Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler

What is high functioning anxiety? Top Signs and Best Solutions

Do you feel like you’re always on edge? You’re not alone. High functioning anxiety is a real thing. Many people have high-functioning anxiety, and they don’t even know it; they just think they’re “high strung” or “stressed out.”

Often, it's internalized and we don't realize how anxious we really are until we hit a breaking point and blow up over something small and insignificant, or the anxiety becomes so overwhelming that we fall apart at the seams.

There is hope. People with high functioning anxiety can and do get better every day. With the right tools and support, you can overcome your challenges and thrive in spite of your hypersensitive nervous system.

 

What are the signs and symptoms of high-functioning anxiety?

People who have high-functioning anxiety frequently appear to be in control of things on the outside and have positive characteristics. Here are some common traits of people with high-functioning anxiety.

Hardworking

People with high functioning anxiety are often high achievers who are driven to succeed. While this can be a positive quality, it can also lead to a lot of stress and pressure. People with high functioning anxiety may feel like they have to be perfect all the time, and making even a small mistake can feel like a failure. This can lead to a lot of worry and stress, as well as difficulty relaxing or enjoying life.

Perfectionists

People who suffer from high functioning anxiety tend to be perfectionists. They have extremely high standards and are often their own worst critic. This can make everyday tasks seem insurmountable and lead to constant stress. Even making small mistakes can feel like a catastrophic event. This can cause people with high functioning anxiety to avoid taking risks and to become withdrawn and isolated. 

Type “A” personality

Their Type A personality is high achieving and often associated with high levels of anxiety. While Type As can be successful in many areas of their lives, they often have a hard time relaxing and may find it difficult to let go of control. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed and stressed. If you have a Type A personality, it is important to find coping strategies that may help treat anxiety. This may involve learning how to relax and take breaks when needed.

Punctual

Punctuality is important to them. They value promptness and hate being late because it causes them significant anxiety. To them, being on time shows that you respect their time and that you value their time as much as they do. Being late, on the other hand, is a sign of disrespect and can be seen as a sign of unreliability. They may be forgiving of others who are occasionally late, but if someone is consistently late, it will be a major source of frustration for them.

Organized

Organized people with high functioning anxiety often like things to be in their proper place. This can be helpful in many aspects of life, but it can also make it difficult to deal with change. Organized people may have a hard time adapting to new situations because they are used to things being a certain way. They like to be ready for anything and may over-prepare for events.

Detail-oriented

A Detail-oriented person sees the world differently than most and to them, every little detail matters. They take in all the certain characteristics and process them deeply. This can be both a strength and a weakness. On one hand, they are careful and meticulous. Nothing escapes their notice. On the other hand, they may have an excessive worry about details that are not important. They may get stuck on unimportant daily tasks and miss the big picture.

Competent

Competent people are usually good at what they do. They have the skills and knowledge necessary to complete tasks effectively, and they are able to apply these skills in a variety of situations. As a result, others often look to them for advice and assistance. Competent people are typically confident in their abilities, and they are often able to provide helpful guidance to others. However, despite all of these positive traits, they also understand that there is always room for improvement, and they are always willing to learn new things.

Ambitious

Ambitious people are always looking for ways to improve. They have big goals with essential tasks and are always striving to reach them. They are sensitive to the needs and well-being of others and how those affect people. They are also quick to see new opportunities and seize them. Ambitious people are always moving forward and never sitting still. They are driven by a desire to achieve their goals and make a difference in the world.

 

Negative Symptoms of High-functioning Anxiety

On the inside, people with high-functioning anxiety may feel like they’re falling apart and have negative characteristics. They may:

  • Worry

Worry can become excessive and intrusive, interfering with daily life. They may obsess over worst-case scenarios and dwell on past mistakes.

  • Feel like they’re never good enough

One of the challenges that sensitive people face is the constant comparisons they make between themselves and others. It's easy for them to look at someone else and think they have it all together while feeling like they are falling short.

  • Be impatient

People with high functioning anxiety can be very impatient. They have a hard time dealing with delays or unexpected events. When things go wrong, sensitive people can quickly become impatient and even angry.

  • Have difficulty relaxing

Have you ever found yourself struggling to relax, even when you're tired? Sensitive people can have a lot of nervous energy on their minds and are used to being on the go all the time. It can be very difficult to sit still or to take a break because their minds are always racing and they find it hard to switch it off.

  • Nervous

People with nervous habits tend to always be on edge. They may startle easily and are constantly aware of their surroundings. They are always prepared for the worst to happen. This can make them seem suspicious or even paranoid.

  • Irritable

Irritable people are often touchy and may have a short fuse. They may become easily agitated, and even the smallest thing can set them off. This can be caused by a number of things, including stress, lack of sleep, and frustration.

  • Tense

People with high functioning anxiety are often high-strung and very tense. They may find it difficult to relax and wind down. This can lead to a spiral of fatigue and anxiety, as they feel like they have to be “on” all the time.

  • Headaches

These chronic tension headaches can be caused by stressed muscle tension in the neck and shoulders which can be a constant source of pain and frustration.

  • Stomach problems

It's not uncommon for people to experience stomach problems when they're feeling anxiety or stress. Their stomach may be in knots, and they may have trouble eating or sleeping. This is because stress can cause the body to produce more stomach acid than usual.

  • Meltdowns

When someone is having a meltdown, they may be feeling anxiety symptoms such as overwhelm, frustration and anger. Meltdowns can happen in response to a trigger, such as a loud noise or a change in routine.

  • Overwhelm

Overwhelming is a very real experience for people with high functioning anxiety. They may be easily overwhelmed by too much stimulus, whether it's from bright lights, loud noises, or too many people.

  • Self-doubt

They may second guess themselves constantly, wondering if they are good enough or if they are doing things right. This can be very debilitating, leading to a lack of confidence and difficulty taking action.

  • Fear of failure

Fear of failure is a very real and very common fear. It can manifest in many different ways, from not wanting to try new things to procrastinating on projects. For some people, the fear of failure is so strong that it prevents them from ever taking the first step.

  • People-pleasing

People-pleasers are always looking for approval from others. They have a hard time saying no, and they often put other people's needs ahead of their own. As a result, people-pleasers can end up feeling overworked, underappreciated, and taken advantage of.

  • Burnt out

Sensitive people are some of the most hardworking and compassionate people you'll ever meet. They're always putting others first and working tirelessly to make the world a better place. But all this giving can take its toll, and eventually, they can end up feeling burnt out.

In addition to all the above, high functioning anxiety can lead to:

  • Difficulty sleeping

When they are anxious, their mind is racing and it's hard to relax. This can make it difficult to fall asleep and they may find themselves tossing and turning all night long.

  • Physical symptoms of anxiety

Physical symptoms of anxiety can include heart racing, shortness of breath, and nausea. These symptoms can be extremely debilitating, making it difficult to concentrate or even function on a daily basis.

 

High-functioning Anxiety vs. other forms of Anxiety

There are so many cases of high-functioning anxiety that are ignored and, over time, cause havoc on a person's body and nervous system!

That's because people tend to associate anxiety with what we see on TV or in movies – someone very visibly upset, unable to function normally, or even panicking. However, anxiety takes many forms.

Often, it's internalized and we don't realize how anxious we really are until we hit a breaking point and blow up over something small and insignificant, or the anxiety becomes so overwhelming that we fall apart at the seams.

People who have anxiety may live in fear of making mistakes, worry about what others think of them, or feel paralyzed by their fear of failure.

For those who suffer from high-functioning anxiety, however, the experience is often different. Rather than being incapacitated by their anxiety, they are able to use it as a motivator.

They may push themselves to achieve perfection in their work or strive to always be the best.

While this may appear to be a positive coping mechanism, it can often lead to burnout and other negative consequences.

If not managed properly, high-functioning anxiety can be just as harmful as other forms of anxiety.

 

How People with High-functioning anxiety can overcome their symptoms

If you're one of the many people who suffer from high-functioning anxiety, you know how debilitating it can be. Constantly worrying about making mistakes, overthinking every decision, and feeling like you're never good enough can take a toll on your mental and physical health. But there is hope.

The first step to managing your high-functioning anxiety is to understand the root cause: your nervous system dysregulation. This means that your body's stress response is constantly activated, making it difficult to relax and cope with everyday challenges. However, there are ways to help regulate your nervous system. So if you're suffering from high-functioning anxiety, don't despair. There are ways to manage your symptoms and live a healthier life.

With the right tools and support, we can overcome our challenges and thrive in spite of our hypersensitive nervous systems.

You can get started by learning about your sensitivity profile and how it impacts your high functioning anxiety.  

 

Conclusion

High-functioning anxiety is a type of anxiety that is often overlooked. Unlike other forms of anxiety, high-functioning anxiety appears to be manageable and even productive. However, this type of anxiety can be just as harmful as any other form if it's not managed properly.

If you're one of the many people who suffer from high-functioning anxiety, understand that you're not alone. And with the right support, you can overcome your challenges and thrive in spite of your hypersensitive nervous system.

Nervous System Regulation - Best Resources to Get Started

Dr. Linnea Passaler

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About the Author

Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea has dedicated 20+ years serving patients, first to a small number of individuals and then to thousands of people all over the world through digital technology. As a highly sensitive person, she understands the challenges faced by those with a sensitive nervous system and created HYNS with them in mind.