What’s pushing you along every day: anxiety or your ambition and interests? Are you always on top of things at work because you are passionate about your career or afraid of what might happen if everything doesn’t go according to plans? Is your home always tidy because you love cleaning or because you aim for perfectionism?
On the outside, you might appear outgoing, helpful, high-achieving, organized, and detail-oriented. That’s because your anxiety is making you arrive early for meetings and appointments, plan ahead for all possibilities, and try to please everyone. Anxiety doesn’t paralyze you but instead pushes you forward to achieve more. Most people probably have no idea that you are experiencing frequent anxiety.
‘High-functioning anxiety’ is a term often used to describe people who have frequent anxiety but function well, or at least appear to function well to other people. It is important to note that it is not a recognized mental health diagnosis. 8 signs of high-functioning anxiety
How do you know if you might have high-functioning anxiety? These are some of the typical signs that imply that anxiety might be your biggest motivator.
1. You switch between procrastination and last-minute work. Uncertainty, overthinking, or too high standards might lead to procrastination, and then you need to do last-minute work to catch up to deadlines.
2. You need constant reassurance. You don’t trust yourself but are frequently checking that you are on the right track. For example, you ask questions repetitively or do excessive research.
3. You aim for perfectionism. You have set impossibly high standards for yourself and aim for perfection.
4. You have nervous habits to release your anxiety. You might bite your nails, chew your lip, tap your foot, or do other repetitive things to channel your nervous energy.
5. You can’t relax. Evenings and days off are filled with long to-do lists, not recharging.
6. You ruminate. You often have an ongoing sad or dark thought, such as feeling inadequate.
7. You have racing thoughts. Your mind never stops going. You keep thinking about what has gone wrong and what could go wrong.
8. You have sleep issues. You might have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Why you should not ignore high-functioning anxiety
You might think that because you get praise from co-workers, supervisors, and friends, that you are just fine. Being always on top of things and organized is only a good thing, right? We all experience anxiety sometimes. It is what signals that something is important or potentially dangerous. However, if anxiety impacts your daily life - even if you seem to get through the day - it is something to pay attention to.
Even if you’re doing well at work and in your relationships, anxiety can still limit your life. You don’t recharge in the evenings and weekends but perform more tasks. You might choose hobbies and activities that calm your thoughts rather than truly interest or challenge you. You reject social interactions because you are exhausted to perform.
Just because you seem calm to others doesn’t mean that you should try to handle anxiety on your own or that you don’t deserve professional help. You might have even thought that everyone is driven by anxiety, and it’s just part of life.
No matter how high-performing you are, ignoring anxiety could lead to more concerns down the road, including burnout. If you are recognizing signs of anxiety or burnout in yourself or someone you know, reach out to your EFAP for support. We can assist you to recognize thoughts and behaviours that trigger anxiety, or help you to support someone else that may be struggling. We're here to help.