Understanding High-Order Functioning Anxiety

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Understanding High-Order Functioning Anxiety

Anxiety coils around you, squeezing the breath from your lungs. Words and ideas become trapped butterflies, fluttering desperately against the cage of your throat. Your heart thumps a frantic rhythm, a drumbeat for a coming storm. Blood seems to drain from your limbs, leaving you cold and hollow. An unseen predator, a nameless fear, waits to pounce, sending shivers racing across your skin. Unease prickles your nerves, a warning that something is terribly wrong. 
Now, imagine this: The world sees you crushing it. You delivered a flawless presentation at work, your social calendar is bursting with plans, and everyone seems to think you've got life on autopilot. But behind the confident facade, a different story unfolds. A constant undercurrent of worry simmers just beneath the surface. This internal battle with anxiety might be a sign of high-functioning anxiety, a surprisingly common experience where outward success masks a relentless tide of inner turmoil. You may be achieving great things, but the pressure and fear of failure can be a heavy burden to carry.

What is High-Functioning Anxiety?

High-functioning anxiety isn't a formal diagnosis but rather a term used to describe a unique experience. People with this type of anxiety navigate daily life and achieve their goals, but they do so with a constant undercurrent of worry. This anxiety can even be a motivator, pushing them to excel and overachieve. However, it's important to remember that even though they appear successful on the outside, the internal struggle with anxiety is very real and can be draining.

People with high-functioning anxiety often come across as:

Type-A Personalities:

Competitive, ambitious, and driven to succeed.

Imagine a marketing manager. They thrive on deadlines, love a challenge, and hate being idle. They arrive early, meticulously plan their day, and get frustrated by delays. While their ambition is admirable, their competitive nature can lead to workaholic tendencies and difficulty delegating tasks.


Striving for flawless results, leading to meticulous planning and double-checking.

Consider a graphic designer. Every project is a masterpiece. They spend hours tweaking details, revising drafts, and double-checking their work. While their dedication ensures high-quality work, it can also lead to missed deadlines and unnecessary stress. They might struggle to delegate tasks, fearing they won't meet their exacting standards.


Excelling in work and personal pursuits, but the pressure can be immense.

For the star athlete, second place isn't an option. They push themselves to the limit in training, constantly striving to improve. They excel in academics and extracurriculars, but the pressure to maintain this level of performance can be immense. While their drive is impressive, it can lead to burnout and neglecting other aspects of life due to the constant need to excel.

Issues and symptoms faced

While the external image is impressive, internally, there's a constant battle with:


1. Worry and Rumination: Overthinking situations and dwelling on negative possibilities.

A student spends hours meticulously planning their study schedule, replaying every lecture in their head and anticipating potential test questions, despite consistently achieving high grades.

2. Fear of Failure: The constant dread of letting others down or not being good enough.

A lawyer feels immense pressure to deliver flawless arguments in court, meticulously researching every case and anticipating every possible counter-argument, even though they have a successful track record.

3. Difficulty Relaxing: Even in downtime, the mind races with anxieties.

A doctor is constantly checking their work emails and phone messages, even during leisure activities, feeling a sense of unease if they disconnect completely.

Physical Symptoms: Fatigue, headaches, and stomachaches can manifest due to chronic stress.

An entrepreneur experiences frequent headaches and stomachaches, despite having a healthy lifestyle, due to the constant stress of managing their business and meeting deadlines.

High-functioning anxiety can be a double-edged sword. The constant worry can motivate you to achieve, but it can also lead to:

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged or excessive stress. Imagine a fire burning brightly – that's someone with high-functioning anxiety, constantly pushing themselves. Burnout is like that fire slowly dying, leaving behind ashes – a person depleted of energy and motivation. Common signs include:

Emotional exhaustion: Feeling emotionally numb, cynical, or detached from your work or hobbies.

Physical fatigue: Constant tiredness, difficulty sleeping, or a weakened immune system.

Reduced sense of accomplishment: Feeling like your work is meaningless or has no impact despite putting in a lot of effort.

Isolation in high-functioning anxiety stems from the fear of vulnerability. Someone might worry, "If people see my flaws, they'll think I'm a fraud." This can lead to:

Social withdrawal: Avoiding social situations or keeping conversations superficial to avoid revealing any anxieties.

Difficulty forming connections: Being hesitant to share personal struggles or achievements, hindering the development of deeper friendships or romantic relationships.

Loneliness: Feeling disconnected from others despite being surrounded by people.

Imposter syndrome is the feeling that your achievements are due to luck, external factors, or a mistake, not your own skill or effort. It's like a voice in your head whispering, "They'll find out you're not good enough someday." This can manifest as:

Downplaying accomplishments: Brushing aside praise or attributing success to luck or timing.

Fear of challenges: Avoiding new opportunities or tasks due to the fear of exposure as an "imposter."

Self-sabotage: Procrastinating or setting unrealistic goals to subconsciously confirm the fear of failure.

These three concepts often intertwine. Burnout can lead to isolation as someone becomes too drained to maintain social connections. Imposter syndrome can fuel isolation by making someone feel unworthy of close relationships. It's a cycle that can be difficult to break out of alone.

How to deal with "Your Anxiety"

If you suspect high-functioning anxiety, here are some steps to take charge:

Acknowledge Your Feelings: Ignoring anxiety won't make it disappear. Instead of pushing down the pre-presentation jitters, acknowledge them: "I feel nervous about giving this presentation; that's normal. But I've prepared well, and I can do this."

Challenge Negative Thoughts: Identify and replace anxious thoughts with more realistic ones. Catch yourself thinking, "If I mess up, everyone will think I'm incompetent." Challenge it with, "Everyone makes mistakes. I can recover and learn from it."

Practice Relaxation Techniques: Deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can manage stress. Before a big meeting, take 5 minutes to do deep breathing exercises. Inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, and exhale for eight counts. Repeat this cycle several times to calm your mind and body.

Prioritize Self-Care: Make time for activities you enjoy, like spending time in nature or hobbies. Schedule regular breaks during your workday to take a walk outside, listen to calming music, or do some light stretches. This helps manage stress and prevents burnout.

Seek Professional Help: A therapist can equip you with coping mechanisms and help manage anxiety effectively. If anxiety starts to significantly impact your work, relationships, or daily life, consider talking to a therapist. They can teach you specific coping skills like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to manage anxious thoughts and behaviors.


You're not alone. High-functioning anxiety is more common than you might think.

Your achievements are real. Anxiety doesn't diminish your hard work.

There is help available. Therapy can be a powerful tool for managing anxiety.

Living with high-functioning anxiety is a journey. By acknowledging your struggles, taking care of yourself, and seeking professional help when needed, you can find balance and thrive despite the constant undercurrent of worry. When dealing with anxiety, there will be victories to celebrate, big and small, and challenges to navigate together. Solh can be your partner on this journey. We understand the unique joys and concerns that come with supporting someone with anxiety. Solh offers a safe space for you to explore resources and find comfort in your own way. Here, you'll find information about anxiety, coping mechanisms, and tips for being a supportive partner. Explore journaling prompts to reflect on your own well-being, or connect with a therapist instantly through our "Talk Now" feature. You're not alone. Share your experiences and find comfort in our anonymous support groups, specifically designed for those who love someone with anxiety. Solh Buddy, your virtual companion, offers personalized encouragement along the way. Take charge of your own understanding and support system so you can better stand by your loved one. Explore Solh and find the spark that will help you guide each other through this journey together.