The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) states that anxiety affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population, in any given year. Given the daily stresses caused by a fast-paced life alongside sociopolitical factors, these rates will even go higher and shall affect more people long term.
People who appear to thrive and lead successful lives despite having anxiety or so-called "high-functioning anxiety" may not seem like an actual concern. Taking a closer look, however, shows alarming signs that one must watch out for as it may lead to further deterioration of one's mental wellbeing. Continue reading to find out more.
What is High-Functioning Anxiety?
High-functioning anxiety is a coined term by most medical practitioners as of late. Although the term high functioning anxiety is not mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM-5-TR, mental health professionals recognize the condition affecting people.
It describes the ability of people who cope well despite their social anxiety and still become productive and high achievers in their respective fields. While they don't necessarily manifest symptoms of a panic disorder, there is still a huge possibility for them to develop a mental illness or a co-occurring disorder if this is neglected.
Appropriate anxiety disorder diagnosis must be made as recommended by the National Institute of Mental Health to better ascertain a person's condition and whether stress, traumatic events, or specific phobias might have led to the development of their anxiety.
Side Effects of High-Functioning Anxiety
A generalized anxiety disorder or even high-functioning anxiety can severely impact one's physical and mental health. If left untreated, it can bring about worse physical symptoms in one's body.
- Central nervous system - severe anxiety may cause headaches, dizziness, and even depression. Excess cortisol (commonly known as the "stress hormone") can lead to immune system problems too.
- Cardiovascular system - anxiety disorders with characterized and regular panic attacks may increase the risk of heart diseases and hypertension
- The immune system - an anxiety disorder is enough to alter the fight-or-flight response of your body. A lowered immune system also means you're prone to sickness
- Respiratory system - stress induces prolonged anxiety disorders. It also causes rapid shallow breathing which is bad for people with chronic respiratory problems, such as asthma.
Signs That Someone is in High-Functioning Anxiety?
Like most anxiety disorders, high functioning anxiety has trigger warnings that you can look into closer attention. Some of these include:
- Fear of failure or rejection
- Tendency to focus on past mistakes
- Excessive worrying
- Difficulty expressing emotions
People with high functioning anxiety can realize that they have these symptoms amongst themselves. But more often than not, they may need interventions from loved ones alongside medical professionals so that they can fully see the extent of their excessive anxiety.
Is High-Functioning Anxiety Manageable?
As with other anxiety disorders, having high functioning anxiety tend to be chaotic for an individual suffering from it. There are also risk factors at play that can severely impact not just their minds but also their physical health.
But the truth is you have the power to control your anxiety if you choose. All you need is the right mindset and help from a mental health professional to avoid unnecessary suffering caused by your high functioning anxiety.
Here are some things you can consider to help manage your high functioning anxiety better.
- Recognize and understand your symptoms - As this may differ for everyone, you should be able to identify these and accept them. Through acceptance, healing will soon follow afterward.
- Acknowledge your fears and befriend them - This involves understanding your fear and finding out the reason why they surfaced in the first place. Once you can determine their source, you can start to be at peace with your true feelings.
- Employ a mantra that you would repeat to yourself daily - Words are indeed powerful. As you empower yourself with positive affirmation, you can slowly be in control of your body. It will also help you work on other aspects of yourself and learn how to manage your social anxiety in healthy ways.
Positive and Negative Characteristics of High-Functioning Anxiety
While people may think that significant anxiety may be problematic, especially in daily life, it has shown potential benefits. This is evident in the successes and good personality traits that people with high functioning anxiety show to their peers.
Some of those perceived positive characteristics include:
- Outgoing personality
- Being proactive
- Very punctual
- Deeply passionate
- Extremely loyal in relationships (whether platonic or romantic)
- Very helpful
While these may not seem like a bad thing at all, the nervous energy that people with high functioning anxiety have as part of their coping strategies for their anxiety may hurt them in the long run. This is especially concerning for them when things don't go their way.
These nervous habits may also impact how overall mental and physical health which in turn can escalate into a worse potential mental health disorder.
Despite being labeled as "high-functioning," these seemingly productive people may be regarded negatively by others as they exhibit symptoms or ticks related to their anxiety problems such as:
- "People-pleasing" (not being able to say "no" or letting others down, fear of being called a bad friend/sibling/child/employee/partner)
- Overtalking/being a nervous chatter
- trouble sleeping
- Low self-esteem
- Procrastination (resulting in poor delivery of essential tasks)
- Limited social life (turning down invitations or social gatherings)
- Restlessness, inability to "enjoy and be in the moment"
- Higher risk of developing drug or process addiction
Treatment for This Anxiety Disorder
Before undergoing any form of treatment or choosing therapy that's best suited for clinical disorders, such as anxiety disorder, it's important to first undergo proper screening and receive the official diagnosis from a licensed and trained medical professional.
Anxiety disorder treatment and trauma therapy by accredited mental health services can significantly improve an individual's condition.
These programs may incorporate cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) to help patients better cope with their symptoms. Prescription drugs might also be considered, depending on the severity of the case, alongside proper medication management.
Always remember that healing begins with you. No matter how effective treatments are, acceptance and commitment to one program will determine the overall success of one's recovery.
Contact Transcend Recovery Community today if you are seeking High-Functioning Anxiety treatment.