Without making it sound glamorous, the term “high-functioning anxiety” is becoming increasingly popular.

It’s characterized by a similar cluster of symptoms as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

The catch, however, is that you may appear to function with such precision that when people think of you, anxiety is not what comes to mind. In fact, anxiety isn’t exactly the color you’d paint yourself either.

High-functioning anxiety hides behind a myriad of symptoms, most of which can be tossed in the same hat as stress. Thus, this type of anxiety flies under the radar, causing you to struggle incognito.

Let’s uncover a few masks of high-functioning anxiety.

1. Your Body is On Edge

More than any other mental issue, anxiety wreaks havoc on your body. The damage isn’t irreversible, but it can be obtrusive if you’re not attuned to your body.

• Do you often experience unexplained aches or pains, shrugging them off to age or tiredness?

• Is your stomach frequently topsy-turvy or you always seem to be fighting a headache?

• Has your immune system been slacking lately, leaving you under a barrage of sniffles?

Pay close attention to the way your body feels. This self-awareness is like a backstage pass to what’s really going on in your mind.

2. Others Describe You as a “Type A” Personality

With a tendency to control situations, you like things to be done in a very specific manner. When that doesn’t happen, you don’t function at your best.

Although it may seem laughable to some, this type of “perfectionism” as an approach to life can feel heavy. Mostly, the heaviness exists because you can never reach the unrealistic expectations you set for yourself.

Many people don’t even realize that these tendencies are a red flag indicating high-functioning anxiety.

3. Turning Off the Worry is Impossible

Perhaps you’ve tried the deep breathing techniques or tried to scale down your worry gauge in other ways. But nothing works like you’d hoped.

The type of worrisome thoughts you experience seem to be out of your control. Taking you on a wild ride, you seem to be lacking an “off” switch.

An unbridled tendency to worry about everything—big, small, significant, unimportant—is a sign of high-functioning anxiety.

4. To Be Happy is to Be Busy

When asked how you are doing, does the following reply ring a bell?

“Oh, busy! But, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Those suffering from high-functioning anxiety are often constantly busy. With a mile-long to-do list, you may find yourself quickly taking on more than other people.

Behind the scenes, it’s not that you don’t enjoy resting. More than anything, you’re afraid of facing your own thoughts when you finally do come to a halt.

5. Sleep Doesn’t Come Easily

High-functioning anxiety is sleep’s nemesis. Like many other mental conditions, your natural circadian rhythm will be interrupted by your state of mind.

You may experience insomnia, restless sleep, or still feeling tired upon waking.

Most people with sleep disturbances try to dissuade themselves from believing something is wrong.

But the tossing and turning you’re experiencing reflects what’s really going on in your mind and body.

6. It’s Hard for Others to Read You

Because you looked so “together” on the outside and you’re not the typical poster child for anxiety, people don’t peg you as suffering from high-functioning anxiety.

In fact, it may be difficult to really gauge how you’re feeling. It’s not that you’re a fake or even unemotional, as others might imagine.

Rather, it’s that you’ve learned how to compartmentalize your emotions to function in your world. To think rationally and logically, you’re forced to push it all down.

Take the first step…

If you suspect you’re struggling with high-functioning anxiety and you’re ready to take the next step in resolving those issues, I would like to help. Please contact me via phone or email so we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Linda K. Laffey, MFT

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