What Is High-Functioning Anxiety? It’s Actually Really Dangerous

by Irina Gonzalez

Have you ever been called a "Type A" personality, "anal retentive," find yourself always planning something, or consider yourself a perfectionist? Perhaps people love to point out that you always seem to be busy, or tell you you're very detail-oriented. Maybe you even joke about how you over-think and obsess about everything. What you might not fully realize, however, is that these may all be signs of high-functioning anxiety. So, what is high-functioning anxiety, exactly?

According to HuffPost, there are a few things you should absolutely know if you love someone or are someone with high-functioning anxiety. High-functioning anxiety typically means that a person is very successful but suffering internally. Those living with this condition are still dealing with all of the debilitating side-effects of anxiety, but often hide it well and/or to the point that no one notices.

Those with high-functioning anxiety tend to be high-achieving and perfectionistic, driven by details in a desperate attempt to calm down their always-racing thoughts. They also have a tendency to dwell on everything, according to the website Headspace. The problems comes when this person can't turn off the "what if?" thoughts and relentless worries that consume their mind. There is no way to put high-functioning anxiety on pause or isolate the inner turmoil that is often hidden by smiles, success, and high-level achievements.

As a person who suffers from high-functioning anxiety, I know what it is like to live with this kind of nervous energy that also ironically moves me forward. My tendency to overthink pushes me forward to achieve more, succeed more, and constantly do and be better. According to The Mighty, some of the habits of those with high-functioning anxiety are apologizing for literally everything, nervous chatter, being an overachiever, arriving super early before an appointment, hyper-focusing, procrastinating as much as possible (but still getting things done in the end), writing extensive lists, and even small things like counting stairs or fidgeting or playing with your hair. What can I say? Guilty on all counts.

How can you tell if you have high-functioning anxiety? Although it is not an official diagnosis, many people with anxiety (especially generalized anxiety disorder) identify with the "high-functioning" part of it, according to the aforementioned Headspace article.

"As therapists, we talk about a lot of people even with diagnosed anxiety disorders as 'high-functioning,' and many of them are," Lynne Siqueland, Ph.D. of the Children’s and Adult Center for OCD and Anxiety, told Headspace. "They are doing really well in their jobs, in relationships, and raising kids, despite having significant anxiety."

Next time you come across someone who may be suffering from high-functioning anxiety, or realize that you might have it yourself, it's important to know and understand what it really means. In this way, knowing what high-functioning anxiety is means that you can seek help should you need it.