7 Signs You Might Be Experiencing High-Functioning Anxiety

by Joanna McClanahan
Originally Published: 
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Have you been described as a “perfectionist” or “Type A?” Do you have a restless mind and feel the need to stay busy? Have you found yourself over-analyzing everything you’ve ever done wrong in your life at 3 a.m.?

It’s possible that you have high-functioning anxiety. Although it isn’t an official diagnosis, it’s a form of anxiety that many identify with, and it seems to closely align with generalized anxiety disorder.

When we think of anxiety, we think of someone who is paralyzed by panic attacks or someone who’s so nervous that their body literally shakes. But anxiety manifests in many different forms and affects people in different ways. Here are seven signs you might be experiencing high-functioning anxiety:

1. You have a tough time falling and staying asleep.

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By the time you finally get your kids to bed, your mind is already racing and planning out everything that needs to be done the following day. You find yourself watching Netflix or endlessly scrolling your phone, trying to distract yourself from your own over-analyzing and endless worrying. You may even use drugs or alcohol to help you sleep, because you have a hard time getting your mind to turn off.

2. You suffer from constant negative self-talk.

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Everyone is their own worst critic, and some amount of this is totally normal. But anxiety sufferers understand that this negative self-talk can become overwhelming, obsessive, and intrusive. You say things to yourself all the time that you would never say to another person. You’re constantly tearing yourself down, calling yourself “stupid,” “unworthy,” or worse, and with more expletives.

3. You’re a perfectionist and have an intense desire for control.

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You feel the intense need for everything to be perfect. Even little mistakes can cause you deep embarrassment and shame. You insist on juggling everything, and then if one little thing drops, you immediately attack yourself and the hours of self-deprecation begin (see above).

4. You have repetitive habits.

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Your need for having control may manifest as repetitive habits. You might chew your nails, bite your lip, pick at your face or scalp, tap your foot, or develop some other nervous tic.

5. You literally cannot relax.

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You may find that things like yoga and meditation are helpful, but it still feels impossible to calm your restless mind. You find things to try to distract yourself from your insatiable mind, constant worry, and millions of worst-case scenarios. You pour yourself into your work or hobbies to stay busy and to “stay in control.”

6. You have physical pain.

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You might have excess tension in your neck and shoulders. Sometimes anxiety feels like a knot in your stomach or nausea. Studies have shown that stress is terrible for your health, and anxiety is a constant form of worry and stress.

7. You seek constant reassurance.

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You find yourself needing others to remind you that your fears are irrational. You want the people closest to you to confirm that your worries are unfounded, not likely to happen, and that everyone is safe.

Anxiety can be frustrating and isolating, and it can be even harder when you have high-functioning anxiety and people don’t understand you’re suffering since you’re still able to function. In fact, you’re probably really amazing at your job because of all the things mentioned above.

But left untreated, anxiety can take its toll on your mind, body, and even your family. Some treatments for anxiety include medication, therapy, and diet and behavioral changes. Talk to your doctor and be honest with them if you feel anxiety is making your life more difficult. It’s okay to be your own worst critic, but you need to be your own best advocate, too.

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