Spotting the Signs: Five Symptoms of High-Functioning Anxiety to Look Out For

Spotting the Signs: Five Symptoms of High-Functioning Anxiety to Look Out For

Around 40 million U.S. adults suffer from an anxiety disorder. That’s one out of five people. Globally, that number soars to almost 300 million.

While that number is staggering, it only represents those who have been clinically diagnosed with the mental condition.

What about those who experience bouts of anxiety but compress them in an attempt to continue on with life as usual?

Known as high-functioning anxiety, this condition doesn’t always fit the textbook definition of the medical symptom, but it’s every bit as real. 

Today, I’m sharing five tell-tale signs of this concern to help you determine if you or someone you love could be suffering from it. 

Ready to learn more? Let’s dig in.

What Is High-Functioning Anxiety?

A term most commonly reserved for individuals with a developmental disorder who manage to perform on the less-severe side of the spectrum, “high-functioning” is also applicable to mental health.

In this case, it describes someone whose life, at least from the outside, does not appear to be affected by his or her anxiety. Instead of appearing withdrawn, tired, and constantly worried, these people most often seem like Type-A overachievers. 

They show up to work early, work with perfectionist precision, and always get the job done. You aren’t aware of their elevated heart rate, gastrointestinal distress, or unshakable feelings of doom. 

Yet, when the day is over and the facade can come off, it’s not uncommon for sufferers to crash in private, overwhelmed by the effort required to keep it all together.

To this end, it’s important to recognize the signs of this condition, subtle as they may be, so you can help those affected seek support.

Here are five symptoms to look out for. 

1. A Quest for Perfection

One of the top high-functioning anxiety symptoms is a need to perform at a perfectionist level all of the time. Whether at work, the gym, or at home, sufferers will strive to complete all tasks without error. They’re also trademark people pleasers who become distressed at the first sign of criticism. 

Many will hear a relentless voice in their mind telling them that if they aren’t first, they’re last. If they aren’t the best, they’re the worst. 

Of course, they understand these goals are unrealistic and unmeetable. This realization triggers feelings of inadequacy, which then exacerbate anxiety. In short, it’s a cycle that cannot be shaken, as shortcomings are highlighted to an unnatural degree.

2. A Need to Control

How do these perfectionist tendencies manifest themselves? Most often, they push sufferers to seek excessive control.

They’ll establish strict routines for themselves and rarely deviate from the pattern. They may also strive to exhibit control over those closest to them, which can lead to relationship distress. 

When this occurs, even the slightest detour from the expected route can send someone with high-functioning anxiety spirling. If they miss a workout or forget to call someone back, for instance, they can’t quickly bounce back and reset. 

3. Constant Busyness

Those with this condition are often the busiest people you know.

Their to-do lists are miles long and it seems they never pencil downtime into their schedule. They’re the ones who volunteer for everything at school, pour themselves into work commitments and rush from one appointment to the next with hardly a breath in between.

When asked why they’re constantly on-the-go, they might laugh and shake off the concern by explaining that if they don’t stay busy, they’ll go crazy.

Yet, this guise often masks the fact that they don’t want to be alone and quiet with their anxious thoughts. They’d rather keep their mind occupied with deadlines, chores, and activities than on the ever-present reality that their anxiety is always under the surface.

4. Disrupted Sleep Patterns

Seven out of 10 adults who experience moderate anxiety on a daily basis have a difficult time sleeping. And, three-fourths of adults with anxiety claim that their sleep problems have heightened their anxiety.

See the cycle? 

Sleep and mental health are intrinsically linked. When one suffers, it’s not uncommon for the other to, as well. 

This also applies to people with high-functioning anxiety. Like others with the condition, they find it difficult to “turn their minds off” and experience a full night’s rest. 

Instead, they have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep and waking up feeling refreshed in the morning. They may also suffer from other related medical conditions including sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and sleepwalking. 

Sleep deprivation can lead to a host of health issues including heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure and more. That’s why it’s so important for those suffering to seek the help they need.

5. Nervous Habits and Body Aches

Do you bite your nails constantly? What about cracking your knuckles or tapping your foot? Often, our bodies will exhibit symptoms of anxiety even if we’re able to quell the major side effects. 

This also applies to a nagging knot in your stomach or tension in your neck. Those suffering from this condition will often perform repetitive movements out of sheer nervousness, which can be coupled with other muscle pains. 

What anxiety feels like can differ from one person to the next and as such, everyone will display his or her own outward signs. Still, there is a distinct connection between bodily aches and mental distress.

Find Support for High-Functioning Anxiety Today

If you recognize these signs of high-functioning anxiety in your life or in the life of someone you love, you’re not alone. 

You don’t have to sweep the symptoms under the rug in an attempt to drive them away. You also don’t have to power through them, suppress them or mask them anymore. 

Professional counseling support is available and only a phone call away.

Get in touch with Modern Era Counseling today and let us help you finally shake off the chains of anxiety and live a freer, more fulfilling life. 

Close Menu

Psssst...We're hiring!

Are you a licensed counselor in the Charlotte area looking to do life-changing work? If so, we want to hear from you!