High-Functioning Anxiety

High-Functioning Anxiety – the Basis

We’ve all heard of anxiety, haven’t we?  Just like we’ve heard of depression, insomnia, bipolar and other mental illnesses.  As standard, we seem to have these ideas that depression or anxiety are the only parts of those struggles, but in reality they are but basic terms that encompass a whole spectrum of conditions.  So what would happen when we apply the term “high-functioning” in front of some of these words?  I’ve talked previously about high-functioning depression – something a lot of people weren’t familiar with – but what about high-functioning anxiety?

Let’s take a look!

First off, let’s take a quick look at what this concept of “high-functioning” would mean.  According to NAMI Montgomery County, specialists determine how well you function with your mental health conditions by using the Functioning Assessment Short Test, or FAST.  It consists of questions designed to find out how you do in the following areas:

  1. Autonomy
  2. Occupational Functioning
  3. Cognitive Functioning
  4. Financial Issues
  5. Interpersonal Relationships
  6. Leisure Time

If you “do better” in each of those areas, then you’re considered to be high-functioning.  If we put that psychological jibber jabber aside, though, it basically means that you have the condition but you can still function well, therefore anyone seeing you on the street wouldn’t necessarily know you struggle with mental health issues.

The Nature of High-Functioning

OK, so we’ve established what high-functioning actually is, but what does that mean in our normal, everyday language?  For starters, we should focus on the last part of what I’d said in that last paragraph.  If someone came across us in the street, they wouldn’t know that we struggle with anxiety because, to them, we would be able to function “normally”.  (I use the term “normally” in quotes because none of us are normal really, are we?)

In itself, high-functioning is just another way of saying our masks are very very good.  We can go out and about, we can continue working, we seem to be exactly like any other productive member of society.  Those things people normally associate anxiety with?  Yeah, we don’t exhibit them much.

It might sound strange, but that is the essence of high-functioning mental health conditions.  Whether we manage them or not, people don’t seem to notice when we’re struggling.  We’re able to interact with others, able to hold down a job and we’re able to do anything that any other member of society can.

Well…almost anything…

My High-Functioning Anxiety

I’ve talked previously about how I have high-functioning depression how it affects me.  What about my anxiety?  I believe it to be high-functioning as well.  Why?  Well, for the most part I can do anything anyone else can do.  Granted, I don’t really like doing things like going out, off to the shops or being amongst crowds and stuff, but I can still do it.  There are several other reasons why I would class myself as high-functioning in my anxiety, and these come from an article published on Women’s Health (What?! I read!) called 8 Signs You’re Struggling With High-Functioning Anxiety.  Its 8 signs are as follows:

  1. People describe you as a “Type A” perfectionist.
  2. You exhibit controlling patterns.
  3. You’re constantly busy.
  4. You’re not sleeping well.
  5. You have aches, pains, repetitive habits or ticks.
  6. People have a hard time reading you.
  7. You have a crippling fear of letting other people down.
  8. “No” isn’t part of your vocabulary.

Let’s see…check, check, check, check, check, check, check and check.  Oops.  That’s done it.


I have high-functioning anxiety.  I am a perfectionist.  Ask anyone.  I will do things over and over or take as much time as I can to ensure that they’re perfect.  While I’m not a controlling person, I enforce routines to ensure that I’m in control of my life (which is more or less what they said in the article).  I’m always busy, and I mean always!  Really really.  I rarely sleep very well, as I’ve talked about before.  I have those repetitive habits or ticks, commonly found in the form of cracking my knuckles or constantly jigging my leg, those sorts of things.  As for reading me, so many people have said that!  I crack a joke and they have to look really hard to tell whether or not I’m serious.  Letting people down…in my therapy, that’s coming out as one of the top reasons all my symptoms trigger.  Finally, saying “no” just doesn’t happen, as I will do anything for anyone, even at the cost of myself.

What can I say?  I do have that high-functioning anxiety though, just with high-functioning depression, you wouldn’t know it to look at me.  I used to always turn up to work and no one would know anything was wrong.

So high-functioning anxiety is real.  Remember: just because someone looks perfectly fine, doesn’t mean they are.

And it can be a killer!

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Author: Alex Davies

Alex Davies is the creator and writer for Pushing Back the Shadows. Find out more about his journey here and connect with him on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.