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High Functioning Anxiety Disorder

To understand high-functioning anxiety, you first have to know what anxiety is. Simply put, anxiety is the intense feeling of persistent fear, and worry, coupled with speedy breathing, increased pulse rate, sweating, and even fatigue in some cases. 

Anxiety is normal during situations that are stressful such as during exams, weddings, or public speaking.

Whereas high functioning anxiety is not recognized as a mental diagnosis by medical professionals, it is important to note that comprehensive research needs to be pursued in this area. 

Many people with symptoms of anxiety consider themselves high functioning simply because they can manage their daily obligations well.

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What is High Functioning Anxiety?

High-functioning anxiety is not a mental health disorder according to mental health professionals. Typically, it refers to a situation where someone who is experiencing anxiety can be able to manage daily life pretty well.

This person appears to be well-accomplished and organized on the outside yet on the inside this person is distressed by stress, worry, fear, or infatuated thoughts. People with high-functioning anxiety will perform their jobs diligently, manage their finances keenly, maintain relationships, and have work-life balance but at the same time struggle with feelings of anxiety and obsessive thoughts.

In some cases, on the contrary, people with high-functioning anxiety may do exemplary well as a factor of the fear and anxiety that drives them to put more effort or work even harder making them reach greater heights.

For instance, fear of poverty or failure in some individuals contributes significantly to high performance as a result of the relentless effort put to avert these two scenarios. In so doing, they ensure that their quality of life is well maintained, high above the rest.

Signs and Symptoms Of High-Functioning Anxiety

With limited research, health care providers especially mental health disorder professionals are unable to affirmatively conclude how high-functioning anxiety affects people who experience it. Anecdotal reports have submitted that people with high-functioning anxiety have few recognizable symptoms that alter their capacity to function.

Individuals with (GAD) generalized anxiety disorder may possess several symptoms of anxiousness, these may appear on the smaller edge of the spectrum.

Possible symptoms and signs may include:

  • Fear, worry, and anxiousness
  • Moodiness and frustration
  • Inability to relax
  • Fear of failure
  • Desire to be busy/occupied
  • Increased pulse rate
  • Insomnia
  • Need for overachieving
  • Overthinking and meditation
  • Change of appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle tension
  • Burnout
  • Concentration problems

Some patients have reported persistent feelings of muscle tension, headaches, irritability, and misplaced anxiousness.

High-functioning anxiety can portray both positive and negative characteristics.

Positive attributes include:

  • Punctual
  • Proactive
  • High-achieving
  • Helpful
  • Orderly
  • Organized
  • Passionate

Negative attributes include:

  • Nervous
  • Overthinking
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Pessimistic
  • Procrastination
  • Insomnia
  • Limited social life
  • Racing mind

Who Suffers From High-Functioning Anxiety?

By the virtue of limited research on this condition, the main cause of high-functioning anxiety has not yet been documented. Anecdotal reports, however, have indicated that anxiety commonly relies heavily on environmental and genetic factors. Susceptible groups or members of the society would the following but are not limited to:

  • Genetics – People whose family history has anxiety disorders or other mental health conditions are more vulnerable than others to develop.
  • Drugs and alcohol – Persons who indulge in substance and drug abuse can easily trigger anxiety, especially in the instance of withdrawal from drugs
  • Health Conditions – Those with health conditions such as thyroid issues or heart problems may activate or worsen anxiety signs or symptoms. Other mental disorders pose a credible risk and may trigger anxiety
  • Personality – Traits of shyness since childhood in people can attribute to anxiousness and nervousness in rather new situations or encounters
  • Stress – Exposure to stress or traumatic episodes may also bring about anxiousness.

Individuals in society vulnerable to high-functioning anxiety to be precise may include those who have achieved great success over a short period. These are for example lawyers who have become partners, a person who just received a promotion among others.

Treatment Options That Help Combat Anxiety

High-functioning anxiety can be treated equally or in a way similar to the treatment of other anxiety disorders. This includes prescription medications, therapy, or a combination of the two.

Talk therapy is an effective procedure that people use to manage symptoms of anxiety.

Engaging a counselor/therapist in a conversation can help one acquire techniques to better cope with symptoms.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is also an efficient option for anxiety treatment. It is a psychological treatment that is applied to alter thinking patterns with the main objective of better understanding a person’s behavior.

Prescription medications are also available to treat high-functioning disorders as well as chronic anxiety (where anxiety levels have sky-rocketed). Antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), benzodiazepines, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and beta-blockers may also treat anxiety.

Simple holistic techniques such as deep breathing or taking a deep breath may also slow down a person’s heart rate and reduce anxiety.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment For Addiction And Anxiety

Dual Diagnosis Treatment Programs address anxiety and addiction at the same time. Many times anxiety is the underlying cause of addiction problems. A drug rehab with a therapeutic model that addresses both issues at the same time is the best option for sustained recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions: High Functioning Anxiety

How Common Is Anxiety & Substance Use Disorder?

Anxiety and addiction go hand in hand. It’s common for individuals that struggle with anxiety to self-medicate which can ultimately lead to addiction. If you are struggling with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and have a drug addiction issue as well, a dual diagnosis program can be your answer.

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Medical Advice Disclaimer

Magnified Health Systems aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.

Picture of This content is verified and moderated by Dr. Brendan Bickley

This content is verified and moderated by Dr. Brendan Bickley

Dr. Bickley graduated from U.C. Irvine with honors: Phi Beta Kappa, Golden Key International Honor Society, Cum Laude. He has been featured on national radio and print media. He is also a frequent lecturer at National Conferences. He holds an A.S. degree in Drug & Alcohol Studies, and two B.A. degrees in Criminology & Psychology, and masters and doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology. He is a licensed California Drug & Alcohol Counselor Level II, a licensed Clinical Supervisor and is certified in treating Eating Disorders.

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