In recent years, mental health topics have been a hot-button topic in social conversations, and for a good reason. For too many years, mental health and mental health issues were considered taboo. If you suffered, you suffered in silence. Thankfully, society is over that, and we are finally getting people the support they need.
But to what extent are we treating our mental health disorders? Well, it’s not a perfect science yet, but it’s well on its way. Today, we want to get real about high functioning anxiety. It’s an issue that has had light shed on it recently, but we want to go even further. We want to define it, explain the signs and symptoms, and arm you with ways to say goodbye to your anxiety disorder.
What Is High Functioning Anxiety?
Interestingly enough, high functioning anxiety isn’t seen as a diagnosable mental health disease. It’s a broad term, like generalized anxiety disorder, and doesn’t pertain to anything too specific.
This is an issue because, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 19% of U.S adults have an anxiety disorder. At the very least, about 30% of that first percentage is left untreated.
We want to mention an interesting tidbit about high functioning anxiety disorder: it isn’t always seen negatively. Instead, those living with high functioning anxiety generally seem to be motivated by it.
On the outside, they seem successful and motivated. On the inside, they are plagued by fears and overreactions to everything we do all day. The level of anxiety they deal with is high, and their quality of life and interpersonal relationships definitely suffer.
Why Is It Important To Talk About This?
Unfortunately, due to how high functioning anxiety presents itself, it can be easy to miss. Or, more than that, people think it’s a good thing to live with it. We don’t think that living with any sort of anxiety should be ok.
So we want to be part of the change — for ourselves and for our kiddos. Our children deserve better than growing up with anxiety, and if we can give it to them, we should.
Why is it so important? Living with anxiety can lead to substance abuse and struggles that become increasingly difficult to rise above.
Signs of High-Functioning Anxiety
There are plenty of signs that we are living with high functioning anxiety. These include emotional symptoms, things only you would be able to confirm. Others are physical symptoms of anxiety.
These are signs that others notice and can confirm for you. We need to know as much as we can to seek out the right medical professionals to help.
Of course, an active lifestyle can be good and bad, as well as a normal part of life. However, for others, this is a symptom of high functioning anxiety. This type of symptom can be both good and bad.
People with an active lifestyle are happy and healthy. There are a lot of people around, and you have many outlets to turn to if you need someone to lean on.
It can be bad when it begins to overwhelm you. You R.S.V.P. to any and all activities you are invited to instead of staying home out of a desire to not be alone. We are afraid of a night in and missing out on something and becoming less a part of the group. This fear of missing out is more important to us than our mental health.
Anxiety in Public
Another risk factor of high functioning anxiety is anxiety with people. As you speak to people, you'll notice that you’re overthinking every word you utter.
Your heart races if you’re worried you said something wrong. Generally, people don’t notice. Under the surface, you’re sweating and panicking about how long the conversion goes on.
This is also known as Social Anxiety Disorder. Not to be confused with phobias about people or the outdoors, social anxiety disorder is less fear and more stress.
You are capable of being in public and social situations, but they overwhelm you once you’re there. The amount of people is intimidating, and you stress over the idea that you may say the wrong thing.
Sometimes referred to as a “type A” personality, individuals dealing with high functioning anxiety in this manner strive for perfection. It’s an impulse that cannot be controlled.
On the outside, many people will just see someone they consider motivated. Someone that gets to work early, stays late, and is determined to get the highest marks in school or at work. It’s an overachieving desire to always be the best.
What’s happening on the inside isn’t exactly the same. It’s an exhausting behavior. Mentally and physically. You’re constantly telling yourself that perfection is possible and that you just aren’t trying hard enough.
These types of thoughts are fueled by a “fear of failure.” It’s a type of mental illness, to be sure, but it goes unnoticed or untreated so much of the time. Our kids are especially at risk for this, so be on the lookout for signs.
Rumination is a type of mental illness in which you are constantly obsessing over past experiences. Many times, we obsess over past trauma. However, for those dealing with high functioning anxiety, we can obsess over any situation that bothers us. It could be something as simple as a time when we felt embarrassed.
For those with this type of anxiety, rumination doesn’t necessarily have the rhyme or reason as other mental illnesses. Any uncomfortable situation can be enough to derail your thoughts for a long time.
Many times with anxiety disorders, we stress over the details of a project for too long without action. We will procrastinate until a tiny window of time is available before a deadline, then panic rushes our way through the assignment. We stay up all night, panic and worry the entire time, till we finally complete that project.
This is a type of anxiety we can expect to see a lot in our loved ones. Specifically, our children. They’ll hold off on large projects, then stay up all night right before it’s due to complete it. We think they’re lazy, but there could be a lot more at play.
Dwelling on the Future
We all think about the future, and it’s normal to worry slightly about what can happen. Someone who deals with high functioning anxiety will only see the worst for every situation. We’ll call it “planning for the worst-case scenario,” but really, we can’t see the situation turning out any differently.
As parents, we deal with this a lot. We worry about everything that can happen to our kids to the point of making it an obsession. This type of anxiety is very common with new parents. Our hormones are already all over the place, and then the realizations start to set in.
Need For Reassurance
Someone that suffers from high functioning anxiety will need constant reassurance from loved ones. You will constantly be asking everyone if they’re ok. Or possibly always just “checking in” to see if something’s wrong. You might find that you’ll ask the same person so often that they will get frustrated.
Sometimes, we get so overwhelmed with situations that our heart rate increases and our breathing quickens. We slowly build up a panic in our bodies and then twirl our hair or tap our fingers. This is known as nervous habits or ticks. Many times we cannot take the mental overload that is caused by intense anxiety. Then, we start to exhibit physical signs.
These can show in kids as well as adults. As parents, we always need to get ahead of problems as often as possible. Ticks related to high functioning anxiety can sometimes be painful or cause long-term issues that will be hard to get rid of. It is very important to treat these as soon as we see them.
For many, the emotions of high functioning anxiety make it hard for us to say no. We are so worried about letting anyone down that we sacrifice our own needs for others. Of course, as parents, this is something we very often have to do for our children. But this incessant need to people please goes a lot farther than our children.
Our friends and family appreciate this in us, as we are always there for them when they need us. However, they never have a chance to return the favor as we are too afraid of asking them for anything and upsetting them.
We are crippled with worry every time we even think of saying no. Yet, we often are overwhelmed due to the tasks asked of us.
Obstacles Around Focus
Many times high functioning anxiety masks itself under other disorders or disabilities. One such example would be ADHD. Anxiety can mimic the signs of ADHD, and an anxiety disorder goes undiagnosed.
High functioning anxiety can cause us or our children to lose focus or stay on task. It can also make it difficult for us to maintain eye contact with people.
Both of these signs also show up in people diagnosed with ADHD. Because of this, a mental health condition isn’t even considered. If your child has some of these symptoms, bring them up at their next wellness check.
Tying it All Together
There are many more signs and symptoms of high functioning anxiety that are added to the list every day. For the most up-to-date and complete list, check out the DSM-5, also known as the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. It will provide you with a lot of anxiety causes, symptoms, and information to present to providers for treatment.
It Will Get Better
We mean it. There are plenty of resources available and changes you can make to your daily life to treat anxiety. Even if they feel menial, it just takes small steps little by little to make lasting change.
If you’re ready to start treating your anxiety and you want to make changes to your daily life, we are here to help. We’ve got a list of daily modifications to help you start overcoming some of the stressors that cause your anxiety.
The No Goes
If you are a people pleaser, you need to learn to say no. Start with things you don’t necessarily feel bad about, like telemarketers. Saying no consistently when people call asking you to switch your car insurance can be a great place to start. The idea here is getting used to saying “no” and that being an ok option for friends and family.
You will start out by feeling nervous and guilty every time. There might be an intense worrying feeling that you’re letting others down by saying no. But you need to remind yourself that you said no to help YOU. It can be hard, but we can’t do it all for ourselves if we’re too busy assisting others.
Whether you subscribe to “You can’t burn a candle at both ends” or “Put your oxygen mask on before helping others,” it’s no secret that burnout is real. Offer yourself some of the loving compassion you so freely lend to others.
Run It Out
Physical health can tie directly into our mental health. Our bodies use exercise to keep up our physical endurance. Our minds use it to keep up our mental stamina.
If you’re having a rough day and just need a mental reset, this is the perfect time to go for a walk around the block. It will give you time to clear out the noise around you and focus on what’s bothering you.
Meditation is a great way to improve your mental state. Taking time out of your day to just ignore the obligations and stressors of daily life to concentrate on things that will help you heal. If you need a hand in getting to your happy place, try our ZenPatch. It’s formulated to help you reach better clarity in your mind to tackle your worries away.
Our patches are an all-natural blend of essential oils. They work by releasing our innovative blend of aromas. Once your nose gets a hold of the scent, your brain can trigger a calming response.
The best part? They work for kids and adults. Our littles deserve the same mental clarity we do, so we couldn’t leave them out of this.
For many of us, high functioning anxiety means we are overcommitting ourselves. So you might think it counterproductive to recommend a new hobby. But in fact, it’s the complete opposite. When we suffer from social anxiety, we often over-commit our schedules in fear of being left out of plans in the future.
Instead, what we should be doing is saying no to those plans (see, you’re already using your new tricks) and saying yes to activities that make our hearts sing. It sounds silly but finding hobbies encourages us to be our most authentic selves. Finding a new hobby that we love is the perfect place to start.
Getting Help From a Professional
If you find that these at-home changes aren’t helping, it may be time to talk to a healthcare provider. They can offer various treatment options to decide what fits your comfort needs. We want to go over the two main types-medication and therapy and the options included in each of them.
If our anxiety gets to a certain point, intervention via medication might be necessary. Prescriptions like anti-depressants can help us cope with some of the thoughts we have due to anxiety and the symptoms. Anxiety can often cause insomnia, and antidepressants can work to reverse this issue.
Another option your medical provider might suggest is benzodiazepines. This is used to treat the nerves, calm the user down, and soothe sleepless nights. Many healthcare providers prescribe these drugs for panic disorders. They are effective at calming the neurotransmitters in our brains that can induce panic attacks.
There are quite a few words and associations that go along with the idea of a mental health professional, so let’s clear the air on them now.
Talk Therapy is basically the dialogue between you and your therapist. It is exactly what it sounds like, a conversation during therapy. This is also one of the many ways in which your therapist can get to the root of your stressors.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a style of therapy in which your therapist will teach you to recognize your cognitive distortions to help correct the automatic pathways in your brain.
Psychotherapy is the broad term for all forms of mental health aids. These include therapy, psychology, psychiatry, counseling, etc.
Bottom line: therapy is helpful and can definitely be a valuable tool.
While it may come in many different forms, therapy is incredible. Our kids can benefit greatly from this service, as they will be able to learn positive coping methods early on that they can use forever. As parents, we deal with so much that having an outlook for our frustrations is healthy and a positive outlet for our personal well-being.
Time For Mental Clarity
We are confident that this information today about high functioning anxiety will give you a step in the right direction toward your own mental clarity. It’s important to understand that help comes in many forms and is different for every person. If you or a loved one is living with high functioning anxiety, the time for help is now. We know you’ll make the right choices to help your brain get its zen back.