When I tell people about my general anxiety disorder, they're often surprised. Based on the question I always get — "What triggered it in the first place?" — it's clear I don't fit the stereotype of an anxious person. I embrace public speaking opportunities, love going to parties, and can count on two hands the number of work days I've missed because of my mental health. I graduated college with highest honors and was the president of my university's journalism society. But an anxiety disorder isn't a personality trait — it's a medical condition. I've had crippling panic attacks since I was a young girl, and I've had two short-term hospital stays for suicidal ideation.
High-functioning anxiety isn't an official diagnosis, but it's become a term used to describe people who have anxiety and live successful, busy lives. People with high-functioning anxiety want you to know what we're dealing with, but it's often difficult to find the words. If anything, you might look at someone with high-functioning anxiety and envy their discipline, since we're often perfectionists and love to stay active. We may stay silent about our anxiety for fear of seeming dramatic, and you might be shocked to find out we've been suffering. After all, we seem just fine. I can't act as a spokesperson for every person with high-functioning anxiety, but there are some things you should know if you have someone in your life with an anxiety disorder, especially if they have high-functioning anxiety.