7 Thoughts People With High-Functioning Anxiety Have Regularly

by Eva Taylor Grant
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Even within the spectrum of anxiety disorders, people with high-functioning anxiety experience a very particular set of symptoms. When dealing with high-functioning anxiety, often therapists start with identifying particular thoughts. So if you struggle with this issue, it may be important to recognize what thoughts you have regularly that may not be the best for your mental health.

While people with high-functioning anxiety may be able to get through their daily lives without much interruption, the constant negative thoughts can be very harmful. "One difficulty for those experiencing high-functioning anxiety is the sheer amount of thoughts they may have during any given situation," therapist Carly Claney, Ph.D., tells Bustle. [...] While many people can channel this energy into high performance and perfectionistic tendencies, the exhaustion takes a toll on one's internal sense of rest or peace." So even if you are able to function alongside your anxiety, that doesn't mean you aren't deserving of treatment.

The thoughts that people with high-functioning anxiety have regularly can be really difficult to deal with in the long-term, even if they seem like a regular part of everyday life. So if you realize that you deal with these anxious thoughts regularly, it may be time to seek professional help.

Here are seven thoughts that people with high-functioning anxiety may have regularly, according to experts.


"I Wish I Hadn't Said That"

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People with high-functioning anxiety may have trouble moving past a part of their day that made them anxious. These thoughts can become like a loop in your brain.

"Whether it was a weird social interaction, a mistake you made at work, or something you wanted to happen that didn't, it can be like your mind is re-playing the movie of the situation," Dr. Claney says. "You can get lost in the same details and it can be so difficult to either think of it in a new way or really let it go." If you notice yourself playing these scenarios out in your head regularly, and they distress you, then you may want to talk to a doctor or therapist.


"What If..."


Everyone deals with imaginary scenarios in their heads every once and a while, but people with high-functioning anxiety might expand on "what-if" scenarios multiple times a day, every day.

"It's common for most people to consider multiple outcomes of a situation; however, for those with anxiety it can be difficult to stop yourself from thinking about all possible outcomes," Dr. Claney says. "All of these possibilities can flood you at all once and it can be difficult to separate yourself from the thoughts and use this information in any helpful way." The distinguishing factor in anxiety disorders is the overwhelming nature of these thoughts, and this symptom is worth noting to a professional.


"What Have I Missed?"

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Whether you're at work, in school, or simply going about your daily errands, everyday thoughts of high-functioning anxiety can keep you from being able to move past what you may have done wrong or forgotten.

"Questioning one's own effort is a common way that people can get stuck in a cycle of anxious thinking," Dr. Claney says. "This thoroughness is usually effective in catching mistakes or producing great quality work; however, it can be difficult to ever feel satisfied that you are doing (or being) enough." Finding ways to stop these thought cycles is important, even if it means finding everyday ways to practice mindfulness.


"I Wish I Was More Like Them"


Social media usage can make even those without an anxiety disorder feel bad, but people with high-functioning anxiety may feel especially distressed by the thoughts social media can trigger in their minds.

"I’ve seen an increase in the amount of anxiety induced by social media," licensed mental health counselor Annemarie Phelan, tells Bustle. "People are looking at the lives of others and feeling like they need to catch up." A social media break can be really helpful for dealing with these feelings.


"I Have To Be 'On'"


When you have high-functioning anxiety, it may feel like you have to put on a character in order to get through the day. This can cause thoughts focused on needing to present yourself a certain way all the time.

"[With anxiety there can be] less of a distinction between home life and work life, so people feel pressured to be 'on' all the time," Phelan says. Finding ways to unwind at certain times throughout the day, or focusing on places where and people with whom you feel safe, may help.


"I Need To Be Perfect"


Perfectionism is a very common symptom of anxiety, and this is just as true with high-functioning anxiety as it is with other forms of the disorder. If you have thoughts daily about not being "perfect," and they upset you, this may be a symptom.

"For high-achievers, anxiety can be associated with perfectionism and the pressure to perform," Phelan says. If you struggle with this pressure in your daily life, it's worth it to talk to someone you trust about getting help.


"But I'm Responsible For..."

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One particular genre of thoughts that can be specific to those with high-functioning anxiety, as opposed to other kinds of anxiety, is the pressure you may feel about getting through your daily life.

"A sense of responsibility is common for those who maintain a high level of functioning while experiencing anxiety," Dr. Claney says. "Feeling personally responsible for the success or failure of a situation may be maintaining one's degree of anxiety because you worry about how you and your work affect others." Unpacking your fears of judgement or disappointment with your therapist may help you deal with these thoughts.

Treating these thoughts can be helped with therapy, medication, and even self-treatment if you have the adequate support. "By practicing mindfulness, people can learn to watch their anxious thoughts without letting the thoughts have the power," Phelan says. Identifying which thoughts may be hurting you can be one of the most important steps in getting rid of these thoughts for good.