How to help someone with high functioning anxiety

Living With High-Functioning Anxiety – Bridges to Recovery

High-functioning anxiety is a difficult condition to live with, especially since sufferers usually keep their feelings hidden. No one suspects, because on the outside everything seems fine. But high-functioning anxiety sufferers are often unhappy in their jobs and their relationships, as they struggle to cope with constant worry and insecurity. Fortunately, treatment can make a huge difference, and people suffering from high-functioning anxiety who find the courage to ask for help have great hopes for a brighter future.

Anxiety is a fact of life for everyone, but its ability to affect behavior varies from person to person. People who’ve been diagnosed with anxiety disorders (generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or panic disorder) experience significant disruption in their daily lives, experiencing anxiety that is persistent, consistent, and oftentimes intense and debilitating.

But some people experience frequent anxiety without meeting the criteria for an anxiety disorder. Their anxiety causes problems, but despite its pervasive and all-encompassing nature they manage to keep going, doing what they have to do to meet their work, family, and personal obligations.

These individuals experience what is known as high-functioning anxiety. Their anxiety is real, significant, and unpleasant, but their behavior and accomplishments still seem to fall well within the range of normal. In fact, they are often overachievers, and most people who know them would be surprised to discover the truth about their anxiety issues.

But there is a difference between truly thriving and just getting by, and despite their apparent external successes people with high-functioning anxiety spend a lot of time doing the latter. Emotionally they are a long way from being as healthy as they could be and would like to be, and their achievements aren’t enough to bring them peace or satisfaction.

High-Functioning Anxiety in the Workplace

Men and women with high-functioning anxiety place great emphasis on career success. They approach their jobs as proving grounds, hoping to demonstrate their worthiness. Their accomplishments are often impressive, and co-workers tend to see them as being among the best and the brightest.

But men and women with high-functioning anxiety never feel completely satisfied with their performance, and as a result they overcompensate by trying to do too much, to overcome their self-doubt. They feel compelled to achieve and often don’t enjoy the experience.

Some of the characteristics that define high-functioning anxiety sufferers in the workplace include:

  • Workaholism. Employees and managers with high-functioning anxiety won’t usually arrive early, but they will stay late if they need to and won’t hesitate to take their work home with them. They feel guilty if anything is left undone and often take on more responsibility than expected.
  • Perfectionism. People motivated by anxiety demand constant excellence from themselves, no matter how unrealistic their expectations. As a result, they are seldom satisfied with their own performance and don’t feel deserving of praise if it comes.
  • Indecisiveness. Despite their reputation for giving great effort and always getting things done, people with high-functioning anxiety tend to overanalyze and overthink everything, to the point where they can have a hard time making a decision or choosing a clearly defined path.
  • Inconsistency in social behavior. People with high-functioning anxiety can be friendly, accommodating, and quick to offer praise to co-workers. But at times they will seem overly serious, unable to relax and be themselves. This happens because people with high-functioning anxiety are constantly worried that they will be rejected or judged for their work performance, their personalities, or their social abilities (or lack thereof).
  • Procrastination. Despite the go-getter personas they adopt, and their habit of going beyond and above the call of duty, at times men and women with high-functioning anxiety will seem surprisingly reluctant to tackle certain assignments or work-related tasks. This is a reflection of their self-esteem and self-confidence issues, and when they fear being unable to rise to the challenge they will put things off for as long as they can.

People with high-functioning anxiety may seem like natural achievers. But their work ethic, perfectionism, and willingness to go the extra mile are to some extent a cover for their insecurities, which motivate their need to prove themselves over and over again.

Needless to say, this demanding attitude is mentally and physically exhausting, and people who don’t seek treatment for high-functioning anxiety may eventually suffer other serious health problems as a result of their hard-driving and uncompromising way.

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High-Functioning Anxiety in Personal Relationships

Partners, parents, children, and lifelong friends of anxiety sufferers often underestimate how much their loved ones suffer with their problems. Men and women with high-functioning anxiety are reluctant to discuss their stress or deep feelings of dissatisfaction openly and honestly, and that can lead to misunderstandings and disagreements.

People with high-functioning anxiety care a lot about what other people think, and that impacts their relationships in multiple ways. In general they seek approval, but they can also be quick to become angry, frustrated or distant when they feel neglected, disrespected, or taken for granted by the people they love.

In their personal relationships, some characteristics common to high-anxiety sufferers include:

  • A lack of emotional openness and expressiveness. Anxiety sufferers often aren’t comfortable revealing their true feelings, fearing they’ll be judged but also feeling guilty over their insecurities and inability to handle situations without worry or anxiety.
  • Eagerness to please and an inability to say no. Men and women with high-functioning anxiety seek love and affirmation from the people they care about, and they may be overly accommodating and neglectful of their own needs if they think it will win their loved ones’ approval.
  • Occasional need for isolation. At times, anxiety sufferers need to get away, to find the time and the privacy to relax and decompress. Loved ones may misinterpret their absences as a sign that they’ve done something wrong, but anxiety can be difficult to bear and people with high-functioning anxiety sometimes need space.
  • Moodiness and irritability. People with high-functioning anxiety are frequently dissatisfied with themselves, and that can make them irritable at times. They may also suffer from bouts of depression.
  • High sensitivity. People with high-functioning anxiety are sensitive to any perceived slights or criticism, and they often believe they’re being judged by loved ones even when they’re not.

Despite their love and affection for the important people in their lives, people with high-functioning anxiety often feel uneasy, uncomfortable, or unappreciated in their relationships. They want to be happy and make their loved ones feel happy, but sometimes their insecurities get in the way.

Unfortunately, people with anxiety problems sometimes have trouble extending their network of relationships beyond an intimate, family-based circle, and they may be more isolated than they’d like to be as a result.

Strategies for Coping with High-Functioning Anxiety

The good news for high-functioning anxiety sufferers is that things can be turned around in a hurry. By making some changes in the way they think and behave, they can soon bridge the gap that separates them from a healthier, more satisfying lifestyle.

To help control their anxiety and restore their freedom and peace of mind, people with high-functioning anxiety should:

  1. Learn to recognize their symptoms for what they are. Anxiety loses some of its hold when sufferers put it in the proper perspective. Recognizing anxious reactions as illogical and unreasonable is the first step to overcoming them.
  2. Refuse to engage their anxious thoughts. Anxiety tends to get worse when it’s resisted or denied. Acknowledging it is not the same thing as giving in to it, and anxiety sufferers who can perceive their anxious responses as optional will begin to assert control over their actions and reactions.
  3. Act before (over)thinking. Too often anxiety sufferers talk themselves out of going with their first instinct. No one should be thoughtlessly impulsive, but when something feels right anxiety sufferers should try doing it or saying it without excessive reflection, and over time that approach can become the new normal.
  4. Embrace a healthy lifestyle. Good diet, regular exercise, and other healthy practices like meditation, yoga, or immersion in nature can help anxiety sufferers find a calmer state of mind and improve their self-esteem.
  5. Find trustworthy confidantes. Finding people they can share their thoughts and feelings with, openly and without restriction, can help lift their burden while proving that others will accept them despite their flaws and frailties. Having even one person to confide in can help enormously, and loved ones are usually happy to fill that role.
  6. Remember that little successes add up to big changes. People with high-functioning anxiety are already participating in the world, and that gives them endless opportunities to score small victories in their fight to overcome anxiety. Anytime anxiety is overcome it will be helpful—over time those small triumphs will lead to real, sustainable progress.
  7. Ask for help, and accept it. Mental health professionals can help high-functioning anxiety sufferers understand themselves and change their relationship with anxiety. High-functioning anxiety is highly amenable to treatment, and people who suffer from it can enjoy significant improvement in their symptoms if they put a real effort into recovery.

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Diagnosis and Treatment

Like other anxiety-related conditions, high-functioning anxiety responds very well to targeted therapy and other appropriate interventions, including limited use of medications and training in holistic healing methodologies.

At Bridges to Recovery, we offer residential treatment for high-functioning anxiety in a peaceful, safe environment, surrounded by caring medical professionals and supportive peers, men and women with high-functioning anxiety can make enormous progress in a relatively short period of time.

All high-functioning anxiety sufferers need to learn coping skills, to prevent their existing anxiety from taking control. But as patients progress through individual, peer group, and family therapy, deepen their knowledge of holistic healing and stress management techniques, and take moderate doses of anti-anxiety medications as recommended, their anxiety symptoms will begin to decrease in frequency and intensity, opening new opportunities for personal growth and improvement.

With a continuing commitment to healing, high-functioning anxiety sufferers can learn to function more successfully than ever before. Treatment plus effective self-help strategies make this kind of victory possible, as many other anxiety sufferers have already discovered.

How to Help Someone with Anxiety

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All of us worry and get scared from time to time. But those with anxiety may feel consumed by fears of things that might seem irrational to others. It can be hard to relate to these concerns, and as a result, many people don’t know how to best help someone with anxiety.  

“People are often dismissive of people experiencing anxiety,” says Joseph McGuire, Ph.D., a pediatric psychologist with Johns Hopkins Medicine. “With other medical illnesses, you may be able to see physical symptoms. But with anxiety, you don’t necessarily see what the person is dealing with. So it’s important to be sensitive to what the person with anxiety is going through, even if it doesn’t make sense to you.” 

It’s distressing to watch a loved one experience panic attacks and face anxiety every day, but there are things you can do to help. It starts with recognizing the signs of excessive worry and understanding the best ways to support your loved one.

Learn to Recognize the Signs of Anxiety

Anxiety disorder is the most common mental health condition in the United States, affecting up to 18% of the population. Knowing the signs of anxiety can help you realize when someone you love is having fearful thoughts or feelings. Symptoms vary from person to person but can be broken into three categories:

Physical Symptoms

Some of the physical symptoms your loved one may report feeling include:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Feeling edgy and/or restless
  • Shortness of breath
  • Diarrhea
  • Getting easily fatigued


Anxious Thoughts

People with anxiety often have thought patterns such as:

  • Believing the worst will happen
  • Persistent worry
  • All-or-nothing thinking
  • Overgeneralizing (making overall assumptions based on a single event)

Anxious Behaviors

Perhaps what you’ll notice most is your loved one’s behaviors. Common anxiety behaviors include:

  • Avoidance of feared situations or events
  • Seeking reassurance
  • Second-guessing
  • Irritability and frustration in feared situations
  • Compulsive actions (like washing hands over and over)

Know What NOT to Do

Typical responses to someone with anxiety are often unhelpful. Here are actions you should avoid: 

Don’t Enable

It’s common to want to help your loved one avoid painful situations by going out of your way to eliminate the cause for concern. “On the surface, this seems really thoughtful and sweet,” says McGuire. “But anxiety doesn’t usually go away. Over time, if people continually avoid facing difficult situations, the anxiety grows and special requests for accommodations get bigger.”

If you continue to modify your behavior or the environment to accommodate your loved one’s anxiety, this can unintentionally enable the anxiety to persist and grow. Avoiding difficult situations doesn’t give your loved one the opportunity to overcome fears and learn how to master anxiety. Instead, it makes their world smaller as what they are able to do becomes more and more limited by their growing anxiety.

Don’t Force Confrontation

On the other hand, it’s also not good to force a person to do something they’re scared of. “Trying to push somebody who’s not ready can damage that relationship,” warns McGuire. Learning how to overcome deep apprehension is work best done in partnership with a professional therapist. This takes the burden off you. It also empowers your loved one by helping them face their fears one step at a time with guidance from somebody with experience.


Use Anxiety Tips That Work

Responses based on love and acceptance, and the desire to see your loved one get better, are the cornerstones of helping someone with anxiety. Consider the following approaches:

Provide Validation

Many different things can make people anxious. Saying something like, “I can’t believe you’re getting upset over such a small thing” belittles a person’s experience. Instead, ask your loved one how you can provide support during challenging moments. 

“What makes one person fearful may be no big deal to someone else,” says McGuire. “Their anxiety doesn’t have to make sense to you — it’s important to understand that what the person is experiencing is real and requires sensitivity.”  

Express Concern

“It’s hard to see a loved one having an anxiety attack,” says McGuire. “But in the moment, there’s not too much you can do to shorten the duration or noticeably lower the intensity of a panic attack.” 

“When you start to notice your loved one withdrawing from activities that they used to enjoy, you don’t have to cover up your concern. Instead, it can be helpful to approach your loved one in a warm and positive way,” says McGuire. “You can start a dialogue by saying you’ve noticed certain behavior changes.” 

For example: “Hey, I noticed that you’ve been avoiding going to [insert location] and other social gatherings. Can you share with me what caused the change?” Then, depending on how the conversation goes, you might ask if they think they need some help or support in coping with their anxiety.

Know When to Seek Help

If your loved one’s anxiety starts to impede their ability to enjoy life, interact at school, work or hang out with friends, or if it causes problems at home, then it’s time to seek professional help. 

Encourage a loved one to make an appointment with a mental health provider. “If they’re resistant, you can remind them that it’s just one appointment,” says McGuire. “It doesn’t mean they have to commit to treatment or to working with that specific therapist. It’s really just an initial check-in, like an annual physical exam but for your mental and emotional health. ” 

Treatment Options for Patients with Anxiety

There are two primary treatments for individuals with anxiety:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which involves learning how to lower anxiety and face distressing situations.
  • Medication management with antidepressants, which works well on its own but even better when coupled with CBT. 

During therapy, continue to show your support by:

  • Asking your loved one what you can do to help them.
  • Asking if you can attend a therapy session to learn some skills to better support them.
  • Making time for your own life and interests to sustain your energy.
  • Encouraging your loved one to try another therapist if the first one isn’t a good fit.

“If you’re concerned about a loved one’s anxiety, early treatment is ideal,” says McGuire. “The longer you let anxiety or any sort of mental or physical health condition go without intervention, the harder it can be to recover.


How to get rid of increased anxiety

Now we are everywhere faced with anxiety, impotence, fear and panic - these feelings paralyze and make it impossible to breathe. How to distinguish anxiety from increased anxiety, to react sensibly to circumstances and get rid of constant anxiety?

The feeling of anxiety itself is natural for a person: experiencing it, our body tells us about an approaching danger or a probable risk to life or health. Anxiety, tension, fear - these emotions are absolutely normal in a stressful situation, but at the same time, they, experienced regularly, can talk about more serious mental problems, including mental disorders. nine0005

Finished reading here

Anxiety — this word can describe a complex of negative emotions, including stress, panic, fear, concern and more — is normal and not dangerous for a person. These emotions can go into a state of anxiety disorder with their regularity and constancy: anxiety itself becomes, as it were, “chronic” due to genetic factors or environmental conditions and can be expressed in several forms.

One form of “chronic” anxiety is adaptive anxiety disorder, in which a person experiences stress and tension while trying to adjust to a stressful situation. Here we are talking about adaptation to a new, unfamiliar environment or living conditions: the slightest changes cause feelings of panic, confusion, anxiety. Generalized anxiety disorder often accompanies diagnosed depression: a constant feeling of anxiety is inevitably associated with an irrational fear for one's life, work, and future. Finally, experts single out an anxiety-phonic disorder accompanied by panic attacks: fear of a large crowd of people, fear of death, fear of a serious illness, the threat of which in reality may not even exist - only part of the anamnesis of people suffering from this form of disorder. nine0005

According to the American Anxiety and Depression Association, about 40 million American adults suffer from an anxiety disorder. In Russia, there are 9 million such people. These are only diagnosed cases: the number of people who regularly experience anxiety, but do not turn to specialists, can be much higher not only in Russia, but throughout the world.

Increased Anxiety: Checklist and Problem Markers

American anxiety specialist Jill Weber in her book Be Calm divides the signs of anxiety into several criteria. They can be related to feelings, behavior or even thoughts of a person. The easiest way to define your own anxiety is precisely on the first point: emotions such as anger, irritability, sadness, feelings of hopelessness or despair can signal that you will experience anxiety. Feelings can be not only mental, but also physical: palpitations or indigestion, as well as dizziness are additional markers of anxiety that a person may experience. nine0005

Anxiety can also manifest itself in a person's behavior and negatively affect the quality of his life. Giving up favorite activities that used to bring pleasure, avoiding meeting people or important work events are just some of the examples of how anxiety can affect the daily routine of a person. Because of anxiety, a person feels that he is no longer able to perform daily activities - go to groceries or drive a car, and even do things that are unusual for him, says Weber. For example, in a stressful situation, he may refuse to communicate with friends, even if he is in the same room with them. nine0005

Thoughts are also an important set of signals that a person is experiencing anxiety. They can manifest themselves in irrational attitudes - for example, the conviction that if you don’t return home now and don’t check the iron, then the apartment will certainly burn down, winding yourself up (constant concentration on the negative aspects of the probable future), self-abasement (diffidence in yourself and your own abilities) .

Accompanied by stress and fear, the listed symptoms directly indicate that a person experiences precisely an increased feeling of anxiety - this condition can be dangerous, because it directly affects many areas of everyday life. A sign of excessive anxiety can also be regular modeling of situations like “What if ...”: a person tries to predict the worst scenario for the development of events, which may not even be related to reality, and, therefore, worsen his condition, because thoughts in this case are constantly focus only on a supposedly inevitable and bad future. nine0005

However, the mere fact that there is a feeling of anxiety does not indicate any problem: it is important that it is not only compatible with the criteria described by Weber, but that it is in itself distinguishable from fear. It, unlike anxiety, comes from “real threats from the outside world” and is rather momentary: a person understands what caused it, and realizes that, having found a way out of a stressful situation, fear will come to naught. Anxiety, on the other hand, is based on possible events, it is irrational and may have nothing to do with the surrounding reality, but it risks becoming a problem if a person overestimates the likely threats. “Anxiety is natural and is an adequate response if provoked by fear of a real danger. But if anxiety negatively affects your life and health: it develops into constant tension, anxiety, or avoidance of certain contacts or situations, then it ceases to be justified, ”the psychologist writes. nine0005

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Causes of anxiety and ways to deal with it

Stanislav Raevsky, a psychoanalyst and creator of the Anti-Panic therapy app, shares feelings of anxiety and anxiety. So, according to him, anxiety informs a person about a danger or threat to life, health or property that must be avoided. Anxiety is more likely a character trait of people in whom this anxiety is more often manifested and more pronounced. “Anxiety can be stimulated by situations that only in fantasy are a danger, but in reality they do not carry such a threat,” Raevsky says. nine0005

It is useless to drive away anxiety from yourself: if you close the door to your consciousness, it will come through the window, in your dreams or other symptoms and will only develop relatives, health and property. “Anxiety triggers can be different, the fact of the threat of war and the fear of it can be very strong - this is how it is in all of us,” the psychoanalyst emphasizes.

Media not only increase anxiety, but also exploit it. “Our psyche is so arranged that it is something terrible, disturbing that attracts us most of all. We are automatically included in this stronger than in some kind of sexual stimulus or food. We are interested in what can scare, so people cannot take their eyes off the conditional accident, the modern news feed consists of what exploits anxiety, what makes your anxiety turn on, ”says Raevsky. nine0005

“It is useless to drive away anxiety from yourself: if you close the door to your consciousness, it will come through the window, in your dreams or other symptoms, and will only develop. It’s just pointless to drive her away - it’s best to go to a psychologist, ”the specialist notes. However, in some cases, a person can overcome anxiety on their own, and Raevsky offers some tips for those who want to cope with this feeling on their own.

  • When dealing with anxiety, you do not need to calm yourself down. This rarely works out, so it's better, on the contrary, to imagine the worst thing that can happen, understand the consequences of this and accept them. If you are afraid that the current situation will hit your well-being, you need to think about how you can cope with this blow. By imagining a terrible situation and living it, we do not chase away anxiety, but, on the contrary, we accept it. nine0044
  • We worry not only with the head, but also with the body, so it is important to learn to relax and be aware of your breathing. It determines how much we worry. We breathe often - anxiety is present, we breathe evenly and calmly - it becomes less.

Raevsky and his fellow psychologists posted detailed instructions to help cope with anxiety in the Anti-Panic app. Breathwork will help you deal with panic, anxiety, and emotional stress, and experts suggest the following ways:0005

- through breath holding: slow inhalation - delay for 7 seconds - slow exit;

— by counting: while inhaling, count to yourself from one to four, repeat the same count while holding your breath and exhaling;

- through slow breathing: inhale slowly, exhale slowly, then hold for 7 seconds and repeat the steps.

Panic attack during anxiety is an absolutely normal and safe reaction of the body: you should not be afraid of it. It is important to remind yourself of this during such an attack: you need to say to yourself that the onset attack is not dangerous for your health, it will not last forever and will end in 20-30 minutes. When panicking, a person begins to breathe rapidly, so it will be effective to try to slow down breathing so that the blood is not oversaturated with oxygen and this does not lead to dizziness or numbness of the skin. After the attack, the psychologist recommends trying to analyze your emotions, trying to understand what exactly causes your fear, how rational it is, whether it can be realized right now - this will help you understand that what a person is afraid of will not happen at this very moment. It is important to write down the thoughts that are spinning in the victim’s head at this moment in order to analyze them again later. nine0005

Experts from the American psychological resource Mayo Clinic Health System also give their advice to those who suffer from anxiety. So, in order to defeat the regular feeling of anxiety, or at least reduce its severity, experts suggest:

  • increase physical activity - create a new habit of playing sports on a daily basis;
  • avoid cigarettes or caffeinated drinks, as they increase anxiety together with nicotine;
  • identify triggers - study what situations and events become the starting point of experiences, and write them down along with the emotions that the person experienced. It is best to deal with stress itself together with a psychologist who will select an individual way for the client to deal with anxiety.

The American Depression and Anxiety Association has similar recommendations. So, psychologists suggest openly expressing your emotions to relatives and friends, and not hiding them. In addition, when feeling anxious, you need to try to accept the fact that a person cannot control absolutely everything, and the main thing that he can do is to focus on himself and his own emotions. Breathing practices or counting from 1 to 10 or 20 can help with this - it will also restore breathing and reduce the frequency of heart beats. nine0005

Increased anxiety - Healthy Sleep Center

People tend to experience anxiety before important events and significant events. Such a reaction is quite natural: it helps to mobilize forces, draws attention to the solution of a particular problem. But if such a condition occurs for no apparent reason or is present all the time, it is called increased anxiety.

Causes and symptoms of increased anxiety

Increased anxiety significantly worsens the quality of life and can become a trigger for the development of neuropsychiatric diseases. nine0084 Causes of anxiety mainly consist in strong emotional experiences, reactions to traumatic events, internal conflict, problems with self-esteem. Often this condition arises due to the peculiarities of upbringing, the negative atmosphere in the family.

Symptoms of increased anxiety on the psychological level are:

  • strong excitement, anxiety;

  • internal tension;

  • nervousness, irascibility;

  • inability to relax;

  • a sense of impending danger;

  • fear of going crazy, fear of death;

  • panic attacks.

Physiological manifestations include:

  • heart palpitations;

  • labored breathing;

  • feeling of tightness in the chest;

  • sweating, violation of thermoregulation;

  • general weakness;

  • nausea.

Diagnosis and treatment of increased anxiety nine0005

Increased anxiety in adults and children is diagnosed by a psychotherapist based on the patient's complaints, objective signs of the disorder*. Many symptoms of anxiety coincide with manifestations of diseases of the internal organs. To exclude such pathologies, some examinations, consultations of narrow specialists may be required.

*For the primary diagnosis of anxiety disorder, the GTR-7 test can be used.

Pass the GTR-7 test

Treatment of increased anxiety begins with finding its cause. The psychotherapist talks with the patient, finds out the circumstances that affect his condition, lifestyle and other factors. Based on this information, the doctor selects the most appropriate methods of psychotherapy , if necessary, prescribes medications : antidepressants, anxiolytics, and other drugs. In addition, the psychotherapist gives general recommendations on how to cope with increased anxiety on your own. nine0005

How to get rid of increased anxiety?

One of the simplest yet very effective self-help methods is breath control . You can switch your attention to breathing, fixing the inhalations and exhalations when there is a strong anxiety. Better yet, try different breathing practices, such as yoga.

Other ways to help manage anxiety include: nine0005