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6 Myths About High Functioning Anxiety


High functioning anxiety isn’t a verified mental health diagnosis. Instead, it’s developed as a catch-all term that refers to people living with anxiety but can function reasonably well in different areas of their lives.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 19% of people have an anxiety disorder. Some may consider themselves high functioning, but it’s tough to know precisely how many have this type of anxiety.

You may appear to be successful, together, and calm on the surface—the typical type A personality who excels at work and life. But the way you feel on the inside, may be very different.

This article explores a few common myths about high functioning anxiety.

1. High functioning anxiety is the same as a generalized anxiety disorder.

People with GAD encounter excessive anxiety and worry and often expect the worst-case scenario to happen even when there is no apparent reason for it. There’s constant mental fatigue that weighs heavily on those struggling with anxiety because their mind never stops racing. These powerful feelings of worry require a lot of energy to fight the thoughts of what could go wrong, has gone wrong in the past, or can potentially go wrong in the future.

2. Symptoms are often misinterpreted as personality quirks.

Living with high-functioning anxiety is probably similar to those who live with other conditions. People can perceive characteristics of high functioning anxiety as being “quirky” or just part of your personality. But in reality, these characteristics are driven by underlying anxiety.

Other features of high functioning anxiety are internal and may never be noticed by others—even though they cause you a significant amount of stress. People don’t always know that these actions are caused by anxiety and may view them as part of who you are.

3. They always have it together. 

If you struggle with high functioning anxiety, you might always be left with a feeling you’re ” faking it till you make it.” You can be left feeling like you have to prove you’re struggling to others which can become both physically and mentally exhausting.

While someone with high-functioning anxiety can appear as if they’re totally in control and actively engaged in their daily lives,  underneath the confident exterior is a fight to make it through the day.

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 4. They’re overachievers.

This judgment is short-sighted because it fails to consider the struggle required to attain the level of achievement. While getting everyday tasks like house chores or work-related tasks, people with high functioning anxiety may feel limited to do other things outside of their comfort zone.

5. They’re extroverts.

As much as those who experience these symptoms would like to be able to turn it off or put it on pause, they can’t. Most days, their thoughts turn into worries and their worries, in turn, consume their thoughts. This creates a constant state of “what if?” But this isolated turmoil is often hidden by smiles and laughs, success and achievements, and a decent dose of extroversion. Ironically, this nervous energy is what keeps them moving forward. It’s always there pushing them to do more, achieve more, succeed more, and be better. This is the face of “high-functioning” anxiety.

6. Anxiety only has negative consequences.

People with high functioning anxiety often feel that their worries and stress propel them forward rather than leaving them frozen in fear. If you find it difficult to believe that you can be just as successful without your anxiety, this likely applies to you. And as a result, you may experience success in your professional life but don’t have time or energy left to maintain healthy relationships or take care of your own physical or emotional health.


The bottom line

It’s common for people with high-functioning anxiety to put off getting the help they need because since their symptoms are working for them, they may feel like there isn’t anything to fix. Instead, they wait around for their anxiety to get to the point where they fail, or it gets too extreme to manage.

But for someone accustomed to success, failure can have devastating effects.

Consistent anxiety can lead to difficulty with concentration, memory, burnout, fatigue, and even increased risk for severe stress-related health conditions, like cardiovascular and autoimmune problems.

Working with a good therapist can help you learn skills that will help you continue to excel while turning down the volume on anxiety to reduce your angst.

Share this post with a friend, let’s spread some easy therapy.

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