Everyone experiences some form of stress or anxiety as they go about their day. And it's true that a small amount of it is fine, since it can help push you forward, and inspire you to get things done. But if you have ongoing worry that you just can't shake, it may be a sign of high-functioning anxiety.
While it doesn't necessarily mean you have an anxiety disorder, this type of worry can make your life more difficult — even if you don't recognize it right away. "Individuals may not be aware they are struggling with anxiety because they are still able to be successful at work, in their relationships, and have a social life," therapist Ashley Rodrigues, tells Bustle.
But even if you're able to get by, it doesn't mean you should ignore your mental health. "It is very important to take notice of the 'little things,'" Rodrigues says, because they are "typically a sign of 'bigger things' that are simply being ignored."
Excessive worry can take a toll on your current health. And it can even make your life more difficult down the road, if and when bigger problems arise. So before things get out of hand, it can help to spend some time thinking about where your worries might be coming from, and how you can take better care of yourself.
With that in mind, here are some small things you might worry about if you have high-functioning anxiety, according to experts.
1. You Worry About Being A Good Friend
Plenty of people worry about whether or not they're being a good friend. But if you have high-functioning anxiety, it may be something you struggle with more often than not.
That's because "one classic symptom of high-functioning anxiety is doubting your own 'enoughness,'" licensed psychotherapist Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, MFT, ATR, tells Bustle. As a result, small things everyone does — such as not texting a friend back right away — might feel like a bigger deal to you.
But you can start to overcome this worry by trying to be more positive. "One terrific affirmation for those [...] with high-functioning anxiety is 'I am enough,'" Scott-Hudson says. "You can [...] reach for these affirmations when you notice you are ruminating on the thought that someone doesn't really like you."
2. You Hate The Idea Of Being Late
While nobody wants to be late, you might find that you not only worry about being late, but zero in on all the bad things that could happen if you are.
"The catastrophic thinking (i.e., if I am a few minutes late today I will be fired) that accompanies the concerns can increase stress levels and lead to unnecessary emotional suffering," clinical psychologist, Melanie Chinchilla, PhD, tells Bustle.
And that's where it crosses the line from an everyday worry, to a potential sign of high-functioning anxiety. You can always take precautions to ensure you're on time. But it's important to consider why you were so worried in the first place. If anxiety is fueling your day, it may help to speak with a therapist.
3. You Struggle To Make Small Decisions
Consider it a red flag if you spend a great deal of time worrying about the future, "what if-ing," or feeling indecisive about small things throughout the day, such as grocery shopping, driving directions, clothing choices, how to respond to emails and texts, and so on, therapist Lindsay Cooke, LMHC, tells Bustle.
"It's this constant indecisiveness regarding small life choices that can create distress," she says, and may be a sign of high-functioning anxiety.
4. You Feel Like You Can't Say "No"
"At the heart of high-functioning anxiety is the feeling of not being or doing enough, which often results in people-pleasing," Scott-Hudson says. "Add to people-pleasing the fear of conflict and you get the perfect storm for not setting your boundaries firmly and early."
This might result in you agreeing to do things you don't want to do, or worrying about what'll happen if you say "no." But one of the best ways of overcoming this worry is by saying it anyway.
"Saying no earlier, as anxiety-producing as it can be, actually is a gift you give to your future self," Scott-Hudson says. "People won't feel as let down later on because they weren't expecting you to show. You won't give yourself a constant daily panic in the days leading up to the event on 'should I or shouldn't I go?' Practice saying 'no' when you need to."
5. You Double (And Triple) Check Emails
One tiny daily worry — that can take up a surprising amount of time — is double and triple checking work emails, which is a common habit among folks with high-functioning anxiety.
"[Checking emails] is a behavior that may be rooted in fear of making a mistake," Rodrigues says. "The anxiety could easily be rooted in your concerns over how you are perceived. It is totally normal to proofread an email, but if you are rewriting draft after draft of an email, it may be a sign of something more."
6. You Overthink Interactions With Strangers
From the barista you chat with every morning, to the person next to you on the bus, if you catch yourself wondering if everyone likes you, take note.
"There is a healthy level of anxiety when meeting new people, especially people that you will have a future relationship with or in positions of power," Rodrigues says. "But when obsessions form around whether or not a stranger does not like or approve of you, it may be a sign of anxiety."
7. You Wonder If Your Feelings Are Legitimate
It's not uncommon for folks with high-functioning anxiety to walk around with a sense of guilt, especially if they're experiencing emotions that may not be easy for others to deal with.
For example, "one small worry or concern someone may feel is being or feeling guilty about normal human feelings (such as anger and neediness)," psychotherapist Laura Dabney, MD, tells Bustle.
If this is something you struggle with, you might also notice that your guilt makes it difficult for you to open up, Dr. Dabney says. When it gets to that point, it can help to see a therapist, so you can better understand where this type of anxiety might be coming from.
8. You Can't Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
It can be tough for anyone to step outside their comfort zone. But once you add in high-functioning anxiety, it can start to feel impossible.
"Oftentimes anxiety prevents individuals from stepping out of their comfort zone under the pretense that the unknown variables or the risk of failure is too much to handle," Rodrigues says.
Once it feels like your worries are holding you back in life, consider it a good time to reach out for support.
9. You Aren't Able To Relax
"People with high-functioning anxiety tend to feel more at ease when they are on-the-go than when they are at rest," Sal Raichbach, PsyD, of Ambrosia Treatment Center, tells Bustle. "If they do stop to take a break, their anxiety can actually get worse because they feel like they are wasting time that could be better spent accomplishing tasks."
If you're too worried to take a lunch break, or too stressed to sit down and relax, it may be time to take a closer look at your anxiety, and find healthier ways of managing it.
10. You're Constantly Thinking About Your To-Do List
As mentioned above, some form of anxiety can actually be a good thing, as it pushes you to get things done. But with high-functioning anxiety, it can feel as if your brain won't turn off or relax.
"People with high-functioning anxiety are very concerned about achievement, accomplishment, performance, and meeting expectations," therapist Rev. Connie L. Habash MA, LMFT, tells Bustle. "They want to be sure they don’t let anything important slip through the cracks (and usually, they think everything is important, and hence feel overwhelmed)."
If it feels as if your anxiety is preventing you from having a healthy work-life balance, you may want to look into making a few lifestyle changes, or even reaching out to a therapist for advice.
11. You Need To Finish Projects ASAP
If you have deadlines to meet, then of course it makes sense to get your work done on time — and maybe even feel a bit stressed in the process. But consider it a red flag if you can't let anything rest, even if it isn't pressing.
As Habash says, high-functioning anxiety can make it feel like you need to finish your work not only on time, but early. And you may even do so at the expense of your emotional wellbeing.
When these types of worries start taking a toll on your health, it's a pretty good indicator that you're dealing with high-functioning anxiety, and possibly even something more.
If you feel stressed, held back, or overwhelmed by these worries, let a therapist know. They can help you see anxiety for what it is, and devise a few ways to cope with it all in a healthier way.