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High Functioning Anxiety

Everyone has felt anxiety at some point in their life. Whether you feel anxious occasionally or on a daily basis, it’s important to know and recognize the symptoms of anxiety. Typical anxiety symptoms include a faster heartbeat, sweaty palms, racing thoughts, nervousness, and rapid breathing. However, anxiety can manifest itself in several different ways, and in varying degrees in different people. In fact, some levels of anxiety are healthy because they push us to do our best. Excessive worry and anxiety is typically a sign of an anxiety disorder, however. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, around 40 million people suffer from anxiety on a daily basis. Of those 40 million, some people consider themselves as having high-functioning anxiety, meaning that they have anxious thoughts and feelings, but are still able to go about their lives reasonably well. It’s estimated that about 18 million people who have an anxiety disorder are highly functioning.

High functioning anxiety is not a specific diagnosis, but rather a term used to describe those who have anxiety but still function considerably well. In other words, a high-functioning anxious person still gets the racing, negative thoughts, but can get through life anyway. You may know many people in your life who are secretly very anxious, though they look like they’re doing very well. If you have high-functioning anxiety, your anxiety probably pushes you to perform better, so on the surface you seem successful and collected, when you are actually really anxious inside. This anxiety often goes undetected due to society’s view of certain behaviors. For example, someone who is constantly worried about everything is a “worrywart”, when in reality it’s more than just worry. Someone who always arrives early to meetings and events is not just punctual, they may be sweating with anxiety about being late. It’s easy to overlook the anxiety we feel because we are doing so well on the outside. The moral of the story is, not everyone who is struggling with something is obviously struggling. Keep a close eye on your friends and coworkers, and don’t be afraid to ask if they are okay (like, really okay). Many people with high-functioning anxiety don’t even realize they have it!

In an Instagram post, licensed therapist Kristen Feemster says, “often what others see as drive can be rooted in worry. There’s nothing wrong with success, ambition, and a knack for details but we have to continually keep our motives in check to stay well.” She illustrates this in the following infographic:

You can find more information from Kristen at

If you yourself are a highly functioning anxious person, know that it’s okay to ask for help. Anxiety is not something that should be faced alone, even if you are “doing well in life” - you don’t need to be doing poorly to need help. Additionally, it’s important to remember that you don’t need to be anxious, stressed, or miserable to be successful.

Thanks for reading!

xoxo Lauren

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