High-Functioning Anxiety: Everything You Need To Know

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Some people with anxiety may specify themselves as having high-functioning anxiety and might do well at work. For example, excelling at sporting activities or other aspects of their lives. Despite this, people coping with this sort of anxiety can deal with lots of difficulties.

Individuals with high functioning anxiety experience many typical signs and symptoms of anxiety, such as fear, overthinking, and poor sleep. Effective therapy and treatment are available for all kinds of stress and anxiety.

High-functioning anxiety can be challenging to take care of. While a person might look fine on the outside, but they may be battling inside. People with high functioning anxiety are usually able to achieve tasks and show up to operate well in social situations. However, inside, they are feeling just the same anxiety symptoms, consisting of intense feelings of impending doom, fear, fast heart rate, and gastrointestinal(stomach) distress.

High functioning anxiety is not a recognized mental health diagnosis. Rather, it’s developed as a catch-all term that describes people who deal with anxiety yet identity as operating moderately well in different aspects of their life.

What is High-Functioning Anxiety?

Experts do not recognize high functioning anxiety as a definite anxiety problem, and there is a lack of research in the area. Some individuals with anxiety symptoms describe themselves as being high-functioning anxiety. By this, they normally mean that they manage to function well in their day-to-day lives.

The medical community understands that anxiety disorders exist on a spectrum and also affect individuals in different ways. While some individuals might experience modest or severe signs, others might experience mild distress or impairment.

It is possible that individuals who consider themselves as high functioning anxiety experience moderate impairment. Or, they might have subclinical stress and anxiety– a scenario where individuals do not fulfil the diagnostic criteria for anxiety but still have anxiety signs. Subclinical anxiety signs and symptoms may be:

  • Mild
  • Atypical
  • Hidden
  • Recurrent but brief

Some people with high-functioning anxiety may efficiently hide their symptoms from others and show up calm, cheerful and confident. The anxiety might even drive them on to achieve things rather than holding them back.

On the inside, nonetheless, they may feel terrified or concerned or have obsessive thoughts. They might overthink and be unable to rest. The anxiety signs may impact their sleep and appetite.

All stress and anxiety signs can have a significant and long-term influence on a person’s health, wellness and relationships.

Causes of High-Functioning Anxiety

Due to the absence of research, a doctor might not know what causes high functioning anxiety. Although, it might be one way that anxiety disorders present in some individuals.

While experts do not completely understand the sources of anxiety disorders, they probably take place because of a combination of factors, such as:

  • Genes: People with a family history of anxiety or other psychological health conditions are more likely to develop anxiety than others.
  • Personality: Childhood attributes of shyness or nervousness in new situations, for example, increase the risk of having a stress and anxiety disorder.
  • Exposure to stress: Experiencing stress or trauma at any point of life can trigger anxiety.
  • Other health problems: Underlying physical health problems can worsen or trigger anxiety signs and symptoms, such as thyroid disorder or heart problems. Having another mental disorder is also a risk factor for an anxiety problem.
  • Drug or alcohol use: Misuse of drugs or alcohol can activate anxiety.

How “High Functioning Anxiety” Is Determined

There is little research on high-functioning anxiety, but we know that an ideal level of anxiety (not too high or too low) fuels efficiency (the Yerkes-Dodson Law).

Based on this law, your capability to function at a greater level could be enhanced if you had a mild to a modest degree of anxiety (instead of extreme anxiety).

IQ may also contribute to exactly how well individuals with anxiety function in a job and life. A 2005 study found that financial managers with high anxiety levels made the best managers—as long as they had a high IQ.

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Symptoms, Indicators & Signs

Without enough research, experts can not say how high-functioning anxiety presents and affects individuals who experience it.

Anecdotal(unscientific) reports suggest that people with high functioning anxiety may have fewer evident signs that affect their ability to function. While they might have many classic signs and symptoms of anxiety, these may happen on the milder end of the spectrum.

Possible symptoms and signs may include:

  • Anxiety, worry, and fear
  • Impatience
  • Frustration
  • Not able to sleep
  • A demand for perfectionism
  • Overachieving
  • The anxiety of failure or judgment
  • A desire to stay busy at all times
  • Overthinking
  • Overanalyzing
  • Anticipatory anxiety (stress and anxiety before events)
  • Elevated heart rate and faster breathing
  • Changes in appetite

Treatment Options For High-Functioning Anxiety

If you’ve never been diagnosed with a mental health problem, but you identify the signs, symptoms or characteristics, talk to your doctor. A doctor you trust can offer support and a reference to be analyzed by a mental health professional.

Know that there are reliable therapy options if you are diagnosed with anxiety, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or social stress and anxiety conditions.

Anxiety conditions can be treated with cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), medicines such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and even methods like mindfulness training.

Many people with anxiety find that using a combination of therapies and treatment best helps them handle their symptoms.


The primary treatments for anxiety conditions are psychotherapy and medications. Many people need a combination of the two to feel better and manage their symptoms.


Psychotherapy, or talk treatment, can help individuals take care of stress and anxiety symptoms. Some types of therapy might be a lot more effective than others for anxiety.

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), for example, is normally an effective treatment for anxiety problems. CBT helps individuals minimize their thoughts and slowly face situations or things that trigger their anxiousness.

A therapist can additionally show individuals techniques to manage their stress and anxiety signs and symptoms, such as deep breathing or meditation.

Different types of therapy might profit people with high-functioning anxiety.


A number of medications can treat anxiety. These consist of:

  • Some antidepressants
  • Buspirone, an anti-anxiety medicine
  • Benzodiazepines for short-term anxiety relief

Finding the correct medicine and dosage to control symptoms may take some experimentation as not all drugs benefit everyone.

Hidden Dangers Of High Functioning Anxiety

When anxiety goes away without treatment, the chances for developing other severe medical or mental health problems increases, research study reveals that anxiety affects cognition, particularly memory, the ability to reason and make basic decisions.

The tension of anxiety on the body can be significant, specifically when left unchecked for a long term period.

Common medical problems that can happen as a result of untreated anxiety consist of:

  • Heart Issues: Many research has shown a causal link between anxiety and heart-related health issues. In one study, the risk of heart attack or stroke tripled in men and women with heart disease and was twice as likely to occur than if no history of stress and anxiety problems existed. Another study showed ladies with high degrees of anxiety were 59 percent more likely to have a cardiac arrest, and 31 percent were more likely to die from a cardiac arrest.
  • Breathing Issues: Difficulty in breathing is a common symptom of anxiety. The inability to breathe places tension on other body functions as each calls for oxygen to function effectively. Low oxygen consumption can interfere with cognition, muscle function, and many other body functions. Chronic respiratory system issues have additionally been connected to anxiety disorder. A number of research studies have shown a correlation between a more severe degree of distress and hospitalizations of individuals who have chronic respiratory disease and anxiety.
  • Gastrointestinal Issues: One of the anxiety’s primary signs and symptoms is stomach distress, such as indigestion, nausea, or vomiting. Gastrointestinal distress can come to be even worse when anxiety is untreated. However, there is a little research study to connect the growth of gastrointestinal issues with anxiety and anxiety conditions. Treatment has actually been linked to a decrease in signs of gastrointestinal distress.

Individuals who struggle with unattended high-functioning anxiety are at greater risk of developing a substance abuse problem. Lots of people with untreated mental health problems look for self-medication through alcohol and drugs. Anxiety conditions have a high co-occurrence rate with chemical substance abuse issues.

It is important to seek treatment for high-functioning anxiety to help prevent the development or worsening of various other medical, mental health, or substance abuse problems.

When to see a doctor

People should contact their medical professional if:

  • they experience normal symptoms of anxiety that creates distress
  • they can not manage the stress and anxiety signs and symptoms
  • stress and anxiety affect their relationship, health, or self-esteem
  • they make use of alcohol or medications to manage their signs and symptoms
  • they create signs of other mental health issues, such as clinical depression

Anxiety is highly treatable. The earlier a person looks for help, the better the outcome.

Daily Tips To Reduce High-Functioning Anxiety

Whether you’ve looked for an expert to aid or are still in process, right here are some ideas you can try on your very own to reduce your anxiety.

  • Devote to spending 10 minutes a day towards your mental health.
  • Before doing any type of cognitive work (changing your thoughts), consider lifestyle changes such as restricting caffeine, consuming a healthy diet, and getting a routine workout.
  • Sleep hygiene is necessary, such as sticking to a regular bedtime.
  • Look at a few of your thought patterns. For instance, anxiety entails plenty of negative predictions (“What if I don’t make this before the deadline” or “I know I will make a fool of myself during this discussion!“).
  • When you notice a negative thought, try countering it with something a lot more practical or realistic, such as “If I don’t make this before the deadline, even so, it will not be the end of the world.”
  • Find different techniques for nervous habits, such as biting your lip or eating your nails. Practice deep breathing. It can help control stress and anxiety.

The Bottom Line

High-functioning anxiety can be a double-edged sword. You may be terrified to let go of something that seems like it’s part of your personality, but understand that you do not require to be secretly distressed to achieve as well as be successful.

Hang on to your positive thoughts via the habits you’ve developed, and try to let go of the stress and internal struggle your anxiety causes.

Success does not need to be the outcome of the struggle, but opening yourself as much as your real feelings and sharing them with others can make your experience of life and the world around you more authentic.

Sources & References
  1. The South African College of Applied Psychology. What is high functioning anxiety and is it real? Updated October 2018.
  2. National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), The National Institute of Mental Health Information Resource Center. Any Anxiety Disorder. Updated November 2017.
  3. AH Clark, Clark Psychology Group. 9 Surprising Symptoms of High Functioning Anxiety. Updated November 2019.
  4. Griffiths KM, Batterham PJ, Barney L, Parsons A. The Generalised Anxiety Stigma Scale (GASS): psychometric properties in a community sample. BMC Psychiatry. 2011;11:184. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-11-184
  5. Comer RJ. Abnormal Psychology. 8th ed. New York: Macmillan; 2013:132.
  6. Yerkes R, Dodson J. The relation of strength of stimulus to rapidity of habit-formation. Journal of Comparative Neurology and Psychology. 1908 (18):459-482. doi:10.1002/cne.920180503
  7. Perkins A, Corr P. Can worriers be winners? The association between worrying and job performance. Personality and Individual Differences. 2005;38(1):25-31. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2004.03.008
  8. Borza L. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for generalized anxiety. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2017;19(2):203-208.
  9. Sachan A, Chaturvedi TP. Onychophagia (Nail biting), anxiety, and malocclusion. Indian J Dent Res. 2012;23(5):680-2. doi:10.4103/0970-9290.107399
  10. https://uniquemindcare.com/the-characteristics-of-high-functioning-anxiety/
  11. https://headlandsats.com/signs-of-high-functioning-anxiety/
  12. https://techcrunch.com/2009/10/12/from-the-obvious-department-scientists-says-2012-will-not-be-the-end-of-the-world/
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