High Functioning Anxiety: The Untold Mysteries!

Feelings of Anxiety happen to all of us from time to time but having a formal diagnosis from a health professional is vital to tell the severity.

This article will focus on high functioning anxiety and what that may feel like for individuals with the condition.

This article is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for seeking professional help.

All of the many different kinds of anxiety share some common symptoms including, palpitations, panic attacks, or constant feelings of fear.

That doesn't mean that all anxiety disorders are the same.

When the symptoms appear and manifest they impact each individual differently.

What Does "High Functioning" Mean?

Hearing "high functioning" may make it sound almost as though this kind of anxiety is a good thing, that it somehow makes it easier to complete tasks or be successful.

That's not the case.

When "Functioning" or "high functioning" is part of a diagnosis or the name of a condition, it's due to how the issue impacts the individual's day-to-day life.

People with these conditions may achieve great things academically, but this does not mean that their condition is the cause of their success.

High Functioning Anxiety Vs. Other Anxiety Conditions

One of the most easily recognizable symptoms of anxiety conditions is "anxiety attack" or "panic attack."

During an anxiety attack, the individual's heart rate increases, and their breath becomes fast and shallow.

They may feel chest tightness or even chest pain.

The individual may feel as though they are going to throw up or pass out.

Anxiety attacks can also include unusual thoughts and feelings like the feeling that you are losing your mind or that your life is outside of your control.


Individuals with high functioning anxiety may not experience anxiety attacks in this way.

The kinds of anxiety attacks experienced by people with high functioning anxiety have been called "silent anxiety attacks."

Some common signs of high-functioning anxiety may include:

  • Constantly overthinking and overanalyzing.

  • Excessive worrying.

  • Striving for perfection.

  • Insomnia.

  • Trouble relaxing.

  • Fear of failure.

  • Trouble expressing emotions.

  • Fatigue.

  • Problems saying no

  • Tendency to dwell on past mistakes

  • Racing heart in anticipation of anxiety-inducing events

Here is a case example of an individual with high functioning anxiety when dealing with issues at work.

A manager in a medical practice receives a call that a Doctor who has a full clinic is unable to come in due to illness.

The manager has to organize a Locum GP cover, which typically is booked two days in advance.

Stress and Silent panic begin as the manager uses critical thinking techniques.

The manager advises reception of the issue and requests staff to start contacting patients to re-book appointments that are not urgent.

Unable to find adequate on-the-day cover from the locum service, the manager asks the other Clinicians to take on emergency patients that can not be re-scheduled.

By asking this, the Manager knows that these Clinicians will be overworked but remains seemingly calm.

Due to being in charge, the Manager must remain composed for the service to run as efficiently as possible.

No one notices that the Manager is having palpitations as physically the Manager is masking their symptoms.

As the day comes to an end, the Manager checks on all the staff, thanking them for their support.

The Manager never mentions how difficult their day was.

When back in their office, the manager starts to overthink and worry that this scenario may happen again tomorrow.

The manager begins to organize GP cover for the next day, staying back past closing time to tie loose ends.

The anxiety of this kind may not include physical symptoms, like shortness of breath, but have emotional symptoms like feeling, loss of control.

Q: Do you think the manager's high functioning anxiety was easier to cope with than someone with visible anxiety symptoms, or more difficult?

In Summary "high functioning" doesn't mean not struggling!

As humans, we are all different so, what works for one individual may not work for another.

When dealing with mental health conditions, you should consider where you are on the mental health continuum!

As always, don't suffer in silence, love and light to you all