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8 Ways To Cope With High-Functioning Anxiety

Lakshmi Vemuri

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Kimberly Langdon, MD


In America alone, anxiety disorders affect[1] approximately 40 million people each year. However, there are no specific stats regarding high function anxiety disorder. Unlike certain types of anxiety disorders, high-functioning anxiety does not exhibit intense symptoms. And almost always it goes undiagnosed. 

So, to create awareness about high functioning anxiety, singers like Donny Osmond, Barbra Streisand, athletes like Ricky Williams, and Zack Greinke have spoken about their experiences dealing with high functioning anxiety. This article will help you understand the symptoms and ways to deal with high functioning anxiety disorder.

8 Best Ways to Deal With High-functioning Anxiety

  • Avoiding caffeinated drinks, alcohol and cigarettes
  • practicing yoga and meditation
  • listening to music or ASMR
  • Having peer support
  • Working on anxiety without denying it.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Medications to treat anxiety disorder
  • Avoid procrastination .

What is high functioning anxiety?

This anxiety disorder does not have any strong symptoms like anxiety that could alter behavior. People with high functioning anxiety may also show symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder such as sweaty palms, increased heart rate, and butterflies in the stomach. Such symptoms are experienced but they aren’t so strong that they could limit activity or be noticeable.  

People with high functioning anxiety continue to do their job, attend college and handle family responsibilities and manage their personal and financial duties. However, they are still in pain and may not have the ability to function with their full potential. 

People with high functioning anxiety struggle with anxiety in a different way compared to people with anxiety. They are very disciplined and are punctual and do what needs to be done despite utmost discomfort while starting to do the work, during, and after the work. They also get stressed when they encounter an environment or people that stress them. 

Eventually, high functioning anxiety takes a toll physically, emotionally, and psychologically. And they should consult mental health professionals as they are more prone to develop psychiatric conditions in the coming days.

8 Ways to Cope Up With High-functioning Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety needs various approaches to deal with it. From working on your mental health and changing your day-to-day habits to treatment options such as psychotherapy or taking medications. There are various ways you can deal with high functioning anxiety disorder and read further to know in detail.

Avoid caffeinated drinks

Did you know coffee causes a spike in adrenaline hormone, the same hormone that’s responsible for fight or flight fear responses. So, coffee can make people feel on edge. Coming to decaffeinated drinks, they contain about 2-12 milligrams of caffeine. 

So try to avoid coffee if you feel coffee-induced anxiety symptoms such as nervousness, fast heart rate, and sleep issues. According to the FDA, 4 cups of coffee which comes around 400 milligrams should not cause negative effects.

However, if you are suffering from anxiety, coffee can make things worse. Cutting back on coffee can cause withdrawal symptoms which can be similar to anxiety, so try to eliminate coffee gradually. A study[2] conducted in 2015 found that many adults who consumed 400 mg of caffeine a day reported mood disorders and anxiety.

Practice Yoga poses 

This popular form of exercise from ancient India works wonders in reducing anxiety, depression and improves mental health. Yoga is a union of physical and mental exercise. Overall yoga is a complete mind and body workout. 

A 2015 review[3] was conducted on the impact of yoga on nervous system function and mood. 25 studies reported decreasing heart rate and blood pressure, further it also reduced the stress hormone, cortisol levels. Cortisol is also involved in fight or flight response. Too much cortisol in the blood can worsen anxiety. 

Music or ASMR 

The audio and visual triggers used in ASMR produce tingling feelings throughout the body which is similar to chills we get when listening to music or the sight of a beautiful landscape. The benefits of ASMR don’t just end with making you feel good but are also a potent tool to reduce symptoms of anxiety disorder. 

Studies show that ASMR[4] reduces the heart rate and promotes calmness, thereby it reduces anxiety symptoms, and helps you relax. Some people find music more helpful than ASMR, find what works as an anti-anxiety tool for your high functioning anxiety. Lastly, ASMR helps you achieve better sleep with anxiety.

Do not deny your anxiety disorder 

Mental health disorders such as anxiety may get worse when denied. Anxiety disorders lose their hold when patients accept them and try to act on their mental health issues. Recognizing the anxious triggers or reactions as illogical and unreasonable is the key to fighting anxiety disorders. 

When people with anxiety start to perceive the anxious responses as unnecessary they begin to take control over their behavior and this is the best anti-anxiety trick. For all these things to happen you should know your anxiety symptoms.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

CBT is effective in treating anxiety disorders. Through Cognitive behavioral therapy[5], one can cope with anxiety by identifying maladaptive thought patterns that guide their behavior and make changes in them. Mental health professionals will teach some techniques to manage the symptoms of anxiety and depression such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing techniques.

CBT helps a person by reducing the feelings of anxiety and the thoughts that provoke anxiety. Eventually, it makes the person who struggles with anxiety capable of confronting the anxiety situations or anxiety triggers.

Peer support 

Having a support squad can make life easier for people with mental health disorders. It’s high time we break the stigma around mental health issues. Bond with your fellow workers who connect with you or experience similar struggles as you do. 

You will see them reach out to you when they are feeling on edge. Seeing your friends express their feelings and having someone who understands yours creates a positive environment. This will take off a tremendous amount of constant pressure. So having peer support can help you in both work life and personal life.

Medication for high functioning anxiety 

When putting real effort into recovery, anxiety disorders are highly treatable with proper medical advice. Medications for anxiety disorders[6] are Tricyclic Antidepressants, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, selective serotonin-norepinephrine inhibitors, anti-anxiety drugs such as Buspirone and Benzodiazepines to relieve anxiety for the short term can help someone with anxiety disorders

Health professionals will help you with the correct medication and the ideal dose of medication to tackle the symptoms. There may be some trial and error before finding the best medication that works best for you. 

Avoid procrastination

People with anxiety disorders are also known for procrastinating, they are known for putting off important projects due to stress. But, many people experience even greater anxiety and stress at the last minute due to unfinished work. This last-minute rush and deadlines make them more anxious. 

These types of stress can trigger a wide range of stress-related physical and mental health issues. A community study[7] found that procrastination was constantly associated with greater stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and lack of satisfaction in work and income. People who struggle with procrastination may get benefitted from therapies.

Symptoms of High-functioning Anxiety 

Recognizing the symptoms of anxiety disorders is key to the diagnosis. However, someone with high functioning anxiety may exhibit similar symptoms as generalized anxiety disorder. So, let us know the traits of people suffering from it to make a right diagnosis.

People with high functioning anxiety exhibit traits such as workaholism, perfectionism, high achieving, detail-oriented, organized or obsessed with the fear of failure, overthinking and overanalyzing, racing thoughts, negative judgments. They are loyal in relationships. 

They also exhibit negative characteristics such as being a people pleaser, talking too much, need to do things repetitively, need for reassurance, rumination, procrastination, limited social life, inability to live in the moment, comparing with others. Many people who struggle with this tend to fall for unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol or substance abuse.

Furthermore, people with high functioning anxiety exhibit all the symptoms of anxiety disorder such as nervousness, restlessness, and fast heartbeat, unconscious nervous habits such as hair twisting and pulling, nail-biting, lip chewing, idle scratching and knuckle cracking. They also experience events of frequent anticipatory anxiety, periodic insomnia. Try to understand and acknowledge the anxiety, only then can you win over this anxiety disorder.

Final Words

Anxiety disorders are rising steadily and the best way to deal with anxiety is by leading a healthy lifestyle. Getting a good amount of sleep, mindfulness meditation, keeping yourself physically active, and staying away from alcohol and cigarettes can go a long way in dealing with anxiety disorders.

+ 7 sources

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  2. ‌Cappelletti, S., Daria, P., Sani, G. and Aromatario, M. (2015). Caffeine: Cognitive and Physical Performance Enhancer or Psychoactive Drug? Current Neuropharmacology, [online] 13(1), pp.71–88. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4462044/.
  3. Pascoe, M.C. and Bauer, I.E. (2015). A systematic review of randomised control trials on the effects of yoga on stress measures and mood. Journal of Psychiatric Research, [online] 68, pp.270–282. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S002239561500206X?via%3Dihub [Accessed 30 Jul. 2021].
  4. ‌Poerio, G.L., Blakey, E., Hostler, T.J. and Veltri, T. (2018). More than a feeling: Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is characterized by reliable changes in affect and physiology. PLOS ONE, [online] 13(6), p.e0196645. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6010208/ [Accessed 31 Jul. 2021].
  5. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for generalized anxiety. (2017). Generalized Anxiety Disorders, [online] 19(2), pp.203–208. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5573564/ [Accessed 31 Jul. 2021].Bandelow, B., Michaelis, S. and Wedekind, D. (2017). Treatment of anxiety disorders. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, [online] 19(2), pp.93–107. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5573566/.
  6. ‌Bandelow, B., Michaelis, S. and Wedekind, D. (2017). Treatment of anxiety disorders. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, [online] 19(2), pp.93–107. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5573566/.
  7. Beutel, M.E., Klein, E.M., Aufenanger, S., Brähler, E., Dreier, M., Müller, K.W., Quiring, O., Reinecke, L., Schmutzer, G., Stark, B. and Wölfling, K. (2016). Procrastination, Distress and Life Satisfaction across the Age Range – A German Representative Community Study. PLOS ONE, [online] 11(2), p.e0148054. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4752450/.
Lakshmi Vemuri

Medically reviewed by:

Kimberly Langdon

Lakshmi Vemuri holds a bachelor’s degree in Dentistry. She is also a published author of several Food and Wellness books. Lakshmi has a profound interest in alternative medicines, various forms of physical exercise, mental health, diets, and new inventions in medical sciences. Besides being a dentist, Lakshmi is passionate about gardening and is an environmental enthusiast

Medically reviewed by:

Kimberly Langdon

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