Most people assume that those with anxiety disorders face severe limitations in their daily lives. However, some anxious people function well at work, maintain a social life, and generally appear “normal.”
In fact, they might even be considered high achievers. Yet, on the inside, they are worried, stressed, and have a tendency to assume the worst in every situation.
What are the signs of high-functioning anxiety?
This form of anxiety is hard to spot, even if you suffer from it. Fortunately, mental health professionals are starting to recognize that someone can have a clinical anxiety disorder and still meet their professional and personal obligations.
Here are 20 signs to watch for in yourself or someone else:
1. Sleeping irregular hours
It is common for anxious people to lie awake at night worrying.
This disrupts sleep patterns and causes daytime fatigue.
2. Using negative or pessimistic language on a frequent basis (“I can’t,” “I won’t,” etc.)
Our language reflects our thoughts.
Anxious people dwell on the negatives, and they are quick to point out potential obstacles.
3. Loading up on carb-heavy foods
This has a temporary sedating effect, but leads to food cravings, blood sugar fluctuations, and weight gain.
4. Dwelling on past mistakes
Anxious people tend to over-analyze both the present and the past.
They beat themselves up for even the most minor errors.
5. Getting into pointless arguments with loved ones
Anxiety can lead to irritability and loss of patience, which can cause relationship problems.
6. Struggling to make decisions
Anxiety makes it hard to focus, and decisions can feel impossibly hard.
Choosing between several options is challenging if you are experiencing racing thoughts.
7. Feeling overwhelmed by day to day tasks, even though they always get done
Everything seems daunting when you are chronically stressed and worried.
8. Making comparisons to other people and feeling inferior
Anxious people are too invested in what others have, and are quick to highlight their own shortcomings.
9. Complying with everyone’s requests, even if it would be better to say “No”
Anxiety is often accompanied by a desperate desire to be liked and to earn approval, and anxious people may let others treat them badly as a result.
10. Canceling social events due to fatigue from worry and stress
Chronic worry takes its toll on both body and mind; it is very tiring.
11. Fidgeting and twitching
Psychological tension often manifests in the body via tics and small movements.
12. Never taking time to sit quietly
Anxious people are often too afraid of their own thoughts to slow down and fully relax.
13. Caring far too much about other peoples’ opinions
Anxiety often comes with low self-esteem, and anxious people care too much about what others think of them.
14. Wasting time planning for worst-case scenarios
It’s good to be prepared, but people with clinical anxiety spend too much time thinking about what could go wrong.
15. Reluctance to talk about problems
People with high-functioning anxiety may assume that, because they can go to work, they don’t “really” have a problem.
16. Going to the doctor more often with vague aches, pains, or stomach troubles
Constant worrying triggers physical symptoms, because the body continually releases stress hormones.
17. Drinking more alcohol than usual
Alcohol can worsen anxiety, but it can be a short-term fix for someone who feels worried and unable to cope.
18. Sticking religiously to the same routines and rituals
Doing the same thing over and over again can have a grounding effect that gives short-term relief.
19. Checking and double-checking little details
Anxious people doubt their own abilities and memories, so often find themselves obsessing over minor details.
20. Asking other people for reassurance
Being in a constant state of worry, anxious people can find it comforting to hear that everything is OK. The trouble is that it isn’t long before they feel the need for further reassurance.
Treating high-functioning anxiety
Anxiety responds well to treatment.
Treatment options include medication and psychotherapy, along with lifestyle changes such as adopting a healthier diet and undertaking regular exercise. If you have high-functioning anxiety, seek help from your doctor as soon as possible.
Supporting someone else can be tough, because they may not be willing or able to acknowledge that they have a problem.
If your loved one is adamant that everything is OK, don’t try to force them into seeking help. Let them know that you are always around to listen. That way, they can approach you when they feel ready to take the first steps towards recovery.