience these symptoms of high-functioning anxiety are at increased risk of burnout and stress-related illnesses. Also, they have a higher chance of abusing drugs or alcohol to cope with these debilitating symptoms and pervasive, negative thought-patterns.

How is high-functioning anxiety treated?

Fortunately, there is help available for people with high-functioning anxiety. Counseling, talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and mindfulness training are incredibly effective at lessening the symptoms and severity of this distressing condition.

How can someone cope with the pain of high-functioning anxiety?

First, it’s essential for your recovery to ask for help. For people who have a marked fear of failure, sometimes this is the most challenging step when seeking therapy and counseling for their anxiety. Reach out to a qualified therapist, and ask friends and family, or trusted loved ones for support.

Practice mindfulness and make sure to take time to relax and rest. Sleep hygiene is crucial for mitigating the adverse health consequences associated with anxiety and burn out and be sure to eat a balanced, healthy diet.

Instead of always jumping to fearful, negative conclusions, try to counteract negative thoughts with positive ones. If you have a nervous habit, such as chewing your fingernails, replace this habit with positive deep breathing techniques or meditation.

While high-functioning anxiety is a painful condition to have, there is counseling and therapy available for sufferers. With the right tools and support, high functioning anxiety can be managed and treated. Contact me if you’re a young adult or a parent of a teen who struggles with high functioning anxiety.

For more information about High Functioning Anxiety, my friends at Choosing Therapy have a plethora of knowledge!