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High functioning anxiety – or am I fooling myself?

    High functioning anxiety or GAD symptoms

    Although “high functioning anxiety” is not an official DSM category, many people feel that like supposedly “high functioning alcoholics” and “high functioning drug addicts”, that it is possible to be anxious but to not let it negatively affect your life in any significant way.

    Generally from a therapist’s perspective, this would be classed as mild “Generalized Anxiety Disorder” (GAD). Symptoms for this disorder may include:

    • Persistent worry or anxiety about things in a way that is out of proportion
    • Overthinking about all the worst-case outcomes
    • Perceiving things as threats, even when they aren’t
    • Trouble handling uncertainty
    • Indecisiveness because you are afraid of making the wrong decision
    • Not being able to fully relax
    • Difficulty concentrating.


    Physical symptoms of it may include:

    • Difficulty sleeping and fatigue
    • Muscle tension
    • Twitchiness
    • Nervousness
    • Perspiring for no real reason
    • Nausea, diarrhea or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
    • Irritability.

    How does having high functioning anxiety differ from this?

    Sometimes people may mistakenly misattribute anxiety to just feeling “driven” or “ambitious”. Their ideas may keep them awake at night. They may neglect to take full account of the affect that, for example, not sleeping may be having on their overall health and wellbeing.

    You might feel that your anxiety is making your surge forward rather than holding you back in fear. This can be a positive thing and certainly a lot of actors have said that they use the knot in their stomach to give them energy.

    It is really all a matter of degrees and how well you are achieving balance in your daily routine.

    In America especially, perhaps because of its early history of having to cope with many hardships and an often puritanical religious base, success has been regaled as the ultimate achievement. Any signs of failure have been seen as the territory of “losers”. So often people put on a brave face and don’t admit to any difficulties they may be facing.

    This can be the case with people who are anxious on the inside, but pretend to be calm and in charge on the outside.

    When we aren’t being fully honest with ourselves and with those around us, sometimes this veil of success can end up with us ending up in a burned out heap.

    When you are more honest with yourself, you may instead say no to some extra tasks them may be presented to you.

    High functioning anxiety can mask generalized anxiety disorder. It’s time to be honest with yourself.

    Consider whether you really have high functioning anxiety or just generalized anxiety that you haven’t dealt with yet. Contact us, schedule an appointment with a counselor and tell them the real situation and ask them what they think.

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