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Affecting more than 40 million people worldwide every year, high functioning anxiety became one of the most significant factors in the past decade that drove people to their doctors to assess their mental health condition. It is still continuing to be the most significant factor that is driving people to depression.
What is high-functioning anxiety, you ask? Is it a form of mental illness? What are the symptoms of this anxiety, then?
Is it similar to other types of anxiety? Is it possible to manage anxiety, or is it incurable?
Suppose you are also curious and want to know more. Then continue reading the article as we delve further into the topic and try to solve all your queries.
A Complete Guide On High Functioning Anxiety
A. What is high functioning anxiety?
According to proper terminology, high functioning anxiety is a severe mental condition. In this condition, no amount of success can quiet the internalized feeling of impending doom, fear, and distress.
The term ‘high functioning’ is generally used to denote a person who works at an elevated level than others. It means he is at par excellence as compared to others. You may think that it is a good thing, right? Well, actually, no.
Let us then explain with the help of a straightforward example. Imagine a person A.
A has graduated from a top tier college with flying colors. A then joined a multinational company.
A now has become one of the best-organized team players. He is a well-known public speaker and is the go-to person for any solution to a problem.
A is the perfect person, to be honest. But do you want to know what is actually behind this? All these performances are propelled due to high functioning anxiety disorder, which makes the person overdo, overthink and over perform.
For people suffering from a high functioning disorder, success is never enough for them. They can belt out flawless projects and perfect presentations and can be the life of the party. However, we all know the adage, all that glitters is not gold.
Mountains of worry and guilt plague these people. They have a constant notion that they could have done much better than what they are doing. Or the hard work they are providing is never enough, and their quality of work is not at all good.
They live for others’ approval in their daily life. They try to perform at an impossible level that their disorder has set up. They over-analyze everything. No matter how much they put in the effort for a particular work, their brain will always scrutinize them.
And worst of all, all people who are suffering from a high functioning anxiety disorder suffer in silence. For them, the fear of judgment and misunderstanding is too much.
B. Causes of high functioning anxiety
There are quite a few factors that can lead to these health issues. These problems usually stem from past experiences and inner fears that begin to grow as time passes by. Some of the most common factors are
- Being an introvert during childhood or someone who does not share feelings expressively
- Having demanding or overly critical parents.
- Suffered from any form of child abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual).
- Exposure to traumatic experiences.
- Having a history of anxiety disorders in the family.
- If the affected person has already suffered from depression in the past
- Going through stressful life conditions
C. Characteristics of high functioning anxiety
Anxiety is touted as a healthy emotion that is experienced by all. It alerts people and warns them of potential dangers.
However, for people suffering from a high functioning disorder, the response of fear and anxiety becomes exaggerated. For them, overworking or taking extra care of everything is a positive trait. And therefore, it becomes difficult to diagnose the features at first.
Nevertheless, we have curated some of the most common symptoms of high functioning anxiety disorder. The symptoms are
- Trying to be a people pleaser and having a fear of driving people away.
- A constant need for reassurance from others. Asking for the same things continuously. Frequently checking upon others is also noticed.
- A tendency to be perfect at everything. And having a constant dissatisfaction with the performance.
- Procrastinating and then followed by long periods of high intense working lengths. The flip side to procrastination is workaholism. This is also a strong character trait of people suffering from a high functioning anxiety disorder.
- Overthinking and scrutinizing things
- Having a strong tendency to dwell on negative thoughts.
- Suffering from insomnia. Having a mind that is racing with thoughts.
- Despite being overloaded with work or being always busy, the inability to say no.
- Having a strong tendency to repress true feelings. They have severe discomfort while expressing their emotions.
- Have an inability to enjoy the future. People who suffer from high functioning anxiety disorder may either dwell on their past or worry too much about their future.
- Feeling intimidated by the future usually thinks the worst out of any outcome.
- These people are speedy to feel irritated, frustrated or discouraged at the time of setbacks.
- Physical and mental fatigue.
- Having a range of unconscious nervous habits
People suffering from high functioning anxiety usually have very low self-esteem and confidence. Therefore they compensate it by trying it to be the best version of themselves. We are sure that this set of traits will help in the quick diagnosis of the affected.
D. Complications of high functioning anxiety
High-functioning anxiety disorder slowly and steadily affects the entire well-being of the person’s life. If the symptoms do not look scary enough, let us look at the hidden dangers caused by it.
- Depression- One of the most common developments in people with this anxiety disorder is a severe clinical disorder
- Substance use disorder- People suffering from this anxiety disorder can develop an addiction. This is usually to cope up with the expectation of their performance. Or to escape their harsh reality.
- Heart ailments- People suffering from high-functioning anxiety disorder have an increased risk of suffering from chronic heart diseases. The risk of strokes triples in men and doubles in the case of women.
- Respiratory Issues- Respiratory problems have been linked to anxiety disorders in many studies. A person suffering from anxiety disorders observes frequent recurrent episodes of breathing problems. This interferes with the general working of the body.
- Gastrointestinal disorders- People affected by high-functional anxiety disorder suffer from eating disorders. Episodes of gastrointestinal distress, stomach upsets, nausea, and vomiting, are a frequent occurrence.
E. Treatments for high functioning anxiety disorder
Treatment options for high-functioning anxiety disorder are similar to other anxiety treatments. It includes combinations of psychotherapy, medications, and other tips and preventive measures.
People with high functioning anxiety disorder do not have any physical symptoms. However, they constantly struggle with their strong internal negative thoughts. Therefore, most of the treatments focus on alleviating the root causes of the negative feelings.
The most common treatment options available for high-functioning anxiety disorder are
- One of the most common treatment therapies is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This therapy is specially designed to deal with the negative thoughts that lead to anxiety disorders. CBT helps alleviate and control the negative thoughts and the constant internal struggle that the affected person goes through.
- Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications provide great relief for people suffering from anxiety disorders. Medications generally prescribed are benzodiazepines and beta-blockers. However, medications depend on the level of anxiety.
Some other tips and measures that will help you to enhance your healing process are
1. The most important tip that we can offer is that do not shy away from asking for help.
We have already seen that people suffering from high-functional anxiety disorders shy away from expressing their true feelings. But it is important that they should confide in at least one trusted person.
Talking out about all your feelings will help you to enhance the healing process.
2. Take out at least half an hour every day. Have the time entirely for your mental health and focus on nothing but yourself.
3. Try to relax after a hectic day. Have a relaxing massage, or you can also avail yourself of aromatherapy sessions.
4. It has been found that diet also plays a significant role in anxiety treatment.
Consume a healthy diet. Have a diet rich in food ingredients that can help you to increase the dopamine levels in your body.
5. Maintain proper sleep hygiene every day. Having a messy schedule increases the cortisol hormone levels in the body. This increase can, in turn, aggravate your anxiety disorder.
If you have trouble falling asleep, you can consume some melatonin supplements. However, it should be prescribed by your medical provider.
6. Do not forget to include light exercises in your daily regime. Many studies stated that exercises have a very positive impact on your mental health.
Suppose you can sweat it out in the gym. Or you can also do yoga and light exercises like walking, running or jogging.
These exercises help you to increase the dopamine levels in the brain. It will help you to combat negative thoughts more easily.
7. We know it is challenging to control negative thoughts, especially if you have anxiety disorders. However, do at least give it a try to counteract with more positive and realistic options.
8. Find ways to release your nervous energy. Do not let it pent up inside you.
I hope this article was able to solve all your queries regarding high functioning anxiety. Most people shy away from getting any treatment for their health condition. But it is essential to know that there is nothing to be ashamed of. Reaching out to your trusted people will help you to combat the condition easily.
If you observe any of the above-mentioned symptoms, consult with a mental health professional. The struggle with anxiety is real. With the help of proper medications and treatments, high functioning anxiety disorder could be ameliorated and eliminated completely.