There is a great deal of stigma surrounding the diagnosis of anxiety, and the way that society views those who live with this condition day in and day out. We are taught to picture someone curled up in a corner, fighting off a panic attack and sweaty palms at the very thought of having to be out in public among those who are, in their minds, obviously judging their every move. Always worrying, obsessing and fearful of the world around them, their anxiety prevents them from functioning regularly in their daily lives. But what if it doesn’t?
While it may not be considered an actual medical diagnosis, the number of people who identify as suffering from ‘high-functioning anxiety’ appears to be on the rise. These are the people who continue to live their day putting up a front, giving the impression to everyone around them that everything is ‘fine’ when truthfully, they are struggling against their own anxious thoughts just to get through.
Debra Kissen, Ph.D., co-chair of the public education committee for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America explains, “Many people are walking around with extremely high levels of anxiety that are near meeting the criteria for anxiety disorders, but they’re white-knuckling their way through it. They’re still waking up. They’re still getting themselves to work.”
To those on the outside looking in, they may appear to be in control of their lives, even thriving and succeeding at everything that they do, but it comes at a cost. They struggle day in and day out to act as ‘normal’ as they can bring themselves to act, while silently suffering.
Does this sound familiar? Here are 17 signs that you may be living with high-functioning anxiety:
#1 – You Are A Perfectionist
You have developed a black and white, perfectionist way of thinking – believing that as long as you do everything perfectly, crossing your ‘T’s and dotting your ‘I’s then you can avoid things going wrong. You set an incredibly high bar, arguably an unrealistic one, and you fear that not reaching it will send everything in your life crashing down.
#2 – You Can’t Just ‘Stop Worrying’
It’s a phrase you’ve likely heard at least a couple times over the course of your struggle with anxiety, but if it was that easy, don’t you think you would have done it already? Anxiety is more than just worrying, it’s a mental illness that changes the way your brain operates. Recovery is a long process, often involving professional help.
#3 – You See the World Differently
It’s not just something you have created, experts say that you actually see the world through a different lens than those who aren’t living with anxiety. While others can generally distinguish between a threat and something that can be considered ‘safe,’ you often overgeneralize situations and actually see threats where others don’t.
#4 – You Experience Aches or Repetitive Habits
Your mind isn’t the only thing that is impacted when you are dealing with a high level of anxiety. Some people will tense up in response to feelings of anxiety, which over time can cause aches and pains in their muscles. Others will react by unconsciously doing something repetitive like picking at their skin, biting their nails or tapping their foot.
#5 – You’re A People Pleaser
You spend far too much time of your day worrying about whether you are letting people down around you. In fact, you will make great personal sacrifices in your own life if you believe that you can keep those around you happy.
#6 – You Are Naturally Controlling
Your first instinct in any situation is to take the position of control. It’s not that you don’t trust others will do what they believe needs to be done, you just can’t trust that it will be enough. When you’re in charge, you can pay attention to every detail and do your best to avoid any potential negative outcomes.
#7 – You’re Always Over-Prepared
While everyone else around you may plan for the obvious outcomes, you are legitimately prepared for anything that life can throw at you. You think through every possible scenario, considering even the most ridiculous of outcomes. While this looks to many like you are just overly organized, the truth is that your anxiety is the reason you even consider many of these scenarios.
#8 – You’re A Nervous Talker
Others may think you are just a chatterbox, but the reason that you keep talking on and on, trying to fill the silence, is due to your anxiety and nervous nature. You are afraid to just ‘be’ in the moment, so you try to make conversations happen, often unsuccessfully.
#9 – You Are Constantly Tired
When most people go to bed, they not only provide their body with an opportunity to rest and recharge, but also their mind. When someone is dealing with anxiety, their mind never shuts off. This means that even a ‘good sleep’ isn’t enough to battle the constant exhaustion.
#10 – You Always Keep Yourself Busy
You have discovered that keeping yourself busy will keep you from focusing on the anxiety in your mind. Instead, you focus on being productive, always on the move getting stuff done and refusing to slow down. There’s nothing you fear more than being left alone to simply sit with your thoughts.
#11 – You Are Hard to Read
By working hard to keep your anxiety hidden from the world, you actually make it incredibly difficult for other people to read you or understand you. You carefully bury away these feelings while out in public in favor of logical thinking, but it couldn’t be further from what you’re actually feeling.
#12 – You Avoid Emotional Experiences
Much like the stereotypical anxiety sufferer, you have a difficult time handling any type of emotion in your life, often finding it to be completely overwhelming. In an effort to keep yourself safe, you will actually go well out of your way to avoid these emotional moments, such as social events or situations of conflict.
#13 – You Are Calm and Collected in the Face of Danger
Regardless of how life may be falling apart around you, you carry yourself in a way that gives others the impression that you are aren’t even the slightest bit nervous. You come across cool, calm and collected – but this is only because you carefully compartmentalize what you are feeling, saving your anxiety for later when you are alone.
#14 – You Startle Easily
When your mind is always considering the worst possible scenario in every situation, it’s no wonder that you find yourself living on edge. You are always nervous, worried about what may be around the next corner, and this can leave you incredibly jumpy, startled by something as little as a slammed door or the honk of a horn.
#15 – You Overthink Everything
We’ve all met that person, the one that replays a moment from the past over and over in their mind so many times that they have somehow allowed it to define their life today. You can’t seem to let go of the ‘what if’ in most situations, which prevents you from moving forward – trapped either in the past or paralyzed about what may be coming.
#16 – You’re Successful
One of the reasons most people look past your struggles believing that you are doing well is due to the fact that you succeed at everything that you do. You’re the person that others look up to, the one that they wish they could be. The truth is that your anxiety makes you organized and detail-oriented, and when you put these to work for you, you come out on top, but in your own mind, it’s never enough.
#17 – You Are Easily Irritated
Consider, for a moment, what your anxiety is putting your body through. You are literally running on no sleep and living in a world of constant stress and worry, without an end in sight. It’s no wonder that this will, in time, wreak havoc on your patience. The littlest of things can upset you.
Image via Etsy