When we think of someone with anxiety, we often think of the stereotypical person feeling totally overwhelmed, curled up in the fetal position on their bed.However, not all anxiety disorders look the same. High functioning anxiety looks like being able to still live your everyday life in a way that seems normal, yet is riddled with unwanted anxiety throughout the day. You may be going to work, be home with the kids, be running your usual errands or hanging out with friends – all the things that seems normal, yet be experiencing nagging anxiety. However, just because you keep pushing on and going about your day doesn’t mean you need to be stuck with these anxious feelings. In fact, someone with high-functioning anxiety deserves to be treated just as much as someone who appears more affected. Below are 11 signs that you might be struggling with a functioning anxiety disorder.
1. You Have A Hard Time Sleeping
Many of the clients I see in my office who’ve been diagnosed with functioning anxiety have a hard time falling asleep, the toss and turn for at least an hour, sometimes a few hours before falling asleep. You may also wake up repeatedly throughout the night; having a hard time falling back asleep which can lead to grogginess throughout the next day. When you internalize the events of the day, the anxiety can come out in the form of sleep disturbances.
2. You Have Patterns of Controlling Behaviors
Anxiety gives us a feeling of being out of control and powerless. One way we try to gain back a sense of control is by unconsciously having controlling habits. This can look like micro-managing our family members or going above and beyond to control our work environment. This is a way to anticipate any changes or variations that are likely to produce anxiety. It’s a way to feel more in charge of our life.
3. You Focus on Being Perfect
A subtle sign of functioning anxiety is the need to constantly strive for perfection. Examples of this can look like having unrealistic expectations of our physical appearance, high expectations of those we love or work with, or high expectations of what tasks we can manage in a day. It’s important to have goals and challenge oneself, however a focus on being perfect is an unrealistic expectation for anyone that leads to shame, discouragement and more anxiety.
4. You Can’t Relax
Low-level constant anxiety can result in someone not being able to enjoy the present moment. When we feel relaxed we’re able to “let go” and feel more carefree. Many of my clients find that whether it be constantly thinking about work, tasks to do at home or feeling unsettled while watching a show on the couch at home, they are replaying an event from earlier or thinking about what needs to get done. Similar to sleep, it’s important to be able to turn off our brain and let go of our “to-do’s” and worries; our brain and body need an opportunity to recharge and relax.
5. You Have Physical Pain
Anxiety affects more than just our mental health. Whatever we are experiencing in our brain, we also feel in our body. It’s common for people with high functioning anxiety will often notice pain and tension in the neck, back, shoulders, jaw, chest or stomach.
6. You Notice A Lot Of Negative Self-Talk
A common way anxiety can show itself is through the conversations we have in our head, and no – you’re not crazy if you’re talking to yourself. Everyone talks to themselves, that’s part of being human. However, what we say to ourselves can have a huge affect on what we feel and what we do. People with functioning anxiety feel as if there’s a gremlin in the their head; a naysayer doubting their self-worth and their accomplishments. These thoughts can be intrusive and be obsessive.
7. You Look for Reassurance Constantly
Someone with high functioning anxiety doesn’t trust themselves well. They often need others to help them think through situations rationally based on fears, or seeking reminders that they are safe. After having a fearful thought many times over they might feel like it could actually come true.
8. You Have Nervous Habits
Nervous habits are our brain and body’s way of providing unconscious temporary comfort. Biting your nails, picking at a part of your skin, chewing on your lip, taping your foot incessantly or having some other tic is a way your body releases the anxiety brewing just underneath the surface.
9. People Have A Hard Time Reading You
You might seem strong to others, even stoic. You might be known as “the rock” in your circle of friends and family, but you may also be someone who is hard to read. When you hide true emotions by burying them you can seem strong to others but emotions can feel like they are bottled up and want to bubble over. Inevitably you need to find a way to express those bottled up emotions to feel more calm and grounded.
10. You Try to Avoid Your Thoughts
Anxious thoughts are uncomfortable and get in the way of your day. Many people go out of their way to avoid anxious thoughts for periods of time by distracting themselves with late nights at work, chores to do or constant social gatherings. The thoughts often come back again because they have not been dealt with in an appropriate way.
11. You turn to Alcohol or Drugs
If you constantly hit the bottle to relieve stress, it could be an indicator you have an anxiety disorder. The feeling of needing a drink at the end of day rather than a drink being something that is enjoyable but you could take it or leave it, is a strong indication of a drinking problem. According to the Psychiatric Times, anxiety is a risk factor for substance abuse, including drugs and alcohol.
If you notice yourself dealing with any of these signs and you’re ready to feel more in control, I’d love to talk to you about making a plan to feel more calm and clear headed.
If any of these tips feel familiar to you and you’d like to get help for your anxiety, call for a free consultation to get you started on a better path.