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High-Functioning Anxiety Is More Than You Think It Is

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When thinking of anxiety disorders, we usually think of a stereotype of someone dealing with devastating emotions that leave them cuddled up on their bed. However, not all anxiety disorders are the same, and you might even be experiencing a high-functioning anxiety disorder, which means you’re still living your everyday life that seems normal, yet struggling with unwanted anxiety. Still, just because you are unable to keep pushing on doesn’t mean you should be trapped with these anxious feelings, and a person with high-functioning anxiety deserves to be treated just as much as a person who appears more affected.

Anxiety Is difficult to understand. High-Functioning Anxiety is even more so. We stress, plan, panic and achieve. We tell other people we are fine. We tell this so much that we may start to believe it ourselves.

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anxiety / pixabay

Anxiety can show in numerous different ways, and those who struggle with high-functioning anxiety often do so under the radar, because their coping mechanisms are elusive and internalized.

If you want to know whether you or someone you know is dealing with high-functioning anxiety, try to observe the following, which are good signs that you/they are.

Type A Perfectionism

A person with high-functioning anxiety likely to be plagued by obsessive thoughts and worries that intrude on a regular basis. They may not be able to escape from worrying about a particular “what if?” situations, or even an aspect of their life at that moment. So they engage themselves in work, or housecleaning, or school, or a particular hobby, to escape from the downward spiral their thoughts drag them into.

In a desperate effort to get away from the fretting beast of worry, they might seem like high-energy extroverts: they usually surround themselves with friends, be workaholics who take evening and weekend classes, and could very well be well-regarded in their social circle. After all, they are go-getter, lively, and passionate, right?

Well, not really. Not so much.

Chances are that all that vigor and eagerness is a big front and just a massive form of escapism. As a matter of fact, they’re doing all they can to escape those in-between times where things quiet down and they’re alone with their invasive thoughts.
You’ve likely been in this situation before when you’ve gone through a crisis like a relationship breakup – when you’re up at 3am obsessing over every conversation, every exchange, every situation you’ve experienced and you just unable to sleep or think of anything else.

Tics and Twitches

People with HFA who doesn’t keep themselves busy in immersive projects to distract them, or who haven’t started a type of meditation or therapy that works for them, can internalize their worries. They push them deep down and try to disregard them, but doing that never really works. Those worries and fears just end up exhibiting physically, even if the person isn’t aware of them.

Anxiety can manifest in ways such as nervous tics like twitches, repeated blinking, cuticle picking, hair pulling, etc. Others bite their lips raw, other people have trouble sitting still, so they’ll bounce a leg or twiddle their thumbs.

For some people, these physical manifestations aren’t just the result of inhibited worry, but are ways to channel their nervous energy so their thoughts aren’t overwhelmed.

For example, if they’re in a social scenario where they’re feeling overwhelmed, their physical twitchiness may increase. Others may even need to excuse themselves briefly – or in some situations actually run out the door – so they can take a few minutes to do some breathing exercises and just keep themselves calm down.

They might regroup and then go back into the fray, or they might be more comfortable just leaving, but either one of those choices will weigh on them very heavily and be devastating to navigate. When they stay, they know they’ll not be comfortable and overwhelmed. When they go, they might be looked negatively or disappoint someone they care about.

Lack of Understanding

One of the terrible things about HFA is that, since most sufferers give the vibe that they generally have all their shit together, it’s hard for others to recognize that they’re suffering inside. Most of the time they are blind to the turmoil raging under the surface.

All of their behavior is shown by a person who is focused, driven, and immensely capable. This is a person with unending drive and energy – how can they possibly be disturbed with anxiety?

People who fall into this case usually have a far more difficult time getting the help they need because they present as being too “together” to need help. They may have difficulty convincing friends and partners that they’re losing their shit because they have only ever seen their “everything’s great!” mask and so can’t even recognized of the possibility that they’re in turmoil.

Even worse, the sufferer may be hesitant to open up to others about their challenges because they’ve worked so hard to show off this facade for so long that they’re scared their true selves won’t be accepted by the people they’ve allowed close to them.

That mere thought may put them into the throes of a panic attack and stop them from getting the support they desperately need.

If you feel that you are dealing high-functioning anxiety, it may be a good notion to speak to a therapist about techniques that can help you cope. Meditation and mindfulness can be immensely helpful for staying in the present moment, and some medications may be useful as well, whether prescribed, or herbal.

If you have a friend or romantic partner who struggles with HFA, kindly try to be understanding and compassionate. No-one decides to have these ever-present, nagging worries, and rest assured that they would be more than happy to just “let it go” if they were able of doing so.

These are people who are prisoners of their own anxieties, and they’re terrified of dishearten those they care about by letting them down. If you think poorly of them for a shortcoming you believe they’ve shown, understand that they absolutely hate themselves for that very same thing.

These people hold themselves to ridiculously high standards, and thinking that they might have dishearten you or let you down because the thoughts they’re battling have won temporarily

We could all use a bit more understanding and compassion, that’s why if you or someone you love is contending with any of this, please be gentle.

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