It isn’t always obvious when someone’s suffering from anxiety. People with high-functioning anxiety move through life masking their battle with an easy smile and a quick joke. While we commonly think of someone with anxiety as freezing up or panicking, individuals with high-functioning anxiety may appear from the outside to have it all. They’re often successful at work and in their personal lives—they themselves may even think that they have tamed the beast, for a while.
Underneath that calm exterior, however, anxiety is eating away at them. It takes a toll on their mental and physical health.
In today’s article, we’ll dig into signs someone might have high-functioning anxiety:
People Pleasing Behaviors
Many people with high-functioning anxiety develop people-pleasing behaviors in response to their fears and worries. Instead of panicking or feeling frightened, they try to get ahead of the situation. If you think of a child with strict, angry parents, the child may learn to keep their room clean, do their homework right away, and focus on getting good grades in school.
From the outside, this looks like success, but internally, the child continues to experience existential dread at the thought they might disappoint their parents and trigger their temper. This can continue into adulthood with people-pleasing behaviors. People with high-functioning anxiety may be more likely to:
- Stay in abusive relationships.
- Be taken advantage of at work.
- Burn themselves out by taking on too much.
Because of their people-pleasing behaviors, people with high-functioning anxiety may run themselves ragged.
The Paradox of Success
When success is fueled by anxiety, the net result is that instead of feeling satisfied when you complete a big project or milestone, you’re left either exhausted or have already moved on to the next big worry.
Do you often tell yourself to push through until this one last thing is taken care of? Does it feel like you’re always putting out fires and dealing with crises? People with high-functioning anxiety may be regarded as rock stars at work—but the cost of that success is their own mental and physical health.
In turn, the pressure to keep succeeding becomes a new source of anxiety.
Do you procrastinate and delay until the last minute, and then load up on caffeine and pull an all-nighter to get things done? It’s another sign of high-functioning anxiety. People who do this rely on the buildup of stress to trigger a period of intense hyperfocus that lets them perform at a high level.
While it’s a solution, it takes a toll.
Inability to Let Go
Considering your life at home or work, how are you with letting go of control and delegating tasks to others? If that’s difficult for you, why is that? Many folks with high-functioning anxiety have a hard time relinquishing control over tasks to others.
Additional Signs of High-Functioning Anxiety
While anxiety is normally highly visible on the surface, people with high-functioning anxiety carry it in different, less obvious ways. Here are a few behaviors you may look for below:
- Insomnia, or disrupted sleep patterns.
- Lack of self-confidence.
- Need for constant reassurance.
- Nervous tics \ habits (biting nails, restless leg syndrome, etc.)
- Constant feelings of regret or shame.
- Catastrophic thinking; fear of failure.
- A constant need to stay busy.
It’s worth noting that high-functioning anxiety can still have a negative effect on heart health and general physical health—leading to weight gain, alcohol or substance abuse, and so forth.
Schedule a Consultation
I work with clients every day who are struggling under the weight of the pressure they’re putting on themselves. If you think you may be dealing with high-functioning anxiety, don’t wait until you’re ready to come apart at the seams. Contact me today so that we can talk about anxiety treatment and how it can help you tame your fears.