This is a guest post about high functioning Anxiety: it does not offer medical advice but insight into this type of anxiety from someone who has experienced it.
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This is a personal story about living with Anxiety. About managing Anxiety on the surface, but with nerves, and stress bubbling hard underneath. Often without anyone really realising it is there. Initially, without realising it was there myself…. There is something that drives you on, but also holds you back. This high functioning Anxiety isn’t an official medical diagnosis – it is an informal description, but it has rung true for me throughout my life.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder is the official medical diagnosis I have. I’ve had it since I was a nail-biting, shy, kid I think. I just didn’t know. A kid that was so worried about pleasing others, that I usually didn’t speak up about what I wanted.
A kid that lived in fear of failing, so I pushed myself incredibly hard in everything I did so that was never going to happen.
Anxiety is often seen as a fear of doing things; the fear that holds you back.
But sometimes that fear drives you on…
A small amount of Anxiety is good for you – worrying about performance can drive you on. But what happens when that worrying takes over. When it isn’t something you control, but something that controls you?
I have learnt tools and techniques over the years to manage this Anxiety, from apps like The Anxiety Solution, to psychotherapy and CBT. There isn’t one answer for managing Anxiety, it is highly personal. One thing that works for some, may not work for others. We all have to try things, and see what works for us.
One thing above all that has helped me though is hearing about other’s experiences with Anxiety so that I know I am not alone.
So today, I am sharing some of the solutions that I have used, and my experiences with high functioning Anxiety, so that it might help others that are in the throes of Anxiety too.
My Anxiety is all about being driven; about striving for perfection.
But unfortunately, sometimes then breaking part of myself, or overthinking things, because I didn’t get there.
Perhaps I did get there, but now I am more anxious because I changed things yet again. So I just keep on going….
This is a very different kind of Anxiety to that which traditionally has been covered within the media. That Anxiety is typically a debilitating Anxiety that stops people from going out, from seeing friends, from driving, or going to the shops, and so on.
High functioning anxiety makes you so afraid of failure, that you constantly strive for perfection. You fear upsetting others as part of that too, so much so that you hate to say No, and you will strive to please everyone around you.
Sometimes to the extent that you aren’t even pleasing yourself.
In fact, you might not even be thinking about what does please you, so concerned are you that you are keeping others around you happy.
Any of this sound familiar at all?
There are signs of high functioning anxiety that ring true for me – could they for you too?
Signs of my own high functioning Anxiety
There are loads of signs of Anxiety that manifests as high functioning. But for me personally, these are what I’ve identified.
All of these are couple with the constant feeling of overthinking.
I am seen as:
- Outgoing: but I have to work HARD at this, and it is a constant worry that I am not meeting others expectations of me,
- Always ready to help: usually offering to do so in the past when actually I shouldn’t. I am much better now at not immediately saying I can help. Particularly when actually I often don’t have time to help now,
- Arriving early to everything: I used to do this because I was fearful of getting lost, being late, etc. If I go anywhere new, I will be incredibly early, just to make sure,
- Calm (usually!): Typically I actually appear to be pretty calm, even when the anxiety is bubbling away underneath the surface,
- Extremely loyal in all the relationships that I have, and finally
- Successful: My working like has always been successful because I am driven by the fear of failing it it. Therefore I work doubly-hard to stop that from happening.
There are other symptoms that aren’t relevant to me according to medical sources – but these are the ones that resonate most with me. Others include:
- Making lists,
- Being highly organised,
- Being passionate, and
This type of Anxiety might be something that isn’t spotted, both by the sufferer or those around them. We feel that we are behaving in a our typical way.
It is only when the worrying stretches us so much that we do start to struggle, perhaps with our sleep, or even through panic attacks when we push ourselves too much.
It was the panic attacks that made me realise that there was something not quite right. Alongside the tears, and emotional instability.
5 things that help to live with the Anxiety?
1. Understanding yourself
Understanding what it was that I was facing makes it so much easier to deal with, and helps to manage the reactions that I have.
Anxiety can come in many forms, and affects you in ways that you didn’t realise were possible. Just because you are a successful person, doesn’t mean that you can’t be consumed by it.
You can still struggle to work through your day, and have a constant knot inside you….
A knot that sometimes stops you from focusing on what you know you need to do that day.
The knot that makes you want to walk right out of that meeting because you cannot take anymore of the feelings that it is creating inside you.
2. Accepting who you are
Most importantly alongside this understanding, is to accept that this is me, and to work harder against the mindsets that the Anxiety can breed. Both fighting, and accepting that anxiety is part of me, but it doesn’t have to drive all the decisions I make.
It is not necessary to say yes to everything I am asked.
People won’t instantly dislike me if I do.
3. Speak up
It isn’t OK to do things that make me feel uncomfortable because I feel it my responsibility to care and look after everyone.
To the extent that I am not looking after myself.
Learning to say no is vital to managing Anxiety. If you don’t want to do it, don’t. But if you DO want to do it, but your Anxiety is holding you back, speak up and talk to someone about it.
Talking is the key to overcoming and controlling the Anxiety that can eat away at you.
Give yourself a voice to help stop Anxiety from controlling you.
4. Reflection and changing that negative spiral
It is important to reflect on your day and think about all the good that has happened, rather than focus on the negatives.
Changing the negative mindset that anxiety can sometimes breed is a revelation. Instead of thinking…
Flip it to:
If I don’t, then I give myself permission to be kind to myself when I make mistakes.
And we ALL make mistakes, it is how we really learn and grow.
5. Be kind to yourself
It is OK to just stop.
Stopping, and taking a moment to look after me is THE most important part of the day. Whether it’s a 5 minute break sitting in the garden, or a 15 minute bath to start the day.
We hope that this article on high functioning Anxiety has been helpful – why not try out the Anxiety Solution app, including our 1 month free trial to see if that helps you?
For more information on mental health on the site, do check out these articles:
We also have our mindfulness section too, with articles cover both adults and kids wellbeing. The editor for the site (Helen Neale), is a Level 3 trained Counsellor, and working towards a Therapeutic Counselling qualification. She is also a member of the BACP.
Here are some other articles you might want to take a look at too?
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