8 Signs that You Actually Have High Functioning Anxiety
Are you crazy busy? An overachiever? Little bit of a perfectionist? Here are signs that your enviable drive to succeed might actually stem from high functioning anxiety.
Fall semester of my Senior year of high school was one of the hardest times in my life. I had all Honors and AP classes. I was working 30 hours per week to save money for college. I had hours of homework each night and was elbow deep in college applications (and the dastardly essays required for them).
From the outside, I probably looked alright in the ways that people typically notice. I was in the top 10 of my class. I was a purple belt in Thai kickboxing. I had a group of close friends. My room pristine was pristine. I had visible abs, clear skin, and shiny hair.
But on the inside, I was a mess. I went through an entire bottle of Pepsi Bismal every week. And I mean that literally. I figured I probably had an ulcer, but I didn’t have time to go to the doctor so I never mentioned it to my parents.
I would sometimes go days without eating, either because I didn’t feel like it, didn’t have time, or just plain forgot. I was moody and short-tempered. (That’s where the kickboxing came in!) I only got a few hours of sleep each night. Lucky for me, I grew up in the grunge era, so I just smudged some extra liner into the circles under my eyes to make it look trendy.
When I remember all of this now, I’m like, “What was I thinking?!” But at the time, I genuinely saw nothing wrong with it. In fact, I was practically proud of my misery because it meant that I worked harder that everyone else. All that mattered to me was that people were impressed by me. As long as I looked good - physically, academically - it didn’t matter that I FELT terrible. I mean, nobody wins awards for FEELING good, right?
A lot of times, people with high functioning anxiety don’t even realize something is wrong. I mean, if you’ve felt this way for as long as you can remember, how would you know any different, right? Lots of people even think it’s just part of their personality. We say things like, “I’m Type A” or an “overachiever”, or a “perfectionist”. Luckily, anxiety at any level isn’t something you just have to put up with.
To get a true diagnosis of an anxiety disorder, it has to affect your functioning. Meaning it’s affecting your health, grades, or relationships. So if you’re an athlete with a great GPA, you probably wouldn’t make the cut. But that doesn’t that you feel great, either. Here are 8 signs that what you’re dealing with might actually be high functioning anxiety.
1. You might have high functioning anxiety if you’re a lil’ high strung
Think Paris Geller from Gilmore Girls or Hermione Granger from Harry Potter. Would you or other people would describe you as Type A, perfectionist, an overachiever? Do you have super high standards for yourself and for others? Then I’m talking to you! If you spend most of the day stressed or worrying about the future, then that’s no fun.
2. You’ve been stressed for a long time
Everyone feels worried, anxious, and stressed sometimes. It’s normal to feel anxious during midterms or if your dad is dealing with some scary health issues. But if you’re going on months or even years of feeling stressed and anxious, then that’s something else.
3. You're worried about a lot of different things
It’s awesome to have goals. But if you have high expectations for yourself in a bunch of different areas, that can be a ton of pressure. Are you worrying about your grades, game performance, making your parents happy, getting into college, AND looking #wokeuplikethis flawless like the girls on Instagram? That’s a lot to live up to my friend!
4. You might have high functioning anxiety if it’s hard to relax
Do you usually feel tense? Do you get tension headaches or unexplained soreness in your shoulders, neck, or jaw? Is it hard for you to sit still, especially when it’s quiet? Or do you have nervous habits like biting your nails, lips, or the inside of your cheek? Those are all low key signs of anxiety.
Tired of feeling stressed and anxious all the time? Check it!
5. You’re always tired, but can’t sleep
Do you do that cool thing where you’re exhausted all day until, like 11:00pm when it’s time to go to bed? And then you’re up on your phone until 3am looking at recipes for DIY bath bombs and cute pictures of unlikely animal friends?
If you have a hard time falling asleep or keep waking up in the middle of the night, that can be a sign that you’re dealing with high functioning anxiety. And when you’re not sleeping, it makes sense that you’d be feeling tired all the time. Especially with a packed schedule like yours.
6. You might have high functioning anxiety if you’re easily frustrated
Do you find yourself getting super annoyed when things don’t go right? Car in front of you is driving super slow when you’re late to school? Your sister has the TV blaring when you’re trying to concentrate? Your mom asks you too many questions on the way home? (Yes, I’m FINE!) Seriously, what is wrong with people?!
It’s normal to get annoyed sometimes, but if people keep saying that you’re overreacting, it’s possible that they’re right. I once kicked a bunch of dents in my car door because it wouldn’t start. Yeah… that’s excessive.
7. Your thoughts run away on you
You’re sitting in class trying to wrap your mind around the epsilon-delta definition of continuity (What?!), and all of a sudden you realize that you forgot to call your grandma last night like your mom asked you to. Noooooo! And you won’t have time to call her tonight either because your game won’t be over until 10:00pm and who calls their grandma… Wait, why did your mom want you to call Grandma anyway? Is something wrong with Grandma?!?
Related: How to Beat the Bully in Your Head
8. It’s hard to let go of stress and just enjoy life
You’ve tried deep breathing, journaling, and yoga, but nothing really seems to help. Maybe you’re able to do everything you need to do, but just barely. It feels like you could snap at any moment. People have no idea how hard it is to be you on a daily basis. Having fun is such a foreign concept in your life that it’s almost laughable. (Like you have time for that!) If any of this is making your head nod, high functioning anxiety might be to blame.
Related: How to Balance Your Daily Life
If lots of these signs sound familiar to you, you’re probably dealing with some high functioning anxiety. Again, you might not meet the criteria for a full blown disorder, but if you don’t start taking care of yourself, that stress and anxiety can turn into something more serious.
Anxiety at any level is just plain exhausting. And it can start affecting your health if you don’t take care of it. (Just ask this 35-year-old lady with TMJ.) Or, some girls turn to not so healthy ways of dealing with anxiety later on. (Upside down margarita shots at the Pike house?)
Fortunately, anxiety is highly treatable. And if you learn how to deal with it now, you’ll feel much better and actually be able to accomplish even MORE. (Yes, it’s possible!)
So, if growing up to be a former frat house groupie who has to wear a mouth splint to sleep doesn’t sound appealing to you, do something about it now! You’ll thank yourself in 20 years when you’re able to handle the stress of your high level job AND you can actually chew the filet you ordered at that amazing steakhouse.