High-functioning anxiety can be a royal pain in the posterior. You experience the usual symptoms:

  • Excessive worrying
  • Sense of impending doom
  • Exhaustion
  • Insomnia
  • Social withdrawal
  • Loss of appetite
  • Impatience, irritability, and angry outbursts
  • A horrendous fear of failure, which leads to …
  • Procrastination and,
  • Perfectionism.

Amongst other symptoms that are more physiological i.e. Headaches, increased heart rate, panic attacks, and abdominal pains.

The Disguised Beast: Survival

What so many professionals forget to draw attention to, is the other side of the Anxiety Beast. Those of us who do suffer from Anxiety 9/10 will not allow ourselves to show the above symptoms. We suffer from a completely different side to Anxiety which makes the conditional almost undetectable.

  • Appearing calm
  • Organised
  • Hard-working
  • Meeting all deadlines
  • Proactive
  • High achieving
  • Sociable

Many people might this, well how can you suffer both? And here’s where we get to dig a little deeper psychologically. 100% You can Spend all night wide awake, worrying about everything from COVID to the meaningfulness of your existence, and get ready for work in an exhausted and sleep-deprived state. You’ll procrastinate leaving to the very last possible second and then pump yourself full of caffeine, nicotine, whatever your poison, when you eventually do get to work.

The worrying about work, leaving the house, the knowledge you will have to be around other people, and your sense of impending doom is overridden by your fear of failure. That fear, means you show up to work.

The fear of failure will also be the common driver in making you work 10x the amount your colleagues do. You will push yourself to be the best, have the best KPIs, meet all of your deadlines, and produce exceptional quality work. It can push you to socialise even, having a quick chat with the boss or other members of the team.

This phenomenon is a survival tactic. Much like a bird of Prey will not willingly allow you or another bird to see the back of their neck, our anxiety is our vulnerability. So our survival mode means we hide it, we work doubly hard to ensure nobody else, sometimes not even ourselves, recognise the signs. We view it as a weakness, and so we reshape some of that nervous energy and channel it into covering up that weakness by being as high functioning as we can.

It’s hard having a mental illness when you’re highfunctioning. It’s hard having a mental illness anyway,but when you’re high functioning it’s like people believeyou even less. Just because you work, leave the houseand make money doesn’t mean you aren’t suffering.
-Hattie Gladwell

Remember what you see is not always what is true for an individual on the inside. Be mindful and try to recognise BOTH sides of anxiety.


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