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How to Tell If Someone Is Struggling with High-Functioning Anxiety

By Miley | Psychological Facts

Sep 26

What is high-functioning anxiety? It’s not a mental health diagnosis, but a term which refers to a person who has anxiety but functions reasonably well in many aspects of life.

The anxiety in these people doesn’t leave them frozen in fear but propels them forward. That’s why they could be successful and calm on the outside, but feel totally different on the inside. In other words, they are good at hiding their anxiety behind their smile.

They could be the picture of success and always willing to help others when asked. They could appear always to have a busy social schedule. But, they never reveal their constant battle with anxiety that drains them emotionally and mentally.

It could be their fear of failure, nervous energy, or fear of disappointing other that drove them to success.

So, how to recognize a person with high-functioning anxiety? Here are a few signs that will help you do that.

6 Signs That Someone Has High-Functioning Anxiety

1. They Are Highly Detail-Oriented

These people are usually extremely focused on details; organizing, planning, working and strategizing to make things perfect. That’s because anxiety makes them feel out of control. So, to feel a little sense of stability, they focus on the things they can control.

2. They Think Ahead

People with high-functioning anxiety tend to plan a few moves ahead, just like chess players do. They do this to reduce the number of unpleasant unknowns.

3. They Avoid Risky Situations

People with anxiety avoid things that others see as thrilling. They won’t agree to go to see a scary movie or ride on an extreme roller coaster.

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If you suggest to meet them somewhere crowded, they will likely to suggest somewhere with fewer people. They always choose the “safer” option.

4. They Are a Little Fidgety

One of the ways these people deal with their constant anxiety is by practicing nervous habits like biting their nails or rhythmically moving or twitching.

5. They Have Rare, but Intense Outbursts

People with high-functioning anxiety tend to suppress their feelings or at least minimize their intensity. That’s why they appear so calm all the time. But, when additional stressors are introduced in the stressful situation, like noise, they will probably explode.

6. They Are Preoccupied with Thoughts

You can see this when talking to them about something. It seems like their mind is somewhere else and they are not quite listening to you. But, they are actually worried about what you think of them, and if they will give you the right response.

The problem of people with high-functioning anxiety is that they are not focused on the present, but on the past or the future.

How to Help These People

If you have a friend, partner, or family member with high-functioning anxiety, here’s something you can do to help them:

  • Understand that they didn’t choose to have anxiety
  • Have open communication with them about their problem. Ask them what you can do to help them now, and what would not be helpful for them right now.
  • Encourage their strength by boosting their confidence
  • Be patient
  • Ask them to give you a list of anxiety triggers – things that make them worry or be anxious
  • Learn more about their condition and experience
  • Encourage them to go to a relaxing activity like yoga or meditation