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Struggling to Cope But Carrying on Regardless? High-functioning Anxiety Could Be the Root Cause

High-functioning anxiety often affects people who appear to manage their daily lives with ease but their internal state is often quite different to their demeanour.

Are you a perfectionist who feels mounting stress when projects don’t quite go as you planned? Are you a high achiever that no matter how hard you work you are never truly satisfied by your actual achievements? Are you constantly making lists, ticking things off and adding yet more to your lists – making them never-ending and somewhat unachievable and therefore stress ridden?

The term ‘anxiety’ is generally understood but perhaps many of us haven’t heard of nor fully recognise what high-functioning anxiety is and that it affects a great deal of people who may not even realise they have it.

Whilst not an officially recognised medical diagnosis; it affects individuals who are often perceived as fully functional in their day-to-day lives. In other words, those that appear more than capable of handling their commitments, whether professionally, personally or socially. The word ‘appear’ is important because although someone with high-functioning anxiety might seem happy and all-smiling on the outside, their internal reality is often quite different.

Director of Wellness Education and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Jonathan Sikorski stated, “Typically when I hear people talk about high-functioning anxiety, it means they may have a lot of features of an anxiety disorder without the actual diagnosis.”

Who typically suffers from high-functioning anxiety?

High-functioning anxiety affects people from all walks of life. The A+ student who is also the most popular in his year. The professional advancing effortlessly through her career. The parent with the perfect balance between work and family. The skilled, confident footballer that every youngster aspires to be. The list goes on and on. Regardless of race, age or gender, high-functioning anxiety can affect anyone at any time in their lives.

Five positive behaviours of people who have high-functioning anxiety

There are both positive and negative aspects that relate to having high-functioning anxiety with the former often allowing individuals to thrive.

  • Organised and efficient

Being organised is a goal many seek to perfect. After all, it makes life a lot simpler and much more manageable. However, allowing such organisation to overpower your thoughts to a point where you become exhausted is unhealthy and can sometimes produce the opposite results.

  • Perfectionism

To be a perfectionist is admirable but to allow the stress factors behind it to dominate your well-being and turn you into somewhat of a control freak is a downward spiral that only leads to more stress. Oftentimes, someone suffering from high-functioning anxiety who feels the need to consistently achieve is doing the exact opposite by taking too many projects and responsibilities on.

  • Friendly and outgoing 

It is always nice to be nice but taking it to a point where it dominates your day due to the stress factors involved in never wanting to let anyone down or breaking what you wish to be a constant flow of friendliness is pressure that can sometimes become too much and result in the exact opposite, snappiness and exhaustion.

  • Proactive and helpful 

Most people like to be helpful but those who have high-functioning anxiety quite often take it to levels that are extreme, stressed out and feeling a constant need to never let anyone down.

  • Appearing to have a calm demeanor

We’ve all had to come across as calm and collected, even in times of stress. However, someone with high-functioning anxiety may feel the need to appear this way all day every day, even when it may be acceptable to let down your guard down and admit that you’re having a difficult day.

Five negative behaviours of people who have high-functioning anxiety 

  • Over-thinking situations

Going over situations on a constant basis within your head is often considered unhealthy, creating far more stress than the situation might deserve. Those that suffer with high-functioning anxiety find themselves consistently mulling over every detail of their day, which results in creating yet more anxiety.

  • Constant need for reassurance

Everyone likes to be reassured and told that they are doing a good job, whether professionally or personally. But when someone has high-functioning anxiety, their need to hear words of reassurance seems never-ending and stems from self-doubt and worry, which is created from the condition itself.

  • A lack of transparency to others 

As people who have high-functioning anxiety have the need to project a constant appearance of positivity and achievement, they can sometimes appear to others as if they are not quite revealing their true selves. Their inner sense of fear is reflected through their behaviourisms despite the fact that they try so hard to keep their outside appearance constantly positive.

  • Fear of driving people away

As the fear of failure exists across a wide range of activities on a daily basis, so too does the thought of driving people away for a myriad of reasons.

  • Inability to say no 

Ever the people pleaser, those with high-functioning anxiety never want to let others down. Therefore, the thought of saying no to anyone who asks something of them can make them feel as if they’ve failed or might be judged in a negative light. This only leads to more pressure and so the anxiety builds.

Whilst the positive traits can produce impressive results, for example, in your professional life, burnout might not be far behind. Dealing with such success that is swiftly followed by feelings of doubt is no easy task to handle. Add to that the ever increasing demands of modern life, the pressure can often become even more unbearable but still the cycle continues to carry on.

Are behavioural symptoms linked to high-functioning anxiety?

In addition, there are also a whole host of behavioural symptoms that affect those suffering from high-functioning anxiety and they are wide and varying.

  • Nail biting
  • Lip chewing
  • Knuckle cracking
  • Hair pulling.

Do you find that you have any of these habits without realising that the underlying cause may very well be high-functioning anxiety?

What options are available for the treatment of high-functioning anxiety?

Living with an underlying and often overwhelming sense of concern that more often than not is extremely hard to control is a worry that becomes all consuming and extremely debilitating. But, there are solutions and ways to overcome the effects of high-functioning anxiety and successful treatment can be achieved through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and mindfulness training, as a few examples. Sometimes, medication is prescribed, however, it is important to remember that it does not offer a permanent solution and should be tapered once therapy starts.

So how best do you cope with high-functioning anxiety and who can you turn to when it all becomes too overwhelming?

The Dawn provides a solution to high-functioning anxiety in a tranquil setting

The Dawn Rehab Thailand is the anxiety retreat in Thailand and is located in a tranquil setting where you will be away from triggers such as the situations or environments that contribute to your anxiety.

A world away from stressors

The Dawn is a licensed anxiety retreat situated in Thailand’s cultural northern capital, Chiang Mai. Located on the idyllic banks of the Ping river, just outside the city – it is a world away from the stressors of your daily life – the situations or environments that contribute to your anxiety.

West-meets-East multi-disciplinary treatment approach

Our treatment programme uses the most effective Western psychotherapy techniques to treat the root cause of your social anxiety. These are enhanced by Eastern-wellness practises such as mindfulness, meditation and yoga – all scientifically proven to reduce stress and promote holistic recovery.

Western-trained clinical team

With a programme that only take a maximum of 25 people, our community is small and supportive, focusing on the specific needs of every individual. Our vastly experienced, Western-trained psychotherapists regularly enhance certification levels to ensure that the best possible treatment methods are always available to everyone who walks through our doors.

Find out how The Dawn can help you

Get in touch with The Dawn to find out how our treatment programmes can help you overcome high-functioning anxiety so that you can lead the life you truly deserve. And once you depart, you will take the tools and insightful knowledge gained with you so that you can continue to receive positive impacts throughout your onward journey.

Small steps make for big changes. Take the necessary steps needed towards bettering your life along a journey that will enlighten your mind and provide inner peace.