photo of a woman who's face is covered by her hair as she leans forward crying into her hand

High-Functioning Anxiety: The Common Signs and Symptoms Explained

If someone you know is struggling with anxiety, would you recognize it? Considering that some of the symptoms can be obvious, you might. You’d notice the sweating, trembling, or shaky voice. But anxiety disorders are increasingly pervasive and how they manifest is also very different from case to case.

Some folks realize that being identified as anxious only increases their anxiety. Therefore, they create coping mechanisms that serve to hide it. In fact, these coping skills can make a person with anxiety actually look confident, composed, and remarkably productive.

This is called high-functioning anxiety and it’s a disorder nonetheless.

Common Signs and Symptoms 

Typically, high-functioning anxiety transforms a person into an insecure over-achiever and a people pleaser. Those around you would describe you as supportive, reliable, exacting, and loyal. Here are some examples of how this plays out:

  • You allocate a lot of time and effort to keeping your appearance neat — hiding anxiety beneath a meticulous veneer.
  • At work, you go above and beyond your job description. The first one to arrive and the last to leave, you’re also not likely to take many days off.
  • Your standards for yourself are unrealistic.
  • Worry is ever-present and leads to you needing steady reassurance.
  • You’re the one people call when they need help or advice. You may enjoy helping but a major component here is the fear of being unliked and rejected.
  • You struggle with perfectionism and this can result in procrastination.

Put simply, your exterior does not match your interior and this disconnect comes at a high price.

How High-Functioning Anxiety Can Impact You


Take another look at the list above and it’s easy to see how much extra work you’re doing. Keeping it together is a full-time job and this takes away from your ability to enjoy the present moment. It also leads to physical fatigue that further stresses out the perfectionist in you. Such exhaustion opens the door for more anxious thoughts to enter.

You Aren’t Heard or Validated

Your struggle, by choice, is virtually invisible. Things can reach a point where even you believe you totally have your act together. But when push comes to shove, you need help and you know it. Since you’re hiding your pain so effectively, fewer people check in on you or offer support.

photo of a woman who's face is covered by her hair as she leans forward crying into her handFriendships and Relationships Are Hard to Sustain

The more people in your life, the more comparing you do with them. In your eyes, everyone else has it figured out you so may feel best when you’re alone. Meanwhile, people who do want to know you better see you as a workaholic who is too busy to connect.

You’re Not Getting the Treatment You Need and Deserve

This is often the worst impact of high-functioning anxiety. Owning up to having a mental health disorder would, in your eyes, prove that you’re an imposter. So you hide it more and more — ignoring the reality that anxiety disorders require treatment. The longer you wait to risk imperfection, the worse it will get.

High-Functioning or Not, Ask For Help 

You may look with pride at how you tackle your to-do list each day. How could someone like this need therapy, right? But that’s not how mental health works. Seeking and getting treatment is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, it’s precisely what a self-loving person would do. It should be at the top of your ever-growing to-do list.

That said, it’s understood that you might prefer privacy. Fortunately, this is built into the therapy process. If you found yourself uncomfortably nodding while reading this post, we should talk soon. Reach out today to schedule a consultation for anxiety treatment.

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