What is high-functioning anxiety?

We all have heard of anxiety, the media is now covering mental health disorders more often, and it is more likely for us to know someone who has been struggling with it.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, an anxiety disorder can affect around 6% of all adults in the UK however it is expected for this number to grow due to the pandemic we are currently living in.

On the other hand, high-functioning anxiety is not known for most people and is not a recognized mental health diagnosis.

High-functioning anxiety (HFA) is one of the most invisible anxiety disorders and it can go on for months or years without being diagnosed or treated, and to an individual’s friends, family, and colleagues, even themselves, the symptoms can go unnoticed.

How does it look like to have high-functioning anxiety?

It is difficult to recognize high-functioning anxiety as someone with this disorder, maybe be the picture of success and perfectionism. They tend to arrive at work earlier than everyone else, extremely organized, never misses a deadline, and likes to have everything planned and under control.

What others might not know is how that person is constantly feeling and the levels of anxiety they are experiencing.

The most common signs of high-functioning anxiety are:

– Overthinking about everything and plan long into the future to avoid any potential issues

– Work long and extra hours to overdo all tasks to ensure you don’t make any errors.

– Need for reassurance from others at all times

– Having habits that show signs of nervousness such as play with hair, cracking knuckles, or biting lips or nails

– Never be satisfied with your performance

– Constant feeling of letting the other down and saying “no” to others.

How to deal with high-functioning anxiety?

Asking for help is not an easy step to take when you suffer from any form of anxiety however some characteristics of high functioning anxiety may prevent you from seeking help:

– The impact that might have on your work

– Thinking that everyone struggles and you are not an exception

– Believing you don’t need help as you always dealt with your feelings in silence

– Believe that no one will support you or will be able to help.

The most crucial step to take is to talk with someone about it! Book an appointment with a counsellor to learn coping strategies to deal with your feelings and levels of anxiety.  It is also important to put some limits on your lifestyle – limit caffeine, eat a healthy balanced and anti-inflammatory diet, and get regular exercise.