7 Signs Of High-Functioning Anxiety And How To Recognize It

A woman sits in a robe with a cup of something warn looking worried

High-functioning anxiety isn’t something that I realized that I struggled with until I reached early adulthood. Looking back now, I can see signs of it since I was very young, but because I was high-functioning it made it much harder for myself and the people around me to recognize it for what it was.

When you struggle with anything– from anxiety, to ADHD, to depression, but you are still able to function normally, it can make it difficult to figure out what is actually going on.

The people around us can also be less supportive, or may not even understand or believe that we are having any problems because they don’t see the signs.

Below we are going to review what high-functioning anxiety is, 7 signs of high-functioning anxiety, and ways to cope with high-functioning anxiety.

What Is High-Functioning Anxiety?

High-functioning anxiety is what people call it when you have anxiety, but your personal and professional lives are still successful.

When you are feeling anxious and experiencing the symptoms of anxiety on a regular basis, but it doesn’t impair your ability to do your job or maintain friendships.

Those of us that struggle with high-functioning anxiety can appear very happy and successful and put together on the outside, but on the inside, we may be anxious and worried.

Signs of High-Functioning Anxiety

1. Perfectionism

People with high-functioning anxiety often feel immense pressure to be perfect. Those impossibly high standards can be impossible to meet which can lead to us being hard on ourselves.

That perfectionism can be rooted in the desire for us to strive for perfection in order to feel good enough for the people around us.

We are often afraid of the rejection and judgment that can come from the people we care about.

Although perfectionism may be seen by some people as a good thing, it often leads to a lot of negativity for the people that experience it.

2. Being a People Pleaser

The problem with being a people pleaser is that we often put everyone else’s needs ahead of our own. This leads to us neglecting our own needs, health, and self-care.

When our sense of worth and value comes from what other people think of us, it can lead to a low sense of self-worth and confidence when those people are no longer happy with us.

Neglecting our own needs can lead to many other problems like burnout, exhaustion, and even losing a sense of who we really are.

3. Being an Overachiever

Just like perfectionism, people often view being an overachiever as a good thing. After all, overachievers are setting and chasing many high goals.

However, those of us with high-functioning anxiety often struggle to slow down and rest. This means lots of long days, working around the clock, and focusing on everything else except for taking care of ourselves.

When you are an overachiever it can be impossible to ever feel pleased with your work and to simply stop and enjoy the fruits of your labor before you are on to chasing the next goal.

Overachievers are often unable to just switch off their brains and relax during that much-needed downtime.

4. Struggling To Set Boundaries

When we are so worried about what other people think of us, it can be difficult to tell someone “no” or to set healthy boundaries.

Setting boundaries is such an important part of protecting ourselves from burnout, but it is something we struggle with.

When we don’t have the ability to say no to others, we can commit to tasks, or other things, that aren’t good for us, or that we don’t have the current capability to take on.

5. Problems with sleep

Does your brain turn on the second you open your eyes making it impossible to sleep in? Or is it difficult for you to shut your brain off at night so that you can get to sleep?

When you experience high-functioning anxiety, it can either wake you up early in the morning or keep you up late at night.

For a long time, I struggled to quiet my brain down at night in order to fall asleep.

It was as if once it was night and I finally laid in bed and everything was quiet my brain wouldn’t stop worrying about all these things I didn’t normally think about during the day.

A great self-care morning routine, self-care night routine, or both can be helpful for helping you to get more sleep.

A woman is lying in bed struggling to sleep and looks deep in thought and worry

6. Struggling With What-ifs

People that have high-functioning anxiety often can’t control that they spend most of their time overanalyzing, overthinking, and over-worrying about every possible outcome of every situation that they experience.

It can be hard to be present while you are so worried about the past and the future.

It wasn’t until therapy that I discovered that this type of worrying is all about a need for control.

Our brains irrationally think that if we consider every possible outcome, then we will be ready for whatever happens.

But being stressed and anxious about something actually makes us even less ready to handle any situation.

7. Struggling With Negative Self-talk

When you are experiencing a lot of anxiousness, it can be easy for your inner voice to be overly critical and negative about everything happening in your life.

It is easy to be hard on ourselves and to feel bad about having anxiety in the first place.

That negative voice can try to persuade us that we aren’t worthy of our accomplishments, and can cause a lot of self-doubt.

Ways To Cope With High-Functioning Anxiety

There are many different things you can do to help make living with high-functioning anxiety easier:

1) Therapy

Therapy may not be for everyone, but it was very helpful for helping me deal with my high-functioning anxiety.

Seeing a mental health professional to receive a formal diagnosis can lead you to treatments like medication, or different types of therapy like Cognitive-behavioural therapy and Psychodynamic therapy.

2) Mindfulness

Because high-functioning anxiety can cause you to focus on the past and the future, using something that helps you to focus on the present moment can help.

That is what mindfulness is, and it can take many different forms such as:

3) Focusing on self-care

Improving your self-care routine and activities can help to decrease a lot of the effects of stress and burnout that you might be experiencing.

Engaging in a relaxing self-care routine before bed can help you to have a more restful night’s sleep.

4) Manifestation

Manifestation can help to banish the negative self-talk, by slowly shifting your mindset into more positive thoughts.

By repeating these positive statements over and over again, we eventually start to believe them, and are more easily able to shut down the negativity.

Final thoughts on signs of high-functioning anxiety…

Although people with high-functioning anxiety can seem like they are coping on the outside, they are often struggling a lot on the inside.

Luckily, there are many things you do (like those in the list above) that can help to improve your life so that you aren’t struggling alone.

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