What is High Functioning Anxiety?
What are the Signs you’re Suffering from high functioning anxiety?
Mental health affects each and every one of us in a different way. In fact, no two mental health experiences are the same and equally treatments for similar issues may vary from person to person. As so much about what causes poor mental health (or the best way to go about improving it) is still so unknown, many cases can go unnoticed or undiagnosed for a period of time with symptoms varying greatly from person to person.
What may be one person’s experience of bi-polar disorder, for example, can be completely opposite to another – even when from the same age range, sex or location – making it increasingly difficult for doctors to diagnose specific types of mental health issue, and the best way to go about diagnosing treatment, as not everyone will respond to the same treatments.
Anxiety and depression – perhaps the most commonly occurring mental health issues – cover a huge spectrum of symptoms, that can sometimes be the complete opposite of what we imagine or believe. The media we consume, our societies collective opinions and the conversations we have with friends, peers and colleagues has – for many of us – created a distinctive image of what particular mental health conditions should look like.
For example, when you think of mental health – particularly depression or anxiety – it often conjures images of long hours in bed, not being able to leave the house, an increased or decreased appetite – and someone who struggles with life on a day to day basis. In fact, it can be hard to imagine that some people manage to hold down prestigious, high flying careers whilst raising a family or running a home – all at the same time as battling the symptoms of mental health.
Often when we think of anxiety we are directed to the most common symptoms – panic attacks, sweaty palms, people physically shaking or avoiding eye contact, however high functioning anxiety often displays different symptoms of other anxiety disorders such as generalised anxiety disorder.
But what are the most common signs of high functioning anxiety?
Insomnia is a common symptom of both anxiety and depression with most people laying away for many hours night after night contemplating every aspect of their lives. Those with high functioning anxiety disorder are often no different, finding they have a difficult time switching off their brains and relaxing after a long day at work. In fact, many suffers may find themselves already planning the following day, worrying about emails that need to be sent and projects that need to be completed. Many sufferers may find themselves turning to other vices in order to be able to turn their brain away from worrying about work and allowing them to sleep – this could be anything from binge watching series in bed until the early hours, or enjoying a few glasses of wine before bed.
Physical Pain or Illness
A number of studies have recently found that stress can cause your overall health to deteriorate, manifesting itself in muscle pain, stomach aches and nausea. Anxiety is the term given to constant stress and worry, and those suffering with mental health issues will often find themselves feeling physical pain at the same time – particularly in the stomach, shoulders and back.
Constant Seeking of Approval or Assurance
Those suffering with anxiety often need to be reassured that they and the people around them are safe and that their fears, are simply that – just fears. Those suffering with high functioning anxiety can often find this aspect of their mental health particularly difficult, as they are still able to function and perform their jobs to the best of their capabilities. Asking peers to reassure you you’re not about to lose your job because a last-minute meeting has been called on Monday morning – when outwardly it looks like you’re doing great – can be impossible and humiliating.
Need to be in Control
People suffering with high functioning anxiety may find themselves seeking perfection and control in many different areas of their life – often trying to minimise the risk of making small errors or mistakes that for anxiety suffers can cause extreme shame or embarrassment. Sufferers of high functioning anxiety often find themselves taking on much more than they can manage, often juggling home and social lives alongside having a demanding job – just to be able to control and manage their everyday lives a little more.
Self-criticism is a commonly occurring aspect across the mental health spectrum, with many different issues causing sufferers to doubt themselves and blame themselves for everything that’s ever gone wrong in their lives. Anxiety is particularly good at causing sufferers to put themselves down – often to a point where it becomes overwhelming. Rather than constructive self-criticism, anxiety sufferers may find themselves calling themselves useless, worthless or stupid – further lowering the person’s self-worth.
Inability to Relax
No matter what you try – two weeks in Barbados, a bottle of wine on a Saturday night, a weekend at the spa – nothing seems to help you relax. Whilst holidays, spas and alcohol may be helpful to sufferers of high functioning anxiety, they are never really able to fully switch off and stop thinking about the things that could go wrong. Equally, high functioning anxiety causes many people to dedicate themselves to their jobs, hobbies or projects to further stay in control.
If you think you could be suffering with speak to a professional about how to best manage your symptoms. Finding time to fit in therapy or other forms of mental health treatment can feel impossible when you’re already juggling a full-time job, a home and a family alongside high functioning anxiety – however could be a great way to fit it into your already busy schedule, helping you to feel better without taking too much time out of your day.