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How to deal with high functioning anxiety?

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We’re all human. Although we may logically understand that the anxiety we’re feeling is out of proportion to the situation we’re in, it doesn’t seem to matter. We worry, and worry, and worry – about things that we have absolutely no control over. How do you deal with your anxiety?

There’s been a buzz term floating around recently – high functioning anxiety. This is not an official diagnosis, but it is a good description for those who suffer with generalized anxiety disorder and manage to hide it from others.

Your friends, family, and colleagues would never guess that underneath your confident and calm exterior there is an inner dialogue full of fear and worry. Most people with high functioning anxiety overachieve, attempt perfection, and appear to have their lives all together. They’re the ones always on time, put together, and reliable. It’s hard to imagine that underneath many feel the constant churn of anxiety.


It’s hard to recognize that your anxiety is a problem when your anxiety creates positive outcomes. Some of these positives might be that you’ve thought of every possible outcome to a situation and are prepared with well thought out contingencies if things go bad. Subsequently, you’re viewed as proactive.

Many with high functioning anxiety smile and laugh often, you appear outgoing and fun to be around. You’ve got lots of friends and keep your social calendar full. You’re detail oriented and keep lists. Your calendars are color coded. Frequently, you’re viewed as the helpful one. Therefore, you’re the go to person that others rely on to lend a hand.


The flip side of these attributes are the negative thoughts and feelings that lurk underneath the surface. Being proactive is great and all, but worrying about every possible contingency just means you’re expending a lot of time and energy worrying about things that will most likely never happen. Ruminating on a problem is tiresome and often you’re spinning your wheels for nothing. These churning thoughts often lead us to imagine the worst. When we do this we’re more prone to exacerbate our anxious feelings.

You might notice your thoughts are racing and you can’t seem to turn them off. Next, you might feel tense and have a queasy stomach. Sleeping is difficult and you’re tired all the time.

Laughing and smiling a lot is great, but if you’re doing it because you’re afraid of not being liked, that’s just not a lot of real fun. Never showing your true self, your bad moods, your vulnerabilities, and your irritations means that you’re never showing the real you.

Always helping others is generous, but can build resentment and lead to feelings of burnout and worry that you don’t have any time for yourself. Many times, this behavior stems from a fear of letting others down and not being able to say ‘no.’

What can I do?

It’s hard to ask for help when you’re dealing with high functioning anxiety. You might be thinking, “I’m the one other people ask for help, I can’t possibly impose upon someone else.” Letting your guard down is difficult. You’re vulnerable to people seeing the real you. It’s common to worry that they won’t like you anymore.

You may not even realize that what you’re feeling is not typical. Many people with anxiety have had it their whole lives! So, you might think that everyone feels the same as you. You’ve convinced yourself that there’s nothing wrong with being a list-maker, workaholic, and people pleaser. That’s just the way you are and you’re not alone. 

According to the Nat’l Institute of Mental Health, 40 million adults suffered from anxiety last year. I predict this year’s numbers increase due to 2020 just being all around COVID-19 crummy.

Don’t let your fear of the future get in your way of seeking help. Anxiety does not have to be a part of your everyday life. Holding onto your positive habits that have helped you succeed is possible, while at the same time letting go of the tension and internal struggles that have been your hidden burden.

Being open and sharing your feelings with others is surprisingly helpful. You’d be shocked at what a difference it makes to your overall perspective on life, work, family, and your self-perception. You don’t need to hide your anxiety in order to succeed, you can eliminate the anxiety altogether and still be successful.

Reach out – Get Help

You deserve to enjoy your life, to look forward to the sunrise each day. Anxiety treatment (both in-person and online) usually incorporates some form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which has been proven to help reduce distressing symptoms. If you’re tired of dealing with anxiety, give us a call 954-342-0982 or make an appointment today. The clinicians at Seasons Psychotherapy Associates look forward to hearing from you soon!