6 Things You Don't Realize You Do Because You Have High-Functioning Anxiety

Just because you may appear normal on the outside, doesn't mean you don't want to curl up into a ball of anxiety.

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By Maria Hakki

Feeling anxiety from time to time is considered something normal. But if you suffer from anxiety attacks too often, it could mean you are getting a more severe mental illness.

The National Institute of Mental Health provides the following definition of anxiety disorders:

“…anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. The symptoms can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school work, and relationships.


Various types of anxiety disorders exist, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and various phobia-related disorders.”

On top of that, lately, experts have started discussing another mental problem called high-functioning anxiety. High-functioning anxiety is not officially recognized as a mental health condition and is rather a term related to all people who suffer from anxiety but are still able to perform their daily tasks.

RELATED: 18 Foods To Add To Your Diet If You Want To Reduce Anxiety


Here is the story of Jessy, a person suffering from high-functioning anxiety which describes how she feels every day living with this condition:

“High-functioning anxiety is hard to handle because, in the eyes of others, I look normal, while deep inside myself I am desperately trying to deal with what’s going on around me. Although I am capable of maintaining normal interactions with people, I am feeling anxious almost all the time, and this usually leads to an increased heart rate. The truth is that in the beginning I wasn’t aware of what exactly was going on with me and despite the discomfort, I didn’t tend to avoid situations that could make me anxious. Now as I know that I have this condition, I try to avoid all sources of stress.”

According to the professional opinion of Jonathon Sikorski, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, “Typically when I hear people talk about high-functioning anxiety, it means they may have a lot of features of an anxiety disorder without the actual diagnosis.

Debra Kissen, Ph.D., co-chair of the public education committee for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America also shares her view on high-functioning anxiety: “Many people are walking around with extremely high levels of anxiety that are near meeting the criteria for anxiety disorders, but they’re white-knuckling their way through it. They’re still waking up. They’re still getting themselves to work.”


People affected by high-functioning anxiety are not classified as patients who suffer from a real disorder. However, the symptoms and problems they have are typical of other officially acknowledged anxiety disorders.

Unfortunately, it is tough to tell what’s a reasonable amount of anxiety and when someone’s anxiety has become as dangerous as transforming into a mental disorder, especially if this person is still trying to live their ordinary life.

That’s why we consulted the professional opinion of different experts and outlined 6 behavioral warning signs that might reveal you or your family or friends suffer from high-functioning anxiety.

RELATED: The Fascinating Way Emotionally Strong People Avoid Anxiety


Here are 6 things you don't realize you do because you have high-functioning anxiety:

1. Worrying too much

Worrying all the could be a sign of anxiety and the worst part of all is that it could lead to both mental and physical draining.

According to Courtney Bradford, an L.A. psychologist: “Feeling worried all the time is emotionally exhausting and could decrease your capability of doing different tasks throughout the day. The tiredness could be so strong that you might become unable to do anything apart from lying in bed.”

2. Paying too much attention to details

According to psychotherapist Dr. Gin Love Thompson, Ph.D., M.A., M. Msc, “high-functioning anxiety individuals are often extremely detail-oriented.”

That is a positive trait unless it comes to an extreme because it could quickly grow into perfectionism which is irritating and exhausting.


RELATED: 5 Ways The Most Successful People Turn Anxiety Into Productivity

3. Inability to get rest

One of the symptoms of high-functioning anxiety is the inability to rest. It could lead to feeling extremely exhausted and emotionally drained.

Here is what psychotherapist Kelly Bos, MSW, RSW says about this: “Your mind doesn’t shut off, and you always feel like you should be doing something.”

4. Inability to fall asleep

Although this is not always the case, tossing and turning in bed and not falling asleep because you feel anxious and worried could be a telltale sign of high-functioning anxiety.

Here is the professional opinion of clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Marie Manly: “When you internalize anxiety and function well during the day, the anxiety may come out in the form of sleep disturbance.”


RELATED: The Change Of Perspective That Instantly Helps You Live With Your Anxiety

5. Physical pain

Anxiety is dangerous not only for mental health because it could also affect your body and lead to persistent physical pain. According to Dr.Bella Williams, it usually involves pain in the area of the shoulders and an unpleasant and tight feeling in the stomach.

6. Need to be in control

Feeling helpless is typical of people who suffer from anxiety — that’s why the ones who are affected by high-functioning anxiety often feel the need to be in control of whatever they are doing.


Laura Peterson, a certified psychotherapist, also confirms that “a symptom that could reveal high functioning anxiety is the constant need to control what is going on. On top of that, people suffering from it try to decrease the discomfort their condition causes by controlling activities including simple everyday duties like tidying for example but also more important accomplishments like achieving different aims in life .”

Additionally, according to a study on this issue, anxiety could have a seriously negative influence on memory, reasoning, and cognition.

Lastly, it is essential to remind all our readers that although this form of anxiety is not officially recognized as a disorder if it is not treated, there is a high chance that the person suffering from it would develop other mental severe conditions. On top of that, we shouldn’t forget that the stress caused by anxiety could have extremely negative consequences for the overall well-being of the person affected by it.

RELATED: 12 Struggles Only People With Anxiety Will Understand


Maria Hakki is a writer and translator. She has been featured in I Heart Intelligence, Australian National Review, and more.