High-Functioning Anxiety: Signs, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

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High-Functioning Anxiety: Signs, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

If you have known people who define the idea of what it means to be an ‘overachiever’, there perhaps may be a more layered undertone. People who are ‘high-functioning’ are more often than not, very anxious people. They can mask the symptoms of their anxiety by overthinking, overdoing, and of course, overperforming. These, when exercised in a healthy amount and manner can be great but as is with everything in life, there needs to be a balance of things. These things shouldn’t be wearing down on anyone, and because they come off as positive traits it is difficult to spot the symptoms of the disorder underneath it. 

What Is High-Functioning Anxiety?

High-functioning anxiety is a catch-all term used to describe those individuals that function well despite their anxiety. If you have high-functioning anxiety, you can appear to be successful, efficient, and calm with struggles associated with perfectionism and control. 

What are Common Symptoms and Signs of High-Functioning Anxiety?

High-functioning anxiety symptoms may include:

  • Controlling nature, especially over situations in their workplace (more so if they happen to be a boss)
  • Being over the top (from an external perspective) and organized
  • Being a perfectionist and needing things to be done a certain way 
  • Being critical of others and self 
  • High (and often unrealistic) standards from people and circumstances
  • Disproportionate amounts of anger when things don’t go as planned 
  • Inability to trust people who won’t be able to do the job exactly as they envision it to be in their minds
  • Nail-biting
  • Bouncing legs and feet 

These characteristics are not all bad- in fact, they are some of the things that a lot of high-achieving people have in common with each other. As is with everything, it is seen how much it affects them on a day-to-day basis and the people around them. In extreme cases where these things are very seriously affecting you then this is something that you should take up with a professional to ensure proper high-functioning anxiety treatment. 

What Causes High-Functioning Anxiety?

There isn’t a whole lot of research that has been done on the area, but there are some general causes that can be present in people with high-functioning anxiety. There also could be a combination of factors, which can include some of the following:

  • Personality - Childhood traits of being shy, nervous, socially anxious, or the very opposite such as being controlling and a perfectionist can increase the risk of anxiety showing up as an adult. 
  • Genes - People with a history of anxiety disorders in the family (and other mental health issues as well) have a higher chance of having an anxiety disorder.
  • Exposure to stress and trauma - If an individual is exposed to trauma or stressful life situations, they are very likely to develop anxiety around it. 
  • Drugs or alcohol use - In a lot of cases misuse of drugs and alcohol can trigger anxious thoughts, as well as when going through a phase of withdrawal as well.

Pros & Cons of Having High-Functioning Anxiety

People with high-functioning anxiety are typically organized, can meet deadlines, and solve problems. Although these traits seem to be positive on the surface level, on the flip side it can make it difficult for you to seek help. There is a balance that needs to be maintained. Anxiety at the cost of functioning well isn’t something that can be ignored.  

High-Functioning Anxiety vs. Other Forms of Anxiety

High-functioning anxiety isn’t a diagnostic category as enlisted in the fifth edition of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) which is what is used by most mental health professionals all over the world. This is something that is seen in people who have (some) symptoms of anxiety which seem to not affect their day-to-day goings. On the other hand, other forms of anxiety including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and more are diagnosable conditions that involve specific treatment approaches. 

6 Ways to Cope with High-Functioning Anxiety

Can high-functioning anxiety be cured? Maybe not completely, but as with all illnesses, there are some things in your control, and there are some things you can do about them.

  • See your symptoms for what they are. They are biological, and they should be seen as just that. It is the first step to accepting things the way they are and being able to effectively deal with them later.
  • Get into things that you fear. Nothing too crazy, but something that you know will not cause you any harm. It can liberate you if the fear is something that holds you back from achieving things and going places in life, perhaps it would be wise to really look into that and tap into that as well.
  • Anxiety is physical, so do something physical to combat it. Going for a short walk, a run, or perhaps even a few minutes of yoga can make you feel better. Doing these things when you’re feeling stressed out is also a good idea because it regulates your body.
  • Use mantras more frequently. Do mental checks that can help when you feel anxious. Coach yourself into ‘talking back’ (metaphorically) to the anxious thoughts. This can be very helpful, especially if you’re someone who is a perfectionist. 
  • Learn to break into your anxious thoughts. If you identify your symptoms then you know when to intervene. It's like a snowball effect that you're essentially trying to prevent, so checking yourself at these points is crucial.
  • And of course, have a good support system around you. Talk to people about it- you’ll be surprised at the number of people who go through the same thing, if not something similar. Reaching out is important, and having a good-knit of loved ones around can make it easier for you!

When to Seek Help from Mental Health Professional?

We acknowledge that asking for assistance can be more challenging in practice than in theory. Nevertheless, the sooner you reach out to professionals and commence treatment, the quicker you will recover. Therefore, if you notice any of the signs of high-functioning anxiety, it is recommended to promptly get in touch with a healthcare provider. 

How can Cadabams Help?

If you need trustworthy treatment for high-functioning anxiety, Cadabam's Hospitals is a dependable option to consider. They have a team of skilled psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, counselors, and physicians who ensure that you receive the highest quality treatment.


Following a comprehensive assessment of symptoms and overall health, our team of medical experts collaborates to develop a customized care plan for each patient. To gather further information, schedule an appointment at Cadabam's Hospitals by contacting us at +91 97414 76476 or emailing


What are the red flags of high-functioning anxiety?

Some of the red flags of high-functioning anxiety include-

  • Overthinking 
  • Perfectionism 
  • Controlling behavior 
  • Fear of failure
  • Unrealistic standards 

What is the difference between anxiety and high-functioning anxiety?

High-functioning anxiety is not officially recognized as a distinct diagnostic category in the widely used fifth edition of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) utilized by mental health professionals worldwide. Instead, it refers to individuals who exhibit certain anxiety symptoms that do not significantly impact their daily functioning. In contrast, other forms of anxiety, such as generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety, are recognized and diagnosable conditions that require specific treatment approaches.

How do I stop high-functioning anxiety?

A few techniques to stop high-functioning anxiety include:

  • Recognize and accept your anxiety
  • Seek support
  • Practice relaxation techniques
  • Engage in self-care
  • Set realistic goals and boundaries
  • Seek support

What is the highest level of anxiety?

Anxiety levels can vary for each individual. The highest level greatly impairs an individual's daily functioning and requires professional help.  

Is there a healthy level of anxiety?

There is a healthy level of anxiety that facilitates normal and adaptive responses in an individual. However, after it crosses a certain threshold it can impair daily functioning. This is when seeking professional help is highly recommended. 

Is anxiety 100 percent treatable?

With early diagnosis and intervention, anxiety disorders can be treatable. However, completely curing the condition is not possible. 


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