As I’ve mentioned in previous posts – I suffer from anxiety. High Functioning Anxiety to be exact. Quite often when I tell people I suffer from anxiety, they’re surprised. Why? Because I’m holding down a good job, I have a great relationship, my own place and a blog that I’m really proud of.
But What Exactly is High Functioning Anxiety?
High Functioning Anxiety is a sub-category under the Anxiety umbrella. People who suffer from High Functioning Anxiety generally identify as functioning reasonably well in their day-to-day life, at least on the outside. The stereotype surrounding mental illness paints those who suffer from anxiety as people who are possibly housebound, cannot hold down a job and struggle to maintain relationships.
The reality is, those experiencing High Functioning Anxiety often present themselves as busy, high achieving and generally on top of things. These characteristics make it harder for those on the outside to identify. A person with high functioning anxiety can appear calm and collected, yet beneath the surface the cogs in their brain are turning at break-neck speed. Your life becomes an uphill battle to keep up appearances.
What are the symptoms?
Everyone is different, but my symptoms manifest themselves like this:
Obsession – I take notions with things and completely obsess over them. Whether it’s a person or a hobby like this blog – I throw myself into it 110% until it completely takes over my life.
Fear – I have a constant fear of disappointing people and letting people down. This tends to show itself when I’m in group situations, when I’m least comfortable. I have a real worry that people won’t like me, so my immediate reaction is to go out of my way to try and make people like me. This usually goes one of two ways:
1. I talk far too much and try to over-compensate for my nerves that way
2. I freeze and try to fade into the background, saying as little as possible
Overthinking – I overthink everything. I overthink things I did or said 10 years ago. I overthink everything I did today. I even overthink things that I haven’t done yet. It’s a vicious circle that is extremely hard to break. It stops you from living in the moment, as you’re constantly waiting for the worst to happen.
Physical Symptoms – I experience chest pain, racing heartbeat, muscle tension and headaches which all tend to show themselves when I’m experiencing a high level of anxiety.
How Do I Cope?
It depends. In the past I have used prescribed medication and attended counselling. Both helped in their own ways but at the moment I’m trying to manage it myself.
High Functioning Anxiety can be life-limiting. There are times where my day-to-day activities are dictated by anxiety. For example, I would choose to stay home and work on my blog instead of going out and meeting new people. Some see that as a negative coping strategy, but I see it as the opposite. By staying in my comfort zone – I limit the levels of stress and panic that I experience and thus my day is more bearable.
Self-care is also really important. No matter how busy your schedule is, it’s important to factor in “me time” as often as possible. You can check out my self-care tips for managing stress and anxiety here.
Why Am I Talking About It?
Mental health is a topic that has always been close to my heart and I want use my platform as a blogger to raise awareness, particularly in relation to High Functioning Anxiety. If more people know it exists then more people can be sensitive towards those suffering from it, often in silence.
If you’re struggling with High Functioning Anxiety, you’re not alone. Talk to a friend, your GP, anyone you trust or a registered mental health charity such as Mind. With the right support in place, it can be manageable.