High Functioning Anxiety: What is it and What does it look like?

February 24, 2022

Hi, I’m Brittany
I'm a Christian Counselor, Couples Therapist & Christ-Centered Yoga Teacher. 


According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the “most common and pervasive mental disorders in the United States.” Anxiety can manifest itself in many ways and symptoms can be unique to each person. You won’t, however, find the words “high functioning anxiety” in the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). High functioning anxiety is typically seen in people who, on the outside, are successful, social, high achievers despite their symptoms of anxiety.  

What is High Functioning Anxiety?

In the words of Elsa from Frozen “Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know.” Those who experience high functioning anxiety have the ability conceal their symptoms while continuing to function in their activities of daily living. People with this type of anxiety have become good at over-preparing to control their situation, are often highly organized and appear to “have it all together.” Although these individuals may be able to hide their anxiety, or even use it to their advantage, it affects their self-esteem, physical health and even their personal relationships.

What are the signs of High Functioning Anxiety?

Masking, downplaying, or ignoring symptoms can be downright exhausting. Symptoms of high functioning anxiety may include but are not limited to:

  • Overthinking
  • Being an over achiever
  • Perfectionism
  • Procrastination (i.e. “I do my best work under pressure”)
  • Having a fear of failure
  • Comparing self to others
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Worry
  • Racing Thoughts
  • Nervous Habits (i.e. leg shaking, nail biting etc)
  • Experiencing anticipatory anxiety
  • People Pleasing
  • Difficulty relaxing
  • Difficulty saying no
  • Difficulty expressing emotions
  • Dwelling on past mistakes

But not all qualities are negative! Individuals with high functioning anxiety are often organized, on time, proactive, helpful, detail oriented and outgoing.

What can you do about High Functioning Anxiety?

There are many ways to treat and manage high functioning anxiety including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Talk Therapy
  • Exercise / Yoga
  • Get more sleep
  • Mindfulness / Meditation
  • Creating a Support System
  • Self-Care

High functioning anxiety can feel like you’re suffering in silence with an invisible illness because everything on the outside appears to be in order. If these signs and symptoms resonated with you, you may be experiencing high functioning anxiety. Reaching out for help is not always easy, but you do not have to go through it alone. If you’d like to discuss your concerns, please reach out to Graceful Balance to find out how we can work together.

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