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What Is High-Functioning Anxiety?

What Is High-Functioning Anxiety?

What Is High-Functioning Anxiety?

Author: GIA Miami
Published: October 18, 2022

Do you feel on edge most of the time? Or do you find that you are constantly fiddling with something, or bouncing your leg? If so, you could be struggling with an anxiety disorder.

Often, this can be a debilitating experience. Some individuals that suffer from the disorder find that they are unable to fully manage daily life. Others, however, are able to manage the symptoms of the disorder. These people are likely to be suffering from high-functioning anxiety.

Many people with high-functioning anxiety may not actually realize that they are suffering from anxiety disorders. Because they seem to be able to effectively manage the responsibilities of day-to-day life, people with high-functioning anxiety often don't seek to treat the disorder.

By reading this article, you will understand a bit more about what high-functioning anxiety looks like, and where to get help if you feel that you need it.

Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety Disorder

According to statistics produced by The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an estimated 19.1% of US adults aged 18 and over suffered from an anxiety disorder in the past year. Equating to almost one in five individuals, it is likely that someone you know has suffered from anxiety at some point in their life.

To help you better understand what anxiety might look like, it would help to know the different symptoms that are part of the condition.

Anxiety Symptoms

Anxiety is a real illness, with both physical and emotional symptoms. Much like how breaking an arm needs treating, anxiety disorders need treating too.

According to the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5), clinical professionals look for specific diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder diagnosis. A medical professional can only give an official diagnosis of anxiety if they can find some of the specific criteria laid out in the DSM-5, which you can find here.

Some of the physical symptoms of anxiety include:

  • An unpleasant sinking, or churning feeling, in your stomach
  • Feeling light-headed or dizzy
  • Feeling restless or unable to sit
  • Headaches, chest pain, or any other body aches associated with muscle tension
  • Increased rate of respiration due to a panic attack
  • Irregular or increased rate, or strength, of heartbeat
  • Sweating or hot flushes
  • Trouble sleeping - including insomnia
  • Teeth grinding, especially at night
  • Nausea
  • Changes to sex drive
  • Panic attacks

All of these physical symptoms are, more than likely, accompanied by some psychological, or emotional symptoms that can make having the condition a debilitating experience.

The psychological symptoms can include:

  • Feeling anxious, tense, or unable to relax
  • Engaging in nervous habits
  • Feeling a sense of dread, or fearing something bad is about to happen
  • Feeling that other people can see that you're anxious and are looking at you
  • Excessive worry
  • Wanting lots of reassurance from other people and worrying that they may be upset or angry with you
  • Worrying about losing touch with reality
  • Low mood or depression
  • Rumination - meaning thinking about things over and over again
  • Depersonalization or derealization - types of dissociation where you feel disconnected from your mind and body, or from the world around you

While all of these symptoms may exist to varying degrees within all of the different forms of anxiety, anxiety can come in many different shapes and sizes. Below, we explore the different ways through which an individual may experience anxiety.

Different Types of Anxiety Disorders

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), there are five major types of anxiety disorders. Statistics from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) suggest that, accumulatively, these five major types of anxiety affect 47 million people in the US.

They include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
    • This is characterized by persistent anxiety, worry, and tension, even when there is nothing to provoke it
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
    • This disorder involves obsessive thoughts or repetitive behaviors, such as hand washing, counting, cleaning, and others
  • Panic disorder
    • This is characterized by sudden, unexpected, and repeated episodes of overwhelming fear alongside physical symptoms
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
    • This disorder develops after exposure to a traumatic or terrifying event in which serious physical harm occurred or could have occurred
  • Social phobia (or social anxiety disorder)
    • This is characterized by excessive anxiety and self-consciousness in normal, everyday social situations

Sometimes, these anxiety disorders can get in the way of daily tasks, responsibilities, and activities. If this is the case, you should seek professional medical advice about getting treatment.

Many people, however, are able to feel anxiety symptoms but are able to manage symptoms and continue with their life's challenges. These are people with high-functioning anxiety.

High-Functioning Anxiety

High-Functioning Anxiety

People with high-functioning anxiety may not notice that they are experiencing a mental health disorder. That is because those that suffer from high-functioning anxiety are able to, at times, use their condition to their advantage.

Known as positive characteristics, someone with high-functioning anxiety may never be late to events or meetings because they worry excessively about the consequences of being late. High-functioning anxiety symptoms may also mean that people who suffer from it are perfectionists or are very receptive to other people's emotions and feelings, in the worry of upsetting them. These positive traits can, however, be to their detriment.

For example, people with high-functioning anxiety, by being early to events all the time, will actually lose out on time when they could be relaxing or being more productive with that time. Maybe their high functioning anxiety means that they take longer and overstress when completing something because it has to be at an unachievably perfect level. Their high functioning anxiety may also make them worry too much about what other people think, meaning that they could be 'people pleasers'.

As you can see, those suffering from high-functioning anxiety might use it to their advantage, but there can also be downsides. Their subclinical anxiety symptoms - meaning their hidden anxiety symptoms - without treatment, could lead to other anxiety disorders with more severe symptoms.

These negative characteristics associated with high-functioning anxiety do not have to continue. By seeking the help of a mental health professional, you can reduce the impact of your high-functioning anxiety on your life.

There are many mental health services that are adept at treating a mental illness such as high-functioning anxiety. Well-trained mental health professionals are able to deal with mental health disorders effectively and compassionately, whether you are suffering from depression, anxiety and OCD, or anything else.

How to Treat Anxiety Disorders

Medical professionals can treat high-functioning anxiety in the same way that they would treat any other form of anxiety. By speaking to you and working out a treatment plan, doctors can suggest many different effective and medically reviewed treatments.

These may take place at a treatment facility, but you may also be able to practice some forms of treatment suggested outside of a treatment center, such as self-care.


Practicing self-care is all about making sure that you are giving your mind and body what it needs, improving your overall health. By practicing self-care and coping strategies, you are valuing yourself, which in turn can improve your mental health.

Some of these self-care practices and techniques include:

  • Mindfulness
  • Breathing exercises, such as deep breathing
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Aerobic exercise
  • Progressive muscle relaxation

These are all aimed at calming down the mind and releasing nervous energy which could be contributing to racing thoughts and stress. While these practices may help reduce anxiety symptoms, they are unlikely to completely rid you of your high-functioning anxiety.

You can take further steps to reduce your anxiety with the help of medical professionals. They may use medications as primary treatments in battling high-functioning anxiety.


Many people with anxiety choose to take medications in order to reduce their symptoms and live a happier life. There are many types of medications available, most of which aim to rebalance brain chemicals - an imbalance that scientists think may be a cause of some mental health conditions.

Some of these medications include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

Some people may find that, after using an antidepressant medication, their anxiety either doesn't improve or becomes worse. If this is the case, you can speak about it with your doctor, who may either suggest another medication or get you to stop taking medications altogether.

Medical professionals may often use prescription medications in conjunction with forms of behavioral therapy.


Therapies mostly aim to get you to challenge patterns of thoughts and behaviors that may be contributing to your mental health condition. There are many different forms of therapy and mental health services will be able to provide you with whichever one works for you.

These may include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Contingency management (CM)
  • Talk therapy, including Support groups

If you have severe anxiety, then don't lose hope until you have tried every form of treatment possible. Everyone with chronic anxiety, because of genetic and environmental factors, will respond to different treatments in different ways.

Where Can I Get Treatment

Where Can I Get Treatment

Do you feel like you may be struggling with significant anxiety? If so, do not worry, help is available.

Here at GIA Miami, we combine cutting-edge technology with the care and compassion that is so important in treating mental health conditions. Whether you are the first person in your family to suffer, or whether you have a family history of mental health conditions, you are treatable and you can find recovery.

If you are ready to start your journey to wellness, then speak to a member of our team today.

Call us on 561.462.4099, or contact us here, and take your first step toward freedom, today.

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