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High Functioning Anxiety

If you follow news related to mental and physical health, you may have heard of something called high-functioning anxiety. It is not a medical diagnosis nor is it anything new; however, it can produce negative symptoms for people who experience it. Generally, individuals who have this are hard-working. Most perform well at their jobs and succeed in their relationships. Externally they may be the vision of perfection. But, for them, trying to be perfect comes at a price. Despite appearing fine on the outside, these individuals struggle internally with anxiety and may also face other physical consequences such as exhaustion, restlessness, inability to sleep, irritability, muscle tension, and difficulty concentrating and staying on task. High-functioning anxiety can be particularly concerning when coupled with depression, greatly exacerbating symptoms. 

During a segment of NBC’s 3rd Hour Today Show, Psychiatrist Dr. Sue Varma shared the three P’s of high-functioning anxiety; perfectionism, people pleasing, and procrastination. These characteristics are generally found in people with high-functioning anxiety. While people who have high-functioning anxiety are productive, they work to the extreme to be perfect, they tend to people please and put others first, and they procrastinate when things aren’t “good enough” in their own eyes. Deep down they may feel miserable. High-functioning anxiety can lead to physical disturbances such as headaches, high blood pressure, high adrenaline and cortisol levels, frequent infections, irritable bowels, and more. Dr. Varma explains that people who are experiencing issues such as those described should first see a physician to rule out other medical conditions that can produce similar symptoms.

Though high-functioning anxiety is not an official diagnosis, it is becoming increasingly acknowledged by medical experts. Once identified, this type of anxiety can be addressed through therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes. Regarding the latter, there are some behavioral changes one may make to combat high-functioning anxiety. This includes things like being kinder to and less hard on oneself, setting boundaries and saying “no” to things that add too much pressure, applying self-care by eating right, exercising, and establishing a sleep routine, and working with a therapist to recognize negative tendencies, reduce stress, and promote mental wellness.

This article is purely informational and is not intended as medical advice. For health concerns, please see a medical professional.

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