High functioning anxiety is hard for me to explain. If you have high functioning anxiety or depression it makes talking about having mental illness difficult as if you are high functioning, you are still doing everything you are supposed to be doing WHILST battling.
People have a preconceived notion about how people with anxiety or depression or many other mental illnesses behave. If someone says they have anxiety, people imagine shaking, panic attacks, no public speaking. If someone says they have depression, people imagine black clothes, sad music, not leaving the house & crying.
The stereotypes of mental illnesses can make people wary about talking of their own. When you are high functioning, it is even harder.
Even if your anxiety symptoms aren’t interfering with your productivity at work or your relationship status, they can still be problematic if they take away from your overall quality of life, says Kissen, who is also clinical director of Light on Anxiety CBT Treatment Center in Chicago.
The first time that I had a particularly bad time with anxiety, I was 17 and in my final year of college doing my A-Levels. I was triggered by stress & was working really hard. My feelings of anxiety started a spiral into depression but I never took a day of college, my grades weren’t dropping significantly, nobody had guessed how I was feeling. From the outside looking in, I was functioning as usual but my feelings were not usual. I wasn’t sleeping well, I either didn’t eat much at all or I would binge on cookies & crisps.
When I tried to talk about how I felt, I was told that it’s exam time, everyone is stressed so it’s normal and as my grades weren’t suffering nothing was put into place to support me.
I was in my second year of university when it got bad again but I was still showing up, my grades had slipped a little but I was told that everyone’s had as second year was graded differently to first year. I didn’t want to talk about my mental health because it had been pushed to the side before. If you are not showing others your stereotypical symptoms then they find it hard to understand that you are struggling.
Common Symptoms of High Functioning (The Mighty)
- Excessive anxiety and worrying most of the time
- You find it hard to control your worry
- Your worrying causes restlessness; feeling constantly tired, trouble concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, sleep problems & a heightened startle response (aka more jumpy than usual).
- Anxiety is interfering with your daily life (not in a won’t get out of bed way but in a feeling secure way)
I know that myself and many others with high functioning anxiety are really great at wearing a mask that says everything is normal so if someone who seems fine all the time suddenly tells you that they have feelings of anxiety, don’t tell them they’re fine. The best thing that you can do is listen to whatever they need to say. You don’t know how long they have been living with it even if they have only just started showing more obvious symptoms.
Women’s Health Magazine, Australia compiled a list called ‘8 signs your struggling with high functioning anxiety’. You don’t need to relate to all of them but if you recognise more than 3 within yourself then you might want to try some anxiety coping strategies or talk to someone. If you want to talk to someone but don’t know where to start, you can visit TimeWith.
- People describe you as a Type A personality or perfectionist
- You exhibit controlling patterns
- You’re constantly busy
- You’re not sleeping well
- You have aches, pains & repetitive patterns or ticks
- People have a hard time reading you
- You have a crippling fear of letting people down
- You struggle to say no to people.
This post was written as part of Mental Health Monday.