7 Signs of High-Functioning Anxiety You Shouldn't Ignore

Anxiety is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While some anxiety symptoms, like panic attacks, may be obvious, others can be more subtle. High-functioning anxiety is a type of anxiety that involves seemingly managing life well on the outside despite feeling anxious internally.

People with high-functioning anxiety are often high achievers who appear calm and collected on the surface. However, they may struggle with intense worry, racing thoughts, irritability, trouble sleeping, and other anxiety symptoms that impact their emotional well-being. Recognizing the signs of high-functioning anxiety is essential so that you can get the support you need.

Here are 7 signs of high-functioning anxiety you shouldn’t ignore:


1. Excessive Worry

One common trait of all types of anxiety, including high-functioning, is excessive and unrelenting worry. Your mind gets fixated on possible negative scenarios, past mistakes, fears, and other concerns that can be difficult to shake off. You may worry about various aspects of life, such as your health, finances, career, family life, etc. 

This worrying persists even when there’s no real reason to be concerned and feels uncontrollable and intrusive. This constant state of worry can be incredibly draining, making it challenging to get through each day. If you spend a lot of time lost in hypothetical scenarios, it is advisable to seek professional help. 

A mental health professional can provide you with strategies to manage pervasive worrying and offer support as you work through your anxiety. It’s important to remember that excessive worry is a common symptom of anxiety disorders, and seeking help is the first step toward feeling better.

2. Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a trait that can often overlap with high-functioning anxiety and cause significant distress. While it can help achieve results, it can also lead to extreme self-criticism and rigidity. Holding oneself and others to extremely high standards and becoming consumed by details are common signs of perfectionism. However, when taken too far, perfectionism can impair one’s ability to complete tasks or try new things due to the fear of making mistakes. 

This, paired with high-functioning anxiety, often intensifies feelings of worry and being overwhelmed. It is essential to notice these patterns in oneself and seek help if problematic perfectionism is hindering daily life. Seeking therapy or practicing mindfulness techniques can help manage the negative effects of perfectionism on mental health and well-being.

3. Difficulty Relaxing

For those with anxiety, relaxation is often very difficult. The mind races even during downtime, constantly turning to thoughts of unfinished tasks, unsolved problems, worries, or fears. Even the act of trying to relax can cause more anxiety. 

Quieting both the mind and body may seem impossible with the constant intrusion of anxious thoughts. Activities like meditation, deep breathing exercises, and yoga that require turning focus inward and achieving calm can be incredibly challenging for the anxious mind. 

However, with regular practice, these activities become easier over time. Little by little, the grip of anxiety loosens, and the mind and body learn to relax and unwind. Though difficult, relaxation is not impossible for those with anxiety.

4. Irritability or Agitation

Anxiety can often lead to extreme irritability or agitation, making even minor irritations seem disproportionately frustrating and provoking anger quickly. Restless energy may be present just below the surface, manifesting internally and directed outwardly. 

Frequent muscle tension caused by constant agitation can exacerbate irritability, making you more prone to lashing out. If you find yourself feeling grouchy or on edge frequently, it is important to recognize that these are common symptoms of anxiety-related irritability. It may feel like running on fumes, and taking steps to manage this agitation can help stabilize your mood. 

Engaging in activities such as exercise, deep breathing exercises, meditation, or counseling sessions with a mental health professional can help alleviate these symptoms. In some cases, medication may also be prescribed to manage anxiety-induced irritability more effectively.

5. Feeling Overwhelmed Easily

One of the symptoms of high-functioning anxiety is feeling overwhelmed quickly. Even small commitments can add up and induce feelings of being overwhelmed. Tasks that were once manageable may now feel impossible to complete, leading to physical symptoms like fatigue, headaches, stomachaches, and even panic attacks. 

It becomes increasingly difficult to handle what used to be a normal workload when dealing with anxiety. If you find your stamina for handling life’s challenges is much lower than usual, it may be time to pay attention and take action.

High-functioning anxiety drains emotional reserves, making it essential to discuss options like temporarily offloading responsibilities or asking for support from family or friends. By recognizing the signs and seeking help, individuals can learn how to better manage their high-functioning anxiety and improve their quality of life.

6. Trouble Concentrating

High-functioning anxiety can lead to trouble concentrating, as the constant worrying, perfectionism, and agitation can cause your mind to drift and make it hard to stay focused. This type of anxiety can scatter attention and make it difficult to think clearly, which can impact your performance at work or in school. 

Everyday cognitive tasks may require a lot of mental effort without proper treatment. Rather than beating yourself up for lack of focus, take note of how often you find yourself lost in anxious thoughts or exhausted by your own brain hyperactivity. Prioritize seeking help to improve your focus and declutter your mind. 

This can involve techniques such as mindfulness meditation or therapy sessions with a mental health professional. By addressing the root causes of your anxiety and finding effective coping mechanisms, you can improve your concentration and overall well-being.

7. Avoiding Anxiety Triggers

Those with high functioning anxiety tend to diligently steer clear of potential triggers. Such triggers may encompass a range of activities, such as social events, driving, public speaking, travel, intimacy, making important decisions, exploring new places, and more. While avoidance provides immediate relief, it ultimately reinforces the anxiety over time. 

You might find yourself declining certain activities or opportunities simply because the associated anxiety seems unbearable. This pattern of avoidance limits your life experiences. However, by altering your thought patterns and responses to anxiety, you can gradually confront your fears. Remember that avoidance is not your only option.

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Why Recognizing High Functioning Anxiety Matters

Failing to recognize high functioning anxiety can allow it to worsen over time. People may try to ignore, minimize or mask their anxiety symptoms through normalization and internalization. However, getting proper treatment requires openly acknowledging and identifying anxiety in the first place.

Without treatment, quality of life is greatly diminished as anxiety takes its toll on relationships, physical health, and performance at work or school. High functioning anxiety may continue to build up internally until more overt, disruptive symptoms begin to surface.

This is why it is so important to identify anxiety early on and get support before it escalates further and spirals out of control. Seeking help gives people the opportunity better to manage anxiety through effective treatments like therapy and medication. Learning to prioritize mental health and integrate self-care practices into daily life is also a vital part of properly managing high functioning anxiety. The sooner it is recognized, the sooner it can be addressed.

Signs of Progress with High Functioning Anxiety

While living with high functioning anxiety can be challenging, the good news is that this condition is very treatable. With professional help and consistency, the symptoms can be reduced significantly.

Here are some signs that someone with high functioning anxiety is making good progress in treatment:

  • Worrying less frequently
  • Feeling relaxed more often
  • Reduced avoidance and procrastination
  • Improved concentration and focus
  • Less irritability
  • Decreased hypervigilance and tension
  • Better sleep quality

When to Seek Professional Help

If untreated, high functioning anxiety tends to get progressively worse over time. Reaching out for professional mental health support can prevent anxiety from significantly impacting work, academics, relationships, and overall healthy being.

Consider talking to a doctor, therapist, or mental health professional if anxiety symptoms like the ones discussed above are:

  • Occurring daily or almost daily
  • Causing significant distress
  • Interfering with work, school, or relationships
  • Leading to avoidance of previously enjoyed activities
  • Impacting daily life and responsibilities
  • Causing physical symptoms like nausea, headaches, muscle tension, etc.

With professional guidance and commitment to treatment, people with high functioning anxiety can find relief. Balance, productivity, and joyful living become possible again. Prioritizing mental health is challenging but worth the effort for your overall well-being.

Final Thoughts

High functioning anxiety involves managing life well externally while feeling anxious internally. Signs include excessive worry, perfectionism, difficulty relaxing, irritability, feeling easily overwhelmed, poor concentration, and avoiding triggers. These symptoms can worsen without treatment. At Channeling Growth Therapy, we help clients recognize and manage anxiety before it spirals. Our licensed therapists provide effective treatments like CBT to reduce worrying, relax your mind, build resilience, improve focus, and face fears. Don’t let anxiety restrict your life. Take the first step and contact us today to discuss your symptoms confidentially with a mental health professional. With commitment to treatment, you can find relief from high functioning anxiety.