High Functioning Anxiety

What is high functioning anxiety?

Anxiety can be debilitating for many people. A chronic anxiety disorder may prevent people from forging relationships or obtaining paid employment. However, anxiety can manifest itself in other ways too.

High functioning anxiety refers to individuals who are driven and who are often perfectionists. Constantly busy, these individuals seek to pacify anxiety by driving towards consistent achievement. While many people are envious of the drive and ambition associated with high functioning anxiety, they may not realize the underlying fears and worries that accompany the condition.

Generally, people with high functioning anxiety are constantly worried and concerned that something will go wrong. With a tendency to ruminate, these patients are unable to quieten the anxious thoughts which continually race through their minds.

While they may appear successful and out-going, the condition can actually cause a high degree of isolation. People with high functioning anxiety may not seek help for the condition and, as they may not appear to suffer from typical anxiety related symptoms, close friends and family may be unaware of the turmoil they face.

What are the symptoms of high functioning anxiety?

High functioning anxiety is not normally considered a disorder in itself. Often, a patient with an anxiety disorder will present as ‘high functioning', meaning that they are able to operate in most areas of their lives, despite the presence of an anxiety disorder.

However, there are certain symptoms which are present in a patient with high functioning anxiety. As people with an anxiety disorder perceive the world differently to those without the condition, it can be hard to understand the pervasive nature of the condition.

Rather than experiencing isolated bouts of anxiety, people with high functioning anxiety may be under a constant state of stress. They will continually try to prepare for things going wrong and have backup plans in place, in case the worst should happen.

While they may appear controlling or well-prepared, patients with high function anxiety tend to feel the opposite. With so many things that could potentially go wrong, patients may feel that they have no control over their own world or the world around them.

Does high functioning anxiety involve panic attacks?

At first, high functioning anxiety may not result in physical symptoms. However, as the condition continues and the pressure on the patient increases, they may find themselves experiencing instances of panic.

In addition to this, patients with high functioning anxiety may experience other physical symptoms, due to the constant state of stress and fear they are in. These symptoms are common when any form of prolonged stress or chronic anxiety disorder occurs.

For example, people may suffer from chest pains, dizziness, headaches and other physical changes. As their general health declines, this can lead to more sources of worry for people with high functioning anxiety.

Often, people with high functioning anxiety will attempt to handle too much. They may take on extra tasks at work, despite feeling unable to cope with them. In familial situations, the individual with high functioning anxiety may take on extra burdens, such as ensuring the financial security of the family.

While colleagues and family members may be willing to assist, the patient may struggle to relinquish control. As a result, their burdens increase and anxiety becomes more pervasive and destructive.

Once referred to as ‘burn out', people with high functioning anxiety may reach a stage where they are physically and emotionally unable to continue with their lifestyle. As the pressure and subsequent physical symptoms increase, they may reach breaking point. It is normally at this stage that people with high functioning anxiety will seek help.

Can high functioning anxiety be treated?

Fortunately, most anxiety-related conditions can be treated. If there is a disorder which is resulting in the patient displaying signs of high functioning anxiety, this can be reduced once the pre-existing disorder is treated.

Many treatments for high functioning anxiety aim to reduce the patient's stress levels and desire to control situations. While traditional medications can be prescribed, patients may also benefit from relaxation, yoga, acupuncture, massage or meditation.

Although many people prefer to opt for natural anxiety treatments, they may not be sufficient to fully resolve high functioning anxiety. Instead, patients may wish to incorporate them into a regime which includes medical intervention as well. As every individual is different, patients may benefit from individualized treatment plans. Once a suitable regime has been found, people with high functioning anxiety can learn to reduce their symptoms and will, therefore, benefit from reduced stress levels.

Last Reviewed:
June 21, 2017
Last Updated:
October 12, 2017
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