Despite it being the most common mental health condition in Australia, there are plenty of misconceptions around anxiety.
Sufferers are typically thought to be paralysed by panic attacks and withdrawn from the world but this isn’t always the case. While it’s not an official diagnosis, “highfunctioning” anxiety is something many people identify with.
SANE Australia Psychologist, Suzanne Leckie says that anxiety can affect different people in different ways and that high-functioning anxiety is an alternative manifestation of the condition, rather than an alternative condition.
“Sometimes people with anxiety inadvertently shrink their own world by avoiding activities that trigger their anxiety. Other times anxiety can motivate people to try harder across all aspects of their lives.”
She says that those living with high-functioning anxiety can be perceived by others as achievement-oriented, perfectionistic and highly motivated.
“Their own reality is likely to be one of racing thoughts, restless bodies and a sense that they are never doing enough.”
The usual symptoms of anxiety are present for those living with high-functioning anxiety, including catastrophic thinking, excessive worry and irritability.
“The difference with high-functioning anxiety is that people experiencing this may feel the desire to achieve more as a way to manage their fears and doubts,” Leckie says.
If this sounds like you, here are some of the other signs you might be struggling:
1. People describe you as a “Type A” perfectionist: You strive for perfection in everything you do.
2. You exhibit controlling patterns: This “perfectionism” can manifest in controlling habits and strict routines.
3. You’re constantly busy: Your to-do list is a kilometre long and your weekends are packed with plans.
4. You’re not sleeping well: All that tossing and turning during the night can be a true reflection of what’s going on in your head.
5. You have aches, pains, repetitive habits or ticks: There can often be physical manifestations of your mental state, like that constant knot in your stomach or unexplained neck pain, biting your nails, chewing your lip, tapping your foot or cracking your knuckles.
6. People have a hard time reading you: You’ve been described as stoic and unemotional but you know that couldn’t be further from the truth.
7. You have a crippling fear of letting other people down: Obsessive and intrusive negative self-talk is a big indication of high-functioning anxiety.
8. “No” isn’t part of your vocabulary: The dread of letting people down leads you to taking on more than you can handle.
If this sounds like you, contact the SANE Help Centre on 1800 187 263 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for information, support and guidance from mental health professionals.
Source: WomensHealth by Lauren Williamson.