Do others see you as a high-achiever, calm, well-organised, and getting loads of stuff done? And while you achieve all this, are you secretly worried, with your mind going like the clappers – thinking of all the stuff you have to do, and scared that you might make a mistake somewhere along the line?
That is high-functioning anxiety – confidently achieving a lot on the outside, but stressed out and worried on the inside – like the swan looking magnificent on the surface, but whose legs are frantically paddling down below the surface.
High-functioning anxiety is not a medical term. There is no agreed definition. If you go to a doctor, they will probably describe you as having “Generalised Anxiety Disorder” – or GAD for short. GAD is a catch-all term for all sorts of anxiety issues.
The problem with high-functioning anxiety is that you are running with your stress bucket on full – that is, there is so much stress in your life that just a little more will push you over the edge. We all have stresses in our lives and store them in our (metaphorical) stress bucket. Usually, the stuff in your stress bucket is dealt with naturally during your sleep, but sometimes, there’s just too much there.
Some people find it a little embarrassing to admit that their external appearance (high achiever, well-organised, involved in everything) is different from their internal feelings (anxiety, worry, tension). And so it can carry on for a long time without getting properly addressed.
A person with high-functioning anxiety may think that if they do something about their anxiety, they won’t achieve as much – and so they may be scared to actually do something about it. This may stop them seeking help. They may be so busy, that they don’t think they have time to look for help.
So what is the answer? What can you do if you do think you have high-functioning anxiety?
It is not simply a case of doing less – there is not a one-to-one correspondence between how much you do and how much anxiety you have. And there is no one-size-fits-all solution … what will work for you will not work for someone else.
The starting point is to work out what is important to you in your life – where your priorities lie. You also have to make a decision – is my mental health important enough for me to take time out to do something about it. Maybe you can do something for yourself, or maybe it’s a good idea to seek professional advice from someone who can help you.
A properly qualified hypnotherapist can certainly help, and other therapies may better suit some people. Whatever you decide to do – the first thing is to start.
Photo by Erik van Dijk on Unsplash