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Living with High Functioning Anxiety

Anxiety is a very common emotion, and everyone truly feels anxiety at some point of their lives. You may be nervous and anxious about a job interview or a first date. Having an anxiety disorder is when you or I have strong, debilitating anxiety, terrible enough to limit you from everyday activities. This definition though can be very limiting.

High Functioning Anxiety is not a diagnosable disorder. Why? Because it is, by its very definition not fitting into the guidelines of anxiety that is debilitating and limiting the sufferer from daily activities. Those with high functioning anxiety, like myself, are able to live life as if nothing is wrong, able to control how others see the extreme anxiety we suffer with daily.

What are signs of high-functioning anxiety?


An exhausting feeling common with high functioning anxiety is a need to overachieve, a need to prove yourself and to be perfect. Since I was pretty young, I have always been a perfectionist. I never understood how anxiety had a hand in it until I became an adult. I also never understand how this perfectionism held me back. Perfectionism can have strong anxious thoughts at its root that nobody else may ever see. They may just see you as an overachiever or workaholic.


Controlling behavior is common in many anxiety disorders. When we worry and are constantly anxious there is a need to try to control the anxiety itself. In an effort to do so we try to control people and situations around us. People around us may see that we can be controlling but they may not understand the underlying reason. They wouldn’t understand that anxiety may be causing the need to control everything around.

Constantly Busy

Having a constant flow of activities helps those with high functioning anxiety to avoid their anxious, negative, and destructive thoughts. I personally cannot remember a time when I did not want to remain constantly busy. I recognized in myself this need to stay busy and when I wasn’t, when I was bored or idle, I’d have seriously harsh bouts of depression. Staying busy became a coping mechanism, a way to keep me out of depression but doing so was a means to keep me from avoiding my harsh and anxious thoughts.

Rough Time Sleeping

Anxiety can mean replaying events of the day over and over again in your head. Did you say something wrong? Were you judged? Were you seen as incapable or stupid? Did you make a mistake? All of these questions and so much more can be hindering your ability to sleep. Often times you lay awake unable to shut off your thoughts and relax.

You Can’t Relax

It is hard to just have fun at events and relax. For me, this manifests most often when out with my kids. I worry about them breaking something, they’re getting into things, making a mess, causing a ruckus. I cannot stop worrying and in doing so I can be seen as controlling, stuck-up, and anal retentive. It often times can actually make it so people keep their distance, not truly understanding my thoughts and feelings. They do not see my anxiety but just that I’m rude and distant.

You Experience a Lot of Negative Self Talk

The constant voice of anxiety can be harmful to your personal self esteem and self talk. Negativity is prevalent. Thoughts that often run through my head include… “You cannot do anything right,” “Why try?,” “You’re a bad mother,” “You’re not appreciated!”

You Seek Constant Reassurance

As anxiety and worry grows, we can lose sight of those thoughts being irrational or unrealistic. In order to try to calm those thoughts we need constant reassurance from those around us that we are okay, that our thoughts are irrational or unrealistic.

You Try to Avoid Your Thoughts

Staying constantly busy may seem like just overachieving or perfectionism but often times it truly is just avoidance. Avoidance of the anxiety and constant rollercoaster of emotions. Compartmentalizing is easy for those with high-functioning anxiety and after realizing that it’s easy to be happy and less anxious while busy we often purposefully stay busy to avoid the anxious thoughts.

One of Your Biggest Fears Is Letting People Down

Overachieving tends to come with an underlying reason. This reason can be different for each person but often times for those with high-functioning anxiety it is steered by a need for appreciation and love. There’s a need for pleasing others. When you do things with a motivation to please others, be liked, and receive appreciation, anxiety builds that perhaps you will not receive those things.

Aches, Pains, or Ticks

Anxiety can cause many different physical symptoms. Those with high-functioning anxiety compartmentalize a lot of the anxiety in doing so they internalize so many emotions they tend to have physical consequences. They can manifest in biting nails, twitching or even gastrointestinal upset.

You Are Not Alone

If you have anxiety, whether or not it is a diagnosable disorder or not, remember you are not alone. Seek help when you need it, talk to those around you, especially those that understand and have been through anxiety like you. You are strong!

Join Sarah’s Sage Advice’s Facebook Group for moms, Finding Sanity in Motherhood.



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