High-Functioning Anxiety: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

woman bent over the side of her bed wondering What is High-Functioning Anxiety

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High-functioning anxiety isn’t officially recognized in the diagnostic manuals, but it’s a term widely used to describe people who live with anxiety yet appear to manage their day-to-day lives effectively. At Valor Behavioral Health in Atlanta, Georgia, we understand the unique challenges faced by those with high-functioning anxiety and offer insights into recognizing and treating this condition.

If anxiety is affecting you or someone you care about, reach out to our team now at 866-395-6480 or verify your insurance.

What is High-Functioning Anxiety?​

High-functioning anxiety refers to individuals who, despite experiencing the internal struggles associated with anxiety disorders, are able to perform well in various aspects of their life, such as work, school, and relationships. This can mask the severity of their condition to others and sometimes even to themselves. While they may seem composed and successful externally, they battle with constant worry and fear internally. This form of anxiety might not manifest in the more recognizable signs, like panic attacks or avoiding situations, making it less obvious to identify.

7 Signs of High-Functioning Anxiety​

High-functioning anxiety is characterized by a complex range of signs, often masked by an individual’s ability to function effectively in their daily life. Recognizing these signs is crucial for understanding and supporting those with high-functioning anxiety. They can present as any number or combination of the following:

  • Perfectionism and Self-Criticism: Setting impossibly high standards and being overly critical or judgmental when those standards are not met, driving oneself to overperform out of fear of failure.
  • Overthinking and Worry: Constantly ruminating on past interactions or future events, leading to a cycle of anxiety that’s hard to break, with an inclination to overanalyze situations, events, or conversations.
  • Procrastination and Intense Bursts of Activity: Delaying tasks or decisions due to fear of failure, followed by periods of intense activity to meet deadlines, often under significant stress.
  • Avoidance of Social Situations: Steering clear of events or opportunities due to fear of judgment or feelings of inadequacy, which can lead to social isolation.
  • Physical Symptoms: Experiencing physical manifestations of anxiety, such as muscle tension, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, or insomnia, impacting overall well-being.
  • Need for Control: Attempting to manage every aspect of life in an effort to alleviate anxiety, yet often increasing worry and tension through this need for control.
  • Imposter Syndrome: Feeling undeserving of one’s accomplishments and fearing being exposed as a fraud, coupled with constant self-doubt about abilities and achievements.

What Causes High-Functioning Anxiety?

The origins of high-functioning anxiety remain largely mysterious, though several key risk factors have been pinpointed. Genetics play a role, with a family history of anxiety disorders potentially increasing the likelihood of experiencing high-functioning anxiety. Childhood trauma, such as abuse or neglect, is another significant contributor, often leading to anxiety disorders in adulthood. Perfectionists, or those with exceedingly high self-expectations, may also find themselves more susceptible due to the intense pressure they place on themselves. Environmental stressors, whether from work or personal relationships, can act as catalysts for the condition. Additionally, imbalances in brain chemistry involving neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin are believed to contribute. 

It’s crucial to understand that not everyone exposed to these risk factors will develop high-functioning anxiety, and conversely, some may experience it without any identifiable risk factors. The causes of this disorder are multifaceted and vary individually.

How to Treat High-Functioning Anxiety​

At Valor Behavioral Health, we specialize in evidence-based treatments tailored for individuals with high-functioning anxiety, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness-based therapies, and medication management. Our skilled mental health team collaborates with clients to devise customized treatment plans that cater to their specific needs and aspirations. In addition to these therapeutic approaches, we offer a continuum of care through our Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), and Outpatient Program.

CBT, a form of talk therapy, aims at identifying and altering negative thinking and behavioral patterns that fuel anxiety. This approach empowers those with high-functioning anxiety to challenge and replace pessimistic thoughts with more balanced and positive ones.

Mindfulness-based therapies teach individuals to anchor themselves in the present moment, helping to diminish anxiety and worry. These methods encourage acceptance and more effective management of anxiety.

For some, especially those facing pronounced physical symptoms or finding therapy alone insufficient, medication management may be advised. Our professionals are dedicated to finding the optimal medication and dosage, ensuring a holistic approach to managing high-functioning anxiety.

High-Functioning Anxiety Treatment in Atlanta

If you or someone you know is battling high-functioning anxiety, Valor Behavioral Health is here to help. Our team of experts in Atlanta, Georgia, recognizes the challenge high-functioning anxiety poses on everyday life and offers comprehensive treatment options tailored to your needs. Visit our admissions page or call us directly to learn more about how we can assist you in managing your anxiety and improving your quality of life.