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What?! It’s not just stress?

Anxiety, worry, and dread are natural sensations for everyone, but sometimes these feelings become overwhelming and interfere with how we live our life.

For a long time perhaps you didn’t recognize that working so hard and caring so much were wearing you down. They seemed like positive traits, not symptoms of a dysfunctional anxiety, which is what makes it so difficult to spot.

“No matter how hard you work and how much you achieve, the anxious part of your brain scrutinizes, criticizes, and patronizes YOU.”

Some people suffer from severe anxiety but do not fit the criteria for a diagnosis. High-functioning anxiety is the term for this. Meeting duties can mask the reality that an individual is having a difficult time every day and can easily be interpreted as just “too much stress”.

You can function, if not succeed, in work; you keep your home and family together; and your friends see you get things done on a daily basis. However, your thoughts are racing, you’re overloaded and agitated, you’re tired and worn out, and you’re dissatisfied.

But just because it’s not formally diagnosed it doesn’t mean it’s not a significant condition that adversely affects the quality of your life.

This is a story of Diane, who suffered from high-functioning anxiety:

I’m a wife, a mother of two daughters, and a full-time worker. In my life, there is a lot going on. Naturally, I am stressed. For a long time, I didn’t recognize that what I believed was regular stress for someone with my schedule was truly anxiety.

I was constantly on the alert, focused all day with schedules for my job, household chores, the kids’ activities, bringing the dog outside, and everything else that needed to be done. I was continuously on edge and felt overwhelmed most of the time, but I didn’t think I had anxiety since I was able to function. I finished everything. I somehow managed everything. My perfectionism made it seem like I had it all together. But I overreacted to everything. My moods shifted from moment to moment. I reacted in ways that hurt others. And I felt so miserable and alone.

A physical illness was what eventually slowed me down and led me to reconsider my mental health. I became so ill that I was unable to function. When I spoke with my doctor, she advised that I had been suffering from excessive worry, which had resulted in weariness and hampered my immune system.

High-functioning anxiety is not a clinical diagnosis, but it defines people who exhibit many of the symptoms of anxiety disorder but do not match all of the diagnostic criteria.

This is how you feel if you have high functioning anxiety

1) You manage to do it all, but it’s exhausting.

Just because you seem to be making it through the day, doesn’t mean you’re not experiencing distress.

2) You don’t only need a break!

During your lunch break, you go for walks outside. You work out. You practice yoga. But the anxiety keeps returning. People might give you well-intentioned advice to “just go on vacation, you’ll feel much better”. This only confirms that they don’t get it. Yes, the anxiety might go away for a while, but you know that it will creep back, because it’s not there just because you’re exhausted. It’s there because of the way you think, act and treat yourself.

3) Perfectionism is a means for you to avoid making mistakes.

Anxiety is associated with perfectionists, over-thinkers, and type A personality types who place enormous pressure on themselves to succeed in all aspects of their lives: professionally, at work, in their love lives, and in parenting. Mistakes are viewed as failures by the worried mind, which compares human, predictable blunders to disasters. Perfectionism is frequently a frantic attempt to control and manage the dread that lies behind all the strain.

4) You wish people had patience with you.

People wish you could simply “snap out of it,” and you are definitely trying your hardest. What they don’t see is that it’s not just about DOING something to help yourself, like exercising, eating organic, meditating etc. There is also a process of UNDOING that you’re going through and a deep inner transformation happening. All you need is a lot of support from the people who love you.

5) On your “day off” you want to do nothing.

While most people’s days off appear to be jam-packed with activities, social involvement, and a long list of places to go, my idea of “bliss” is a late afternoon walk with a loved one, a warm cup of tea, and a quiet book on the sofa. Just because your brain is hyper-focused and hyper-alert at work doesn’t imply you have to or want to be that way in your free time. You don’t like to be called antisocial, a hermit, or elderly. You need your alone time to nurture and renew yourself.

In my work with people I hear all kinds of valid reasons why people cling to perfectionism and don’t allow themselves to let go.

If you’re the one struggling with high functioning anxiety, consider why you’re clinging to your anxiety.

Are you scared that if you’re no longer driven by worry, you’ll lose your competitive edge? That you won’t get things done? That you will loose your identity as a hardworking and responsible person?

Know that there are many out there with these symptoms and worries. They are real and they are hard, and they are treatable!

If you found something in this post that resonated with you and you’re looking for one-on-one support to help you cope with your anxiety, please feel free to reach out!

Schedule your free consultation HERE.