Many people think that the symptoms of anxiety would be obvious. After all, you would assume that you could usually tell when someone is nervous, or if they’re hesitant to join in on conversations and socialize. However, anxiety isn’t always so apparent.
In fact, many people do their best to keep their anxiety symptoms under wraps. Their symptoms may not interfere with their daily life on the surface, but inside, they’re struggling. This is what’s called “high-functioning anxiety”—it’s like a storm brewing beneath a calm exterior.
People with high-functioning anxiety might seem like they are thriving in the professional and social spheres, yet no one around them recognizes their inner turmoil. Just getting through the day can still feel like a difficult balancing act. High-functioning anxiety is often a way for the mind to try to prepare for a disappointing outcome to a future problem to avoid the letdown that comes with it.
Here are a few tell-tale signs of high-functioning anxiety.
Anxiety Disguised as “Ambition”
People with high-functioning anxiety are often viewed as highly ambitious. But, sometimes, this ambition is just a cover for anxiety.
Inside, maybe you’re deeply afraid that you will lose everything you’ve worked for if you make even a minor mistake. Or you may worry that people will not love you or approve of you unless you rack up prestigious titles and accolades. Therefore, you try to prove yourself through hard work.
The Mind Never Stops
Individuals with high-functioning anxiety might feel like they can never “turn off” their thoughts. They go over the same troubling thoughts over and over again, unable to simply drop it and move on. Even when they know that they should be relaxing, they simply can’t let these thoughts go. They are prone to rumination.
Perhaps, you lay awake at night imagining scenarios in which things can go wrong and how you would handle them. Or you may wake up in the middle of the night thinking about what you said or did yesterday or worrying about tomorrow. Once your mind gets going, it is impossible to fall back to sleep.
If you have high-functioning anxiety, your friends might think of you as the perfectionist of the group.
On one hand, you might be proud of this: you think ahead and avoid some of the problems that your friends deal with, and you’re on top of your to-do list at all times. But you’re also constantly trying to anticipate problems and solve them before they happen. And half the time, the problems you dream up and prepare for never end up happening.
Hiding Your Feelings
Your loved ones think that you have it all together. But deep down, you know that this isn’t true. You’re scared to express it because you worry that admitting you deal with so much anxiety will let people down. And part of having high-functioning anxiety is harboring a fear of being vulnerable. Therefore, you don’t really want to open up. You’re afraid to break the illusion. And the idea of sharing your worries makes you feel like they could come true.
Unable to Relax
If you experience high-functioning anxiety, you may find it hard to physically relax. You might carry a lot of tension in your back and shoulders. Sometimes, you may even notice that your breathing is shallow and rapid when you’re trying to focus on something. And perhaps you grind your teeth at night or experience digestive issues. While these symptoms are not severe enough to stop you from doing the things you need to do on a daily basis, they can easily make you feel uncomfortable.
Do you go through your day pretending that everything is fine—but deep down, you’re mired in anxiety and wish the people around you understood? People with high-functioning anxiety can benefit from therapy by learning strategies to quiet their minds without compromising their drive and sense of accomplishment.