high functioning anxiety

High Functioning Anxiety – What Does it Mean?

High functioning anxiety is not classified as a specific subset of anxiety but it is a recognised trait that many people suffer from. Unlike traditional forms of anxiety, a person with high functioning anxiety is able to participate in everyday activities but it still has an impact on their mental health.

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What is High Functioning Anxiety?

If you have high functioning anxiety you will still be able to go to work, meet with friends, run a family and most people will be totally unaware that you have any problems at all. In fact, you could be seen as a high achiever from an external viewpoint. Internally however you may feel worry, doubt or anxious feelings that are hidden from the outside world.

The key trait with high functioning anxiety is that if you have the condition you are unlikely to get severe physical symptoms of anxiety. Yes, you may experience a slightly elevated heart rate or butterflies in the stomach but they will not be strong enough to stop you in your tracks. Most people with this condition are happy to push on through these uncomfortable feelings and continue working. This does not mean it has no impact on their mental health but it is unlikely to stop them in their everyday lives.

High Functioning Anxiety Symptoms

So if you have this condition what anxiety symptoms are you likely to experience? Well here are just a few:

High Achiever

To the outside world, you seem like you are the ultimate high achiever. You seem together at work and are able to be super organised and efficient. You are always willing to assist others and meet deadlines on time, if not early. Yet underneath the surface, there are continual doubts and worries about your abilities and what people may think of you.

Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome happens when you worry that others may find you out for not being capable or good enough. If you have high functioning anxiety you may be always trying to second guess what others think of you.

free anxiety help


You may be a perfectionist who is always striving to do you best however if you do not meet your own high standards you are your worst critic. Perfectionism increases pressure on yourself and pushes it to levels that are too high which creates feelings of anxiety and worry.


One of my clients would continually procrastinate and leave some tasks until the absolute last minute because they were worried about not doing it perfectly. They would continually plot and plan what they wanted to do but would worry about starting in case they got something wrong.


This form of anxiety disorder can make you think too hard about everything you do or say. You may be worried whether you have said the right thing or if you completed work to a high enough standard. This can be exhausting and drain your energy.


If you have high functioning anxiety you may also have some nervous habits. These could include fiddling with your hair, biting your nails or cracking your knuckles repeatedly.


As people with high functioning anxiety tend to have a racing mind it can be difficult to switch off at night creating problems with insomnia. Anxiety therapy or deep relaxation hypnosis can help with this problem.

High Functioning Social Anxiety

It is also possible to have a social anxiety disorder but also to experience this form of anxiety. Typically people with a social anxiety disorder will do everything in their power to avoid anything that may cause them to be judged by others or where there is a possible chance of embarrassment. This means they may avoid:

  • Parties
  • Public Speaking
  • Talking on the Phone
  • Social Activities
  • Talking to New People

Yet if you have high functioning social anxiety you may be able to do all of these things. You push on through to do things that others may avoid but internally you may still be suffering anxiety. For example, before conducting a meeting at work in front of others you may fret over every word that you are about to say or panic about what people will think about your comments. This can create mental anguish, sleepless nights and fear.

High Functioning Anxiety in Relationships

High functioning anxiety can also be present in relationships either with your partner or friends. Outwardly you may seem happy and enjoying yourself and others company. Inwardly you may be worried about whether your partner really loves you or if you are doing the right things to please them. You may worry your friends don’t like you or you are not doing enough to help them. You may go out of your way to demonstrate how much you care but fret that this isn’t enough.

High Functioning Anxiety and Depression

As with any form of anxiety, there is also a chance that you will also suffer from associated depression. When you are constantly questioning yourself and feeling worried about everything you say or do it can take a toll on your mental health. If this is persistent then it is only natural that it will start to impact on your mood.

As people with high functioning anxiety are reluctant to admit they may have a problem their illness can go undiagnosed. In fact, many people will never get the help they need to resolve their problem even though it may be very treatable with the right help.

Anxiety Self-Help Books

There are plenty of self-help books that can help you understand more about anxiety and give you strategies to help your problem.

7 Ancient Rituals to Heal High Functioning Anxiety by Anne Ruitberg Taylor is a book designed to help you take control of your worries and fears. This author believes that part of the problem with high functioning anxiety is that it is related to stress and if these are stressors are managed then it is possible to control the problem.

You can also read my post on the best books to aid recovery from anxiety. This details books to help all forms of anxiety and to take back control of your fears.

Anxiety Management Online Course

If you would prefer more in-depth self-help then I have an online anxiety management course which consists of videos and audio downloads. This course guides you through understanding why you might have anxiety to giving you actionable steps that you need to take to start reducing the problem.

With over four hours of video, these methods have been used with thousands of clients in my clinics to help them reduce feelings of worry and fear. The key to success is ensuring that you practise the techniques daily as this repetition can help change the way that your mind thinks.

The online anxiety management course also has five audio downloads which you can listen to in order to help change the way that your subconscious mind thinks. These anxiety guided meditations cover common anxiety-related issues such as help to sleep and stop worrying and negative thinking.

Therapy for Anxiety Disorders

All forms of anxiety can be helped with talking therapy whether this is CBT, Counselling or Hypnotherapy. At my clinics, I have worked with thousands of people over the years to help them reclaim their lives from anxiety.

Anxiety programs can help you to get personalised help for your particular problems and help you understand where your issue may have come from. As discussed above stress is one example of a problem that can increase anxiety but issues with this particular subset are also caused by:

  • Childhood Trauma
  • Demanding Parents
  • Abuse
  • Other people in the household with anxiety

Working through these problems can make a difference in how you feel and how you think and behave. For more information about therapy for high functioning anxiety and my personalised programs just contact me via my contact form. Alternatively, if you want to use self-help methods why not start to use our anxiety tracker printables to monitor and challenge negative thought patterns or behaviours.

anxiety tracker printables

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You May Also Want to Read:

Anxiety Self-Help – 10 Strategies That Work

Online Therapy for Anxiety – Why it Works

Anxiety for No Reason. What you Need to Know

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Martina McKeough
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High Functioning Anxiety - What does it mean?
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High Functioning Anxiety - What does it mean?
Learn about high functioning anxiety and discover what it means for your mental health.
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Rewire The Mind
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