People with signs of high-functioning anxiety often struggle with diagnosable symptoms and try to hide or find ways to live with them. Explore ways to resolve anxiety, and find healing.
Living with High-Functioning Anxiety
Often described as overachievers or type-A personalities, those with high-functioning anxiety try to overcome their symptoms by forcing their work performance into overdrive and self-medicating with alcohol and other outlets (including scrolling through social media).
All this work, coupled with the internal struggle of racing thoughts, lack of motivation, constant tension, and the fear of never doing enough, is overwhelming.
When you or someone you know shows signs of high-functioning anxiety, the following can help you find ways to get help, discover new techniques to cope with your symptoms, and get back to living your life.
Common Signs of High-Functioning Anxiety
Mood swings, a lack of focus and even panic attacks are among the physical and mental symptoms that can affect your work and home life if you have anxiety. The same can occur alongside signs of high-functioning anxiety, but the lines start to blur when it comes to productivity. Anxiety presents differently for different people. Some common feelings you might witness or experience if you are dealing with high-functioning anxiety include:
- Finding yourself in a constant state of worry, especially if the intensity doesn't quite match events.
- Discovering that self-care tactics you've used before just don't cut it anymore.
- Feeling restless and on edge all the time.
- Experiencing exhaustion, no matter how much sleep you get.
- Having trouble concentrating at work, at home, while driving, during a conversation, or in general.
- Undergoing extreme work anxiety on your days off, after your shift ends, or before it begins.
- Feeling irritable without reason or cause.
- Realizing that even minor things seem to stress you out.
- Suffering problems falling asleep, staying asleep, or feeling unrested in the morning no matter how long you slept.
- Frequently experiencing a lack of motivation to go to work or get up in the morning.
- Losing interest in activities you used to find fun, interesting, or engaging.
What Makes High-Functioning Anxiety Different?
High-functioning anxiety is not a clinically diagnosable form of mental illness. However, people who identify with this term often have untreated symptoms that they try to hide or live with rather than reaching out for help.
Many people who experience signs of high-functioning anxiety are successful, high achieving individuals. However, on the inside, they may also be so afraid of failing that they can't help but push themselves to the brink of collapse to succeed.
High-functioning anxiety is also difficult to acknowledge. Accepting that you're feeling panicked and anxious might feel like a defeat rather than a victory, and many sufferers fight to find ways to avoid letting anyone know that they're struggling. Viewing anxiety disorders as a temporary process, not a weakness, is incredibly important. Remember it is possible to experience a shift. Support is available in many forms.
What Makes High-Functioning Anxiety a Problem?
Anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States. And things have only gotten worse in the last year due to the pandemic. This disorder has a high recovery rate, and yet less than half of those who have it seek treatment. Forty million adults have anxiety, and women are twice as affected as men. Those who don't find help sometimes also choose unhealthy coping mechanisms that can worsen issues down the road.
Trying to hide or temporarily quiet tension, panic, and overwhelming thoughts doesn't resolve the roots of why we experience anxiety. Reaching out for help is the best thing you can do for yourself if you see signs of high-functioning anxiety in yourself or a friend.
Helpful Tips and Coping Strategies
The first crucial step is to acknowledge the signs of high-functioning anxiety within yourself and then making a plan to resolve them. You may find the following tips useful:
Talking With A Professional
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is one of the most popular forms of anxiety treatment. Therapy and other forms of counseling can help you discover and begin to address the roots of what causes anxiety, which can be any number of things from unresolved traumas to unprocessed grief or low self-esteem and extreme stress, among other issues.
Seeing a Doctor
Your primary care doctor might suggest taking medication temporarily to help alleviate some of the symptoms you experience with your anxiety. Medication may not be for everyone, but it can help the body's nervous system return to a more even playing field if anxiety has become extreme. Although it can provide temporary relief from the symptoms of anxiety, medication is not a permanent fix. You will still need to address the root psychological cause of your anxiety.
Making Dietary Changes
Some nutritional psychiatrists suggest there's a link between anxiety and gut health. Fueling our bodies with fewer processed foods may alleviate stress by stabilizing blood sugar levels. Foods high in magnesium may have a calming effect, too, while there's some evidence that fatty acids and probiotics help stabilize mood.
Taking time to decompress may be more productive than staying busy. Learning how to meditate and taking that time for yourself every day is a crucial part of self-care. A daily breathing meditation practice can help you calm racing thoughts and ease tension. Meditation is also uniquely portable. You can meditate in your car, during breaks, and even at your desk when things get overwhelming.
Taking Herbal Supplements
A vast array of herbal supplements offer relief for anxiety symptoms, and some of these all-natural remedies may be beneficial to your health in other ways, too. Always talk to a medical professional before using herbal supplements as some can affect prescription medications and may cause side effects or allergic reactions.
Common herbal supplements used for anxiety include:
- Valerian Root – used for problems with sleep, anxiety, and depression.
- Chamomile – acts as a stress reliever; it's a common component in tablets, skin creams, or soothing teas.
- Lavender – often recommended for relaxation via herbal teas or as an essential oil.
- Ashwagandha – meant to help regulate a person's stress response.
- Cannabidiol (CBD) – derived from the cannabis plant, CBD has a calming effect on the central nervous system.
6 Coping Tactics for High-Functioning Anxiety
Taking medication and going to therapy is a fantastic start on the road to high-functioning anxiety recovery. Still, you might experience challenging situations from time to time. When those stressful moments come up, try helpful coping tactics, such as:
- Asking for help and accepting it. The first step to controlling your anxiety is recognizing that it is a problem, asking for the help you need, and taking that help when you find it. The key is to put real effort into the recovery process.
- Learning to recognize your symptoms for what they are. Anxiety looks and feels different for everyone, but it often has to do with an unreasonable response to a situation. Once you recognize that the degree of worry you have doesn't match the events in question, you'll be better able to move on with your day.
- Refusing to let the anxious thinking take control. It takes time and practice, but you can learn to overcome anxious thoughts. You'll eventually discover ways to disengage from that voice inside your head that says you'll fail if you don't answer that email immediately.
- Finding people you can confide in. Having loved ones, confidantes, friends, coworkers, or social media groups where you can share your thoughts and feelings openly can be uplifting. Free communication lets you voice your ideas and allows you to pick up healthy coping skills and hear stories from others dealing with similar issues. The private community at Joan of Sparc is a great place to connect with others who are engaged in their inner development.
- Cleaning up your headspace by tidying up your home or office. Many people with high-functioning anxiety can get so caught up in their heads and their busy lives that clutter takes over their homes. A disorganized household or office can be distracting and often promotes feelings of tension and panic. A neat office is a key productivity hack, and the simple act of cleaning and organizing can be a meditative exercise, too.
- Embracing a healthy lifestyle. When you want to see change over the long term, start with a healthy lifestyle. Eat better foods that make you feel good and exercise your body to improve your state of mind. Learning how to calm down with yoga or relaxing walks that immerse you in nature can also give your mind a much-needed break.
Many people find that it takes a combination of several techniques to keep their anxiety at lower, more manageable levels. Experiment to see which of these ideas works best for you and try to work them into your regular daily or weekly schedule. Over time, you’ll discover that practicing new skills will help you regain your confidence, feel less overwhelmed, and be more resilient in the face of life’s challenges.