If You Have These 7 Habits Around Your Partner, You Might Have High-Functioning Anxiety
I’ve been a perfectionist for as long as I can remember. I did exceptionally well in school. I’ve built a successful career as a writer, making more money than many of my peers. I create interesting and odd clothing in my spare time. I’ve traveled the world. By most external measures, I’ve got it together. But, internally? I’m usually a mess.
Here are some not so impressive facts about me. I pick at my skin to the point of drawing blood. At any given time, you can be sure there is a cluster of scabs somewhere on my body. It’s a habit I’ve had since childhood. I’ve had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol that I’m only now working through. I need frequent verbal reassurance from my partner that he loves me, despite him showing me he loves me every day. I’m prone to irrational jealousy and I pretty much always think that something bad is going to happen. I create with my hands because it gives something for my brain to latch on to. If I’m not making things, I’ll get stuck on a hamster wheel of problems instead. Is my partner the right person for me? How do I know? Is my work significant? Should I be making more money?
It’s only in the past couple years, when I started having breakdowns every month, that I recognized my “perfectionism” as a form of anxiety. I’m not crippled by it. If anything, my “perfectionism” or “anxiety” more often than not pushes me to achieve some pretty impressive things.
But when the negatives started to outweigh the positives, I realized that there might be something problematic with this way of dealing with the world. And that’s when the term “high-functioning anxiety” popped on to my radar. I read a couple of articles about the symptoms of high-functioning anxiety and felt like my name could be at the top of every one. It me! It me! My brain screamed, picturing a little meme jumping up and down on that hamster wheel.
High-functioning anxiety isn’t a technical medical diagnosis. Instead, it’s a popular way for people who don’t fit the exact requirements of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) to describe what’s going on inside their brains. A big difference between GAD and high-functioning anxiety is that while people with GAD may find themselves paralyzed by their anxiety, people with high-functioning anxiety feel propelled forward by it. But that doesn’t mean that high-functioning anxiety isn’t a problem. Sure, it may help with getting good grades or getting ahead at work. But the internal turmoil is a high price to pay for those accomplishments.
While the contrast I experience in my own life between outward appearances and private bad habits and internal thoughts is a textbook example of high-functioning anxiety, there’s another area of life where this shows up: Relationships. Below, experts weigh in on what habits people have around their partners that may be a sign of high-functioning anxiety.
1. You're Rigid Around Routines
Have a hard time dealing when your partner changes the plan or suggests something that involves you skipping your morning yoga class? Take note if the stress of changing up your routine is affecting your relationship. "Very often people with anxiety will cope or mask the anxiety by creating as much certainty in their lives as possible," clinical psychologist Dr. Josh Klapow, host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle. "A daily routine is a prime example. They will do everything they can to make sure that what they do each day is predictable and known. Any push away from that can cause arguments, push back, or digging in. As long as the routine is set all is right."
2. You Have Frequent, Casual Check-ins For Reassurance
Checking in with your partner to make sure you're on the same page every once in a while is important, but pay attention to how often you're doing them. “'Is everything OK?” 'All OK?' 'Things good?' The person with anxiety will look to their partner for assurance that nothing is wrong," Dr. Klapow says. "By checking in casually they get frequent feedback that there are no problems."
3. You Prefer One-on-One Time
There's nothing wrong with loving your one-on-one time with your partner, but it's also important to have time apart. And if you're resisting social events, it may be do to high-function anxiety. "Because social situations can cause anxiety and because they bring up the possibility of uncertainty, individuals with anxiety will tend to prefer, quiet, one-on–one time," Dr. Klapow says. "The push to be with groups and in broader social situations will often be met with resistance."
4. You Control Your Partner's Tasks And Deadlines
Often find yourself micromanaging your partner's chores and tasks? "A person with anxiety tends to worry about getting work done, getting chores done, finishing up outstanding tasks," Dr. Klapow says. "Often that anxiety will bleed over onto tasks their partner needs to do. Checking in with the partner about his or her status on getting a job done is a common occurrence for someone with anxiety."
5. You Have An Excessive Fear Of Being Abandoned
Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent relationship expert in Los Angeles who works with individuals and couples suffering from anxiety and depression, tells Bustle that people with high-functioning anxiety often have an "excessive fear of being abandoned by their partner." They may also "sometimes feel and act clingy, which goes along with a fear of being abandoned."
6. You Have Difficulty Sleeping
As someone who has kicked her partner square in the balls in her sleep on more than one occasion, I can attest to this one. Dr. Brown says that people with high-functioning anxiety can have "sleep disturbances, which can impact both partners in a relationship."
7. You're Overthinking Things
If you find yourself overthinking things in the relationship "to the point where the you become paralyzed when it comes to making decisions that impact both partners," you may have high-functioning anxiety, says Dr. Brown.
Next steps? Talk to your partner and consider getting a therapist. But if you recognize yourself in this list, don't let your brain get on that hamster wheel it loves so much. Instead, remind yourself that you're not alone — and there is help.