Highly functional anxiety sufferers demonstrate success, work, confidence, organization and even perfectionism but may need help.
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues. Millions of people suffer from anxiety disorders ranging from occasional episodes to severe disorders – involving panic attacks and other debilitating physical symptoms – that seriously threaten everyday life. Highly functional anxiety, on the other hand, is still not diagnosed as an isolated disorder from other types of anxiety, but it is beginning to be increasingly referred to in the literature. Who suffers from this type of anxiety, for others everything is fine, too much so; inside, the person struggles to maintain balance.
What is High Functioning Anxiety?
Those who suffer from anxiety – from separation, financial, related to phobias – often feel diminished in their abilities, unable to deal with the requests and emotions of everyday life. At the opposite extreme, high functioning anxiety is characterized by enormous efficiency and work capacity, well above average. For those around, a person in this situation proves to be an excellent professional, tireless, well-organized, with an always busy agenda and also with an intense social life and time for leisure activities.
That’s where the phrase “highly functional” comes from. It’s not just about working hard, taking care of the family, having friends and hobbies , but being able to manage everything in an overwhelming way for most people. Underlying this anxiety disorder there may be a feeling of insecurity that pushes the person to always do more and better.
Do you know that…
Most people with anxiety disorders try to distance themselves from situations, avoid creating stressful moments . People with highly functional anxiety do the opposite, they move forward and do their best – sometimes over the top – to get through the situation, hiding inner panic.
What are the signs of high functioning anxiety?
Seeking to be better than others, always being available and paying close attention to details are not negative aspects, except when they become concerns that override everything and control all aspects of our lives. That’s what happens with high-functioning anxiety. Those with this condition are always wanting to do more and better, because they are afraid of being insufficient, fighting a constant feeling of being on the “knife’s edge”. This type of behavior can have opposing positive and negative aspects:
|perfectionist||Afraid to fail|
|Always available and proactive||Can’t say “no”|
|Good results||Pessimistic, anticipates worst-case scenarios|
|calm before others||unable to relax|
|Always busy||Sleep problems and eating disorders|
|Organized||Overthinks and analyzes things|
|Sociable||hide the emotions|
What Causes High Functioning Anxiety?
There are several factors that can contribute to this type of anxiety, including a family history of similar or other anxiety disorders. Lifelong traumatic events, personal or professional, also have this effect. Medical conditions such as thyroid disorders, or diagnosed mental health issues also have the potential to cause anxiety, whether highly functional or not. The same for excessive consumption of alcohol or drugs, as well as the possible effects of withdrawal from these substances.
Not being diagnosable, how is it identified?
Highly functional anxiety is not currently identified as an anxiety disorder per se, not least because of the difficulty in understanding some of the positive signs as being symptoms of a disorder. To identify a social anxiety disorder or generalized anxiety, for example, the doctor performs the anamnesis (medical history) and physical examination.
In order to confirm that there is no other medical condition causing the anxiety symptoms. Once an organic pathology has been excluded, the health professional specializing in mental health identifies the disturbance and defines the treatment.
What’s the treatment?
For a diagnosed anxiety disorder, symptomatic management and treatment of anxiety disorders includes psychotherapy and other cognitive therapies, which help to cope with the problem, which may include breathing exercises, meditation and muscle relaxation. Pharmacological medication may be needed to control anxiety disorders.
How to prevent high functioning anxiety?
Whether it is a complement to treatment or an attempt to deal with “normal” anxiety in our lives – in order to control stress levels and avoid more serious disorders -, there are several ways to make a healthier lifestyle, both in terms of physical and mental terms:
- Limit consumption of caffeine, nicotine or alcohol
- Have a healthy diet and exercise
- Try meditation and relaxation techniques
- Wake up early and maintain a good sleep routine
When to see the doctor?
Asking for help with anxiety, or even knowing when to do so, can be difficult. This becomes even more complicated in the case of highly functional anxiety. In addition to the fact that in the eyes of others everything is apparently fine, the pursuit of perfectionism and personal improvement often leads to medical support for mental health being seen as a sign of “failure” or “weakness”, and is therefore avoided.
Talk to your doctor if you are feeling overwhelmed, more tired or having difficulty getting restful sleep, if you have recurring changes in mood and appetite, or if it is difficult to keep your balance in everyday tasks.