High-functioning anxiety: All you need to know

High-functioning anxiety is a common problem. It is harder to recognise signs of anxiety in high-functioning people than for those with more obvious symptoms, such as trembling hands or excessive sweating when under pressure. We can't always even see it in ourselves – many of us take the high-functioning form of anxiety for granted until we suffer from it ourselves, and we have to recognise it for what it is.


High-functioning anxiety is often associated with perfectionism, which is a characteristic that many active people are born with or develop over time to serve a specific purpose. When we're young and learning our craft, we work very hard because we want to make sure that we're perfect and that our work meets our standards. But, when this becomes an obsessive habit, the perfectionist trait can become self-defeating.

People who have high-functioning perfectionism tend to become worried about their performance long before they perform – and they worry needlessly about things that are outside their control (which are often the things they should be most comfortable with). They feel guilty if they make mistakes, making them unable to learn from them and not improve their performance.

Symptoms of high-functioning anxiety

If you recognise that you have high-functioning anxiety, you know how exhausting it can be. You may find yourself constantly worrying and planning for the worst – even when there's no reason to think something will go wrong. Your mind may run through every possible scenario over and over until you're worn out from the mental strain.

The good news is that high-functioning anxiety is treatable, and there are ways to manage symptoms to live a more peaceful life.

One of the most common symptoms of high-functioning anxiety is having an intense fear of failure. As a result, your brain may pressure you to ensure that everything you do must be perfect. As a result, you may spend a lot of time double-checking work or redoing tasks to make sure they are perfect – even if they already were.

Sleep disturbances are another common symptom of high-functioning anxiety, which can cause fatigue and irritability throughout the day. People with high-functioning anxiety may also struggle with insomnia or wake up in the middle of the night with racing thoughts or worries about things they need to do or regret.

If you have high-functioning anxiety, you will likely feel like you have to be prepared for anything at all times, so here are five valuable tips to help you get through those challenges and deal with the anxiety. 

1. Get some sleep

It sounds simple, but it's a crucial part of letting your body and mind rest and recover from the day. It's also essential to ensure you're getting quality sleep, which means no screens before bed (including your phone) and no caffeine in the afternoon.

2. Have a plan for when anxiety strikes

This is one of the most imperative things you can do to manage your anxiety – planning so that you know what to do when you start feeling anxious will help keep panic attacks to a minimum. You may find yourself being swept away by anxious thoughts at any time, so it's best to have something ready that you can do without having to think about it too much – this could be listening to music, walking, calling a friend or family member – whatever works for you.

3. Be mindful of your anxiety triggers

It's inevitable to feel anxious in certain situations, but knowing what triggers you is essential. Once you figure out what makes your anxiety spike, you can plan how to deal with it. For example, do you get nervous when you have a presentation? Prepare as much as you can beforehand and practice in front of a mirror or with friends. Do you get anxious when talking on the phone? Try taking slow deep breaths when making a call and keep a list of notes for yourself so that you don't forget anything important.

4. You should not be afraid to ask for help

If you are overwhelmed by an assignment or feel like a deadline is coming up too fast, speak up! Your boss or professor will appreciate your honesty more than if you turn something in late without giving them any notice.

5. Make time for self-care

Taking care of yourself is just as vital as getting things done. It might seem counterintuitive to take breaks throughout the day, but it will help your productivity and mood in the long run! For example, take short walks between tasks instead of switching directly from one thing to another, or do some light stretches to give your mind complete relaxation.

If there is one takeaway from this article about high-functioning anxiety, it should be this: don't be ashamed if you are struggling. You are not alone if you are experiencing anxiety due to unrecognised or even diagnosed mental health issues. However, there are ways out of this spiral, and there is light at the end of the tunnel. We should be able to have fulfilling lives free from mental illness, so choose today to get the support you need. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, E1 7QR
Written by Dr Belynder Walia, Psychotherapist, Clinical Hypnotherapist, Anxiety Expert
London, E1 7QR

Belynder Walia is a Psychotherapist and Clinical Hypnotherapist member of the British Psychological Society and the International Council of Psychotherapists. She is driven by her personal history of trauma to help others master their mindset. It is her mission to help others both heal trauma through PTG and prevent its impact of it.

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