How Therapy Can Help With High-Functioning Anxiety
High Functioning Anxiety
Are you mastering your life?
You may be conquering tasks at work, home, or school. You may appear confident, capable, and in control. Some might even wonder how you manage to do it all.
But what’s underneath that “flawless” shell?
In a world where doing more, achieving more, and being always ON is encouraged, feeling anxious is extremely common.
High-functioning anxiety may be a quiet struggle that pushes you to keep going while having debilitating consequences for your well-being. Therapy can help you navigate it to regain balance and nurture your peace of mind.
At Madison Park Psychological Services, we offer therapy for high-functioning anxiety and other specialties to teens and adults in NYC. Whether you want in-person or online support, we can help you find the harmony and quality of life you deserve.
Call 212-506-5935 or contact us to start your therapy journey today.
What Is High Functioning Anxiety?
Anxiety is the emotional response to something distressing, dangerous, or threatening. While healthy anxiety may be sporadic and motivate you to stay alert or on track, unhealthy anxiety is so persistent and severe that it can impair your functioning. Yet, another level of anxiety may be somewhere in the middle, often overshadowed by hard work, accomplishments, and bottled-up hardship.
High-functioning anxiety refers to a form of anxiety that, while draining, still allows you to complete tasks and perform regular activities. This condition is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), but that doesn’t make it any less real.
For example, you may succeed in your career, have a stable relationship, and maintain a vibrant social schedule. Yet you may face worries, ruminating thoughts, and restlessness that may not be apparent to everyone else. These symptoms might not impede your ability to function—they can even fuel you to carry on—but may require significant effort and yield emotional difficulties.
How to Tell if You Have High-Functioning Anxiety
High-functioning anxiety may have been a constant in your path or a recent experience, limiting your potential to be present and enjoy your journey.
Signs and symptoms of high-functioning anxiety include:
- Fatigue or low energy
- Fear, worry, or nerves
- Moodiness, irritability, and overwhelming emotions
- Nausea or dizziness
- Pain or muscle tension
- Racing thoughts or intrusive self-talk
- Rapid heart rate and shortness of breath
- Restlessness or trouble staying still
- Shaking and sweating
- Sleep issues
People with high-functioning anxiety may also:
- Appear to be overachieving and successful individuals
- Be proactive and organized
- Constantly compare themselves to others and feel “not good enough”
- Engage in “people-pleasing” behaviors and fear letting others down
- Go to work extra early and/or stay working late
- Keep a busy schedule
- Need constant reassurance from others
- Pay close attention to detail
- Seek perfectionism
- Tend to overthink or second-guess themselves
If you or someone you love exhibits any of these symptoms and traits, you may be experiencing high-functioning anxiety.
Distinguishing between high-functioning and dysfunctional anxiety can be difficult. While the symptoms appear to be the same, the main difference remains in the level of impairment involved. When in doubt, a psychological assessment can help you get a clear picture of your mental health and establish the best course of treatment.
Causes of High-Functioning Anxiety
There is no known cause of high-functioning anxiety, but common risk factors include:
- Environments that promote competition and high standards
- Increased levels of success and/or pressure at home, work, school, or other activities
- Medical conditions (e.g., thyroid issues, heart problems), injuries, or surgical procedures
- Personal or family history of anxiety and other mental health disorders
- Trauma or major life-changing events
How to Deal With High-Functioning Anxiety
High-functioning anxiety may vary from person to person. While some people can cope with it on their own, others might need professional support to manage it.
The first step in handling high-functioning anxiety is awareness.
- Are you experiencing any symptoms or traits of high-functioning anxiety?
- Have you attempted to compartmentalize, hide, or push through your symptoms and feel exhausted about it?
- Have you tried to avoid situations or convince yourself that everything is ok, only to realize anxiety is still there?
The next step is seeking professional support. If you answered yes to any of these questions, therapy can help you. You don’t have to wait for anxiety to be dysfunctional to do something about it. The sooner you talk to a specialist, the sooner you can start feeling better.
How We Can Help With High-Functioning Anxiety
Therapy can help you address high-functioning anxiety by:
You will meet with one of our licensed mental health professionals to talk about your experience, symptoms, and how you’ve been trying to deal with them. We will ask insightful questions, listen without judgment, and guide you through unpacking your high-functioning anxiety. You will learn more about yourself, where symptoms may stem from, and how they might be impacting different areas of your daily life.
As you explore the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors linked to your anxiety, your therapist will help you recognize the habits that may be triggering or heightening it. Distorted thoughts, spiraling emotions, avoidance, and perfectionism are some examples of negative patterns you may have fallen into. We will work together on challenging and changing these practices to ease your symptoms.
Learning to Cope
Your therapist will provide research-based resources and effective skills that align with your preferences and needs. Some of these coping mechanisms may already be in your toolbox, while others might be entirely new (e.g., grounding activities and self-compassion exercises). You can practice these with your therapist, use them between sessions, and keep up with them once treatment is complete to manage your anxiety long-term.
Our goal is not to cure your high-functioning anxiety but to help you understand its roots, connect the dots, and find practical ways to manage it.
How to Manage High-Functioning Anxiety
Some DIY practices that can help you cope with symptoms of high-functioning anxiety include:
- Deep breathing
- Lifestyle changes (e.g., balanced nutrition, exercising, bedtime routine)
- Mindfulness (e.g., mindful eating, mindful walks, or engaging in activities while focusing on the present moment)
- Progressive muscle relaxation
Find what suits you and commit to it for sustained results.
Therapy for High-Functioning Anxiety at Madison Park Psychological Services
At Madison Park Psychological Services, we take a holistic approach to therapy, combining Eastern and Western perspectives and adapting treatment to your specific needs.
We draw from various therapeutic modalities to support you in steering high-functioning anxiety, including but not limited to:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
- Psychodynamic Therapy
- Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
- Holistic Therapy
You don’t need high-functioning anxiety to thrive. And you don’t have to hide or push through it any longer. We are here to help you gain awareness and valuable tools to walk through life with ease.
Call us at 212-506-5935 for more information, or book an appointment with one of our therapists today.