The more I read up on high functioning anxiety the more I think I may have had one in the past. This strikes an interesting perspective as I think it is possible that I am “growing out of” my anxiety.
I know this can seem somewhat controversial, but here me out…
When growing up, I displayed much of the behavior of someone who had an anxiety disorder. I didn’t know any better and so the possibility that I could have one never crossed my mind.
I guess I attributed my anxious behavior to the fact that I was homeschooled. Because everything outside of the norm seemed to make me anxious. Like, EVERYTHING.
Now that I am interested in mental health and mental disorders, it seems to me that I have had many of the characteristics that describe an anxiety disorder.
I deflect uncomfortable situations by cracking my knuckles when I get a weird energy from someone and they make me uncomfortable. I tend to count things that I feel need to be counted. And I even go out of my way to fabricate ridiculous scenarios (okay, maybe we all do this from time to time).
Regardless, I’d like to know what separates a diagnosed disorder from simply having characteristics of one.
I certainly do not feel like my periodic anxiety controls my life, but it certainly did when I was a kid.
Does that mean that you can grow out of an anxiety disorder or does that mean that the anxiety I experienced wasn’t a disorder? It sure felt like it, it controlled so much of my life back then.
If any of this sounds remotely relatable, I’d like you to know that you’re not alone.
So, what if what I experienced was high functioning anxiety?
When researching high functioning anxiety, I found that having an anxiety disorder does not always come from having a chemical imbalance, it may also form from life events.
People who are experiencing high functioning anxiety have a disorder just as the “typical” anxiety diagnosis. The difference is that they may not show physical signs of it.
For example, when “high functioning” are having their “panic attack/anxiety attack”, they might not feel like they’re about to pass out or have trouble breathing. They still feel a sense of loss of control or that they are losing their mind, but they will not show it.
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So, what are the symptoms that someone might have with high functioning anxiety?
High achieving individuals
It is unclear whether the anxiety is a driver to these levels of success or if the success leads them to develop this anxiety. Isn’t that fascinating?
This does not mean that someone who climbs the corporate ladder or has PhD on top of PhD struggles with anxiety, but studies have show that it is a tendency.
“Obsessively” Put Together
We all know someone at the office who arrives at 7:57a.m. like clockwork each day, is at their desk precisely at 8a.m. They’ll be dressed to the nine (or however that saying goes), with not one hair out of place.
You want to like them and hang out, but you feel like that encounter might be too planned out for your liking. Sushi at 7p.m., drinks from 8-9:45p.m. with just enough time to drive home and be in bed exactly at 10p.m. *Snooze-fest*
What you may not know is that this person might be dealing with high functioning anxiety.
They’re anxious while making sure they do things precisely. They’re anxious thinking about the what if things don’t go precisely how they’d like. However, they’re probably so used to it doesn’t seem like a problem to them.
Other, more straightforward symptoms include:
Being a “chatty” person
Insomnia/Sleep issues in general
Mental and physical exhaustion
Tendencies toward alcohol/drug abuse
They don’t slow down/keep themselves too busy
Allow intrusive negative thoughts and dwell on them
They are very proactive about things
Detail oriented and organized
…and they can often be great in relationships as they are thoughtful, loyal and very helpful – see? Not all bad!
As a kid, I felt like I was not allowed to show a lot of emotion. Particularly the “inconvenient” kind such as temper fits or anger.
I remember feeling like I was going to go crazy and snap one time, so I let myself implode. It’s not healthy (do not do this) but I felt like I had no other option at the time.
I am certain that I developed some level of an anxiety disorder due the fact that my mind knew that I had to avoid that state at all costs. So, I would do anything necessary to not get mad.
I believe that my particular experience with anxiety comes from subconsciously feeling like I needed to predict people in order to be prepared. This would help me avoid being mad, in order to not lose my mind.
Relating this experience to the causes and signs of high functioning anxiety, I believe that I have this type of anxiety to some degree – although it’s fading away with time.
Make it a priority to be mindful and practice digging into your subconscious. Over time you can work through it all, but it takes a lot of work.
After all, you’re breaking apart something that was meant to protect you!
It’s like trying to convince a crazy old hermit to put down his riffle and not shoot you because World War 2 has been over for decades (or something like that).
Be proud of the steps you’re taking to acknowledge yourself in this instance. Never stop developing yourself and your mind.
You can’t put a price on mental peace. It’s so rewarding!
That being said, when it comes to my level of disorder (I’m not talking about severe cases), I think it’s possible to break through your anxiety if you are brave enough to dig up the painful places that you’ve intentionally buried.
The hardest part is finding the hermit’s hideout. But once you do, thank the crazy old guy for keeping the house safe, but put him in rehab and get on with your amazing life!
For more on Anxiety, check out this post on How to Tell if You Have an Anxiety Disorder linked HERE and at the very end of the article!
If you’re struggling with anxiety and self-care for mental health is something that interests you, check out the 3-Month Self-Care Challenge for Mental Health. In this course, I go over the methods and strategies that I’ve used to implement the mental health practices that I now call habits!
Click the link above, or check it out HERE