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Do You Have High-Functioning Anxiety?

Expertly reviewed by Dexter Macalintal, MD · Internal or General Medicine


Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Mar 16, 2022

Do You Have High-Functioning Anxiety?

Although usually viewed in a negative light, anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. You might feel anxious (worried or frightened) when facing a difficult situation. At times, anxiety is even helpful. It increases your focus and energy to tackle the challenge in front of you. Once the situation resolves, the anxiety also disappears. 

A person who has anxiety that doesn’t go away may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. Usually, these people find it hard to perform their daily tasks. Other times, as with high-functioning anxiety, they may function perfectly well but still suffer the negative effects of the condition.

High-Functioning Anxiety Is Real

High-functioning anxiety is not a recognized mental illness as you cannot find it in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the manual that provides the criteria for mental disorders. 

That doesn’t mean, though, that it isn’t real.

Experts say the condition is real and should be taken seriously². But how do you define it?

Generally, high-functioning anxiety means the person can function well despite feeling anxious. They seem to be managing their tasks well, are organized, and are successful in their projects or careers. But, deep down, they have persistent worries, fears, and negative thoughts. 

Telltale Signs of High-Functioning Anxiety

Because the condition is not clinically recognized, there’s no official list of signs and symptoms. Still, people believe the signs and symptoms align with that of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)³. They include⁴:

  • Feeling on-edge or restless
  • Fatigue or getting tired easily
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Muscle tension
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty managing worries and fears
  • Sleep troubles 

Hw do you connect these general symptoms to the high-functioning aspect? Experts say high-functioning anxiety can make you²:

1. Constantly Busy

If you have high-functioning anxiety, chances are, you are often busy doing tasks. You cannot keep still or relax, making you prone to burnout. 

This symptom may be tied to your fear of missing something or doing things incorrectly. 

2. A Perfectionist

High-functioning anxiety may drive you to do things flawlessly. One reason for this could be your worry about being called out for half-hearted output. 

People around you may describe you as driven and determined to do things your way. 

3. Sleep Less

Consistent with most anxiety disorders, high-functioning anxiety can make you lose sleep

You might find yourself thinking back on the things you might have done wrong or worrying about future tasks you haven’t done yet. 

4. Say Yes to Requests More Often

Do you struggle with saying no to people’s requests? Or do you find yourself taking tasks even when you can no longer handle them?

If so, then you have one of the characteristics of high-functioning anxiety. Not being able to say no is usually connected to a person’s need to please people. 

5. Rely on Activities That Numb You

Finally, if you have this kind of anxiety, you probably have one or two activities that help numb you. It could be smoking, eating, or exercising. 

There might also be times when you take these activities to extremes. 

Reminders

The tricky thing about high-functioning anxiety is many people view the symptoms in a positive light. For instance, the person might show up to meetings very early or be so invested in their clothes or appearance. Behind these attitudes, however, is their anxiety that something might go wrong. Also, when people praise those who suffer from this condition for their achievements and attitude, others may think that nothing is wrong. 

If you have symptoms of high-functioning anxiety, especially when they already affect your mindset and other habits, set an appointment with your doctor. They may not be able to diagnose you with high-functioning anxiety per se, but they can still help you with the general feeling of persistent anxiety.

Learn more about Anxiety here. 

Disclaimer

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Expertly reviewed by

Dexter Macalintal, MD

Internal or General Medicine


Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Mar 16, 2022

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