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12 signs you might be struggling with high - functioning anxiety. Part 1

Anxiety doesn't always fall neatly into a "category". Sometimes, you can find yourself being plagued by constant anxiety despite there being nothing to worry about, while being high functioning in your daily life and succeeding in multiple areas of your life. This is often referred to as high - functioning anxiety (while this condition is not recognized as a separate condition in the diagnostic manual, it is most resembling of Generalized Anxiety Disorder).

Let's look at some of the signs that you might be struggling with high - functioning anxiety.


1. You strive for constant perfection. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to do well at work, to be a good friend, a good partner, a good child / insert your own, it can become debilitating, if taken to extreme. If you're....

  • Constantly checking your phone while still in bed responding to all those work emails before you had a chance to open your blinds and have a morning cup of coffee (or tea, or a smoothie..). All to make sure that everything gets done perfectly as soon as possible.

  • Saying yes to requests from co-workers and your managers while already being up to your limit at work and your brain constantly on with thoughts about your to do list

  • Saying no to enjoyable activities that nourish your mind and body because you have so much to do and you're saving up energy to do all the tasks on your to do list, treating the rest of your life as second priority

  • Among hundreds of other potential things...

And there can be multiple reasons for it, from the fear of being rejected or abandoned, to feeling unimportant or feeling responsible for everyone around you. Each of us is a unique individual with our unique experiences and perspectives that have led us to where we are now and how we relate to the world.

2. You fear failure. While failing is uncomfortable for most people, feeling extreme distress around failing at something may mean that it is about more for you than simply something you didn't exceed at. It may bring on very uncomfortable emotions around not meeting your own expectations or those of others, around what that means about you as a person. Sometimes, it may be about extreme shame that you felt at some point earlier in your life when you didn't succeed at something and the absence of support then, which made you promise to yourself that you'll never fail again to avoid feeling that same pain.

This fear can create constant background anxiety and avoidance of starting new things, of putting in so much effort into anything you do, that it starts to impact your emotional or physical health.

3. You struggle with self - care. High - functioning anxiety often shows up in the form of neglecting your own needs as you're busy looking after everyone else and your own self slips down to the last spot on your list of priorities. If your needs were not recognised or met earlier in life and you learnt to lose sensitivity to what your mind and body is telling you, all the while working very hard on meeting other people's needs, striving to be perfect and avoiding failure, self care can get lost.

With time, it can mean that your body starts to communicate with you in different ways, possibly through tension headaches and digestion issues (although always check with your healthcare professional to rule out other causes for any physical symptoms), panic attacks, among many other ways, in an attempt to bring attention back to yourself and your needs.

4. Difficulty relaxing. Struggling to slow down and relax. Always feeling "on". Thinking about work or the commitments and high standards you place on yourself across different areas of your life - family, friends, your career, making it impossible for you to switch off. Or be fully present in the here and now, with whoever you are and whatever you're doing. This can perpetuate the cycle and constantly keep your nervous system "on".


We are all unique, with our unique worldviews and life experiences that shaped our view of ourselves, the world and us in the world. And it can be very beneficial to review these 3 aspects when working through some of the more ingrained structural aspects behind high - functioning anxiety. We will explore more signs in the next article of the series, stay tuned and look after yourself!

Lots of love,

Your anxiety and a self esteem therapist

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