Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW
6 Ways To Cope With High Functioning Anxiety
Published May 4th, 2021 & updated on Jul 27th, 2021
Picture this. You’re reaaally struggling at work, yet you somehow still manage to get all your stuff done (probably because you’re putting a lot of pressure on yourself). But then, when you voice your struggles to a coworker, they say “Oh, you just need a vacation” or “You’re just a worry-wart” — which completely invalidates what you’re going through!
Many of us struggle with anxiety (okay, a LOT of us!). It’s usually temporary and comes in bursts depending on what situation we’re in! There are also many kinds of anxiety, ranging from generalized anxiety to health anxiety to OCD (some easier to pinpoint than others). Every type of anxiety has its unique and difficult challenges. But when that anxiety turns high functioning it’s like a pointy rock in your shoe — no one else sees it, but you definitely know it’s there. (And if others can’t see it, they can’t help to lessen your stressors.)
It can be SO hard when your suffering isn’t recognized just because it goes unnoticed. But, your pain is REAL. So, let’s talk about high functioning anxiety, how it shows up, and what you can do about it!
What Is High Functioning Anxiety?
High functioning anxiety (or high-functioning anxiety) involves alllll the same uncomfy aspects of any anxiety disorder. But, if you have it, you’ll know that it pushes you forward rather than making you freeze in your tracks. You’re always able to finish your tasks flawlessly and you appear to function well in any social situation (emphasis on appear)!
That’s because high function anxiety lies under the surface, never seen, all while creating COMPLETE chaos in your brain. It’s a daily struggle that gets swept under the rug only because you ‘seem fine.’ But we’re here to help you recognize when it shows up and prove that your anxiety is valid — even when it’s invisible to others.
High Functioning Anxiety Symptoms
When you’re in a professional setting, your high functioning anxiety will take the form of taking on too many projects, always striving for perfection, and living for approval from others. Also, overthinking…ALWAYS overthinking. Then coworkers and managers praise your ‘incredible work ethic,’ which just gives your anxiety permission to keep holding your brain to impossibly high standards!
High functioning anxiety symptoms also manifest themselves in physical ways, you’re probably just a lot better at hiding them. Let’s take a look at the 10 ways it shows up!
- Chills or hot flashes
- Increased heart rate
- Muscle tension
- Stomach problems or nausea
- Derealization or depersonalization
- Numbness or tingling
- Chest pain
Allll of these symptoms, if left unchecked, can cause long-term issues for your health, self-esteem, and relationships. So, we’re gonna walk you through the process of getting diagnosed and some tips to help you cope, so you can regain some control and stop the endless cycle of overthinking.
How To Deal With High Functioning Anxiety
Here’s the tricky part. High functioning anxiety isn’t really a recognized mental health diagnosis! It’s basically a blanket term for people who struggle with very real anxiety disorders but still manage to lead a normal life (or seem to, anyway). Your self-doubt might tell you that you’re overreacting because you’re doing ‘fine,’ but we’re here to tell you that this doesn’t have to be your existence (and you should never have to settle for ‘just fine!’).
A mental health professional will be able to diagnose you for whichever anxiety disorder is lurking behind the scenes and set you on the right therapy plan. And, it’s always good to incorporate some mindfulness exercises on top!
6 Ways To Cope
It’s hard to admit you’re struggling when, so far, you’ve just put your ‘best self’ out there. But self-care is sooo important, especially for someone with high functioning anxiety. If you just keep on your current trajectory, you’ll eventually burn out. And we don’t want that! So, try practicing some of these exercises to calm down your mind.
1. Get To Know Your Symptoms. View your anxiety as any other medical condition, and show yourself some extra care when you’re having a more challenging day.
2. Accept Your Fear. You can’t ignore or suppress anxiety, so instead feel where it’s coming from and try to relax your expectations of yourself.
3. Come Back To Your Body. You’re likely spending too much time in your head, so try some deep breathing or exercise for a few minutes to channel your anxiety outwards.
4. Use Affirming Statements. Sometimes you just gotta remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can and deserve to take a break in order to take care of yourself.
5. Intervene When It Happens. When you notice your thoughts are starting to snowball, walk away. You can’t fight anxiety with more anxiety, so take a short break.
6. Get Support. You don’t have to tell everyone what’s going on but choose a few select people you trust to help keep you grounded throughout the day.
Now, because you have high functioning anxiety, we’re going to remind you to be patient. Incorporating these coping techniques won’t happen overnight. But, if you shift the energy you used to rely on for overachieving to now focus on yourself, we know you’ll begin to see some positive results!