If You Have These 7 Habits, You Might Have High-Functioning Anxiety

by Carina Wolff
BDG Media, Inc.

Anxiety can affect people in many different ways. Some find that their daily habits are compromised, while others continue to go on with their routine, so much so that they may not even realize they have anxiety disorder. There are a number of habits that can be signs of high-functioning anxiety, and although it might seem fine to just keep going about your business while struggling with the disorder, managing your anxiety is just as important, even if you are still able to check everything off your to-do list.

"High-Functioning Anxiety has become [a] ... pop-psychology term used by people who experience more than moderate levels of anxiety symptoms, but have either not attempted to seek treatment or have not been properly diagnosed by a mental health professional as having a diagnosable anxiety disorder," psychotherapist Dr. Gin Love Thompson, Ph.D, M.A., M. Msc, tells Bustle. "The danger here is that just because you are 'functioning,' even with a high level of success, while experiencing moderate to high levels of anxiety does not mean it is a healthy state of living. And beyond potentially endangering your health, it is most probably reducing the quality of your daily life, work and relationships."

Sometimes, it can be hard to decipher between what's a common amount of anxiety and what could be considered anxiety disorder, especially if you're managing to continue on with your life. But if you have these seven habits, it's possible you may have high-functioning anxiety disorder, and may want to speak with a professional.


You Can't Sleep

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Worrying all the time can lead to physical and mental exhaustion. "These constant racing thoughts, along with the overbooked schedules, lead to another trait: insomnia," says Dr. Thompson. "This leads to a lessened ability to perform during the day, which makes the entire cycle of anxiety more toxic. The fatigue affects the body and mind." Although there can be many causes for exhaustion, speak with a doctor or psychologist if you believe anxiety is to blame.


You Pay Close Attention To Details

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"High-functioning anxiety individuals are often extremely detail-oriented," says Dr. Thompson. "Although this in moderation is a valuable trait, in excess it leads to extreme agitation and is a classic symptom of perfectionism. This can also be a symptom of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder [OCD] and lead to an unhealthy need to repeat tasks."


You Can't Relax

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If you have high-functioning anxiety, you might find that you can’t relax and that you are often exhausted, as a result. "Your mind doesn’t shut off, and you always feel like you should be doing something," psychotherapist Kelly Bos, MSW, RSW tells Bustle. "When you do finally stop, it is through distracting or shutting down."


You Engage In "Numbing" Behaviors

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When people experience chronic distress, they often have an urge to numb their feelings. "Numbing refers to behaviors that help us dull our emotional experience, but not actually deal with it," Laurie Sharp-Page MS, LPCC-S, NCC, CWC. "Drinking, eating, shopping, watching TV and sleeping are all examples of coping skills, which when used in excess actually numb us to our emotional experience." While many of these activities are common to do, take note if you tend to do them in excess when a particularly difficult situation or thought crops up — when engaging in these activities to avoid or mask feelings that could be bothering you, it may considered a "numbing" behavior. If you think you may be doing this, seeking the help of a therapist can help equip you with other tools to cope with your anxiety.


You Focus On Control

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Since anxiety makes us feel helpless and out of control, many people with high-functioning anxiety disorder engage in habits where they feel like they have the power. "You may try to counter that by focusing on controlling something else, like diet and exercise, cleaning, or achieving career goals," licensed clinical psychologist Liz Gustafson, Ph.D. tells Bustle.


You Push Yourself To Your Limits

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"You might push yourself, a little too much," says Bos. "[People with high-functioning anxiety] are high achievers, but they feel they have to be for acceptance from others and themselves. They are hard on themselves, having difficulty showing themselves self compassion and often criticizing themselves for what they didn’t do."


You Plan Everything

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If you are someone who is overly early to appointments for fear of being late, while anxious to “get started” on whatever event, appointment, or task awaits, you may have high-functioning anxiety. "You may find it difficult to go with the flow," says Dr. Thompson. "You may also plan ahead in ways that are beyond being proactive. This leads to wasted time and high levels of stress."

Some anxiety is common, but if you feel like you are constantly in a state of worry, you might have high-functioning anxiety disorder and could benefit from seeking the help of a loved one or therapist.