6 Signs That Your Sadness Is Actually A Sign Of High-Functioning Anxiety

by Carina Wolff
BDG Media, Inc.

When you're feeling down, it can be hard to pinpoint what exactly you're experiencing. We all go through hard times, but sometimes, when it seems like it's not going to end, it can be more than just a rough patch. If you've been feeling blue for awhile, you may be exhibiting some signs of high-functioning anxiety. Although sadness and anxiety have different symptoms, sometimes the two can get mixed up, especially if you are experiencing new emotions.

"In essence, sadness and anxiety are two very different emotions," clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Marie Manly tells Bustle. "Anxiety can be described as fear regarding a future or current event. Sadness, however, arises as a result of feeling a sense of loss. In our hectic world, it can become easy to lose touch with the differences in our feelings. Sometimes we simply don’t pause to recognize our feelings and the messages they are sending to us. As a result, we often confuse hurt with anger or sadness with anxiety."

Of course, seeing a therapist can always help you get down to the bottom of your issues and help you determine whether sadness stems for anxiety, or even depression. But if you're newly navigating through your feelings, look out for these six signs that your sadness could actually be a sign of high-functioning anxiety.


There's No Root Cause

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"A person who is sad will often be able to point to an event that caused the feelings of sadness, such as the loss of a pet or difficulties in a personal relationship," says Dr. Manly. "Someone who is suffering from high-functioning anxiety may appear downcast, but there will be no specific root cause. Instead, the apparent sadness may be the result of trying to 'hold it all together.'" If your sadness seems to have no apparent cause, it may be time to talk to a therapist about the possibility of an anxiety disorder.


You Have A Feeling More Like Butterflies Than A Dark Cloud

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Feelings of sadness and anxiety can be experienced differently in the body. "Someone may appear melancholy, yet when they talk about how they feel, they describe feelings of anxiety rather than sadness," says Dr. Manly. "For example, sadness might feel like a gray cloud, whereas high-functioning anxiety might feel more like chronic butterflies in the stomach."


Your Mood Shifts

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Sadness from an outside event tends to be more steady, while the emotions associated with high-functioning anxiety can fluctuate. "The general energy of person who is sad is often projected outward as gray and low-spirited," says Dr. Manly. "A person with high-functioning anxiety may shift between states such as alertness, intensity, and withdrawn quiet."


You Feel More Frustrated Than Weepy

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Although emotional expression is different for everyone, take note if you are expressing your sadness in a way that is uncommon for you. "A person who feels sad often feels weepy and may actually cry on and off," says Dr. Manly. "An individual with high-functioning anxiety [may] not tend to be weepy. If tears come, they are generally tears of frustration."


You Experience Physical Symptoms

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High-functioning anxiety tends to come with other symptoms, while sadness alone doesn't always result in physical effects on the body. Physical symptoms of anxiety can range from headaches, sleep difficulties, back, neck, or shoulder pains, gastrointestinal distress, and more, according to clinical psychologist Urszula Klich, PhD, BCB. However, sadness can produce some other side effects as well, including problems with eating, sleeping, and a loss of interest in daily activities, says Dr. Manly. An individual with high-functioning anxiety may have these problems, and if they become difficult to manage, they should see a therapist about them.


You Are More Preoccupied With Worries Than Feelings Of Hopelessness

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How you view the future differs when you are sad or when you are anxious, with sadness leading to feelings of hopeless and anxiety resulting in worries about the future. "If you are having negative thoughts about your self or feeling somewhat hopeless, this may a sign of sadness or depression," psychologist Colleen Cullen, PsyD tells Bustle. "Being preoccupied with worries about what could go wrong or what might occur and having difficulty controlling those worrying thoughts is likely to be associated with anxiety."

Even if you aren't sure if you are just feeling sad or suffering from an anxiety disorder, it's best to see a professional, who can help diagnose exactly what is going on.