Nov 22, 2022


A Guide to High-Functioning Anxiety


Anxiety disorders affect over 40 million adults annually, making it the most common mental illness in the United States. There are seven different types of anxiety, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), stress, social anxiety disorder (SAD), specific phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

While each of these disorders may present their own unique symptoms, anxiety, in general, is usually associated with persistent feelings of nervousness, uneasiness, and panic. 

Does that mean someone without those symptoms doesn't have anxiety? Not necessarily. They might be suffering from something known as high-functioning anxiety. 

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What is high-functioning anxiety?

High-functioning anxiety is a term used to describe someone who appears successful, calm, and functioning well on the outside but feels completely different on the inside. 

It's not identified as a mental health condition in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). However, it's still critical to recognize and treat its symptoms to improve your quality of life and decrease the risk of burnout. 

What are the symptoms of high-functioning anxiety?

Unfortunately, not much research hasn't been done for healthcare providers to pinpoint all the signs of high-functioning anxiety. 

However, some possible symptoms may include the following:

  • an inability to relax

  • a need for perfectionism

  • overachieving due to fear of failure or of letting others down

  • the urge to keep busy all the time

  • regularly overthinking and overanalyzing situations 

  • experiencing anxiety about what could happen (anticipatory anxiety

  • Insomnia and other sleep issues

  • digestive and gastrointestinal (GI) issues

What causes high-functioning anxiety?

Again, due to a lack of research, it's hard to determine the exact causes of high-functioning anxiety. 

Environmental and genetic factors that lead to anxiety disorders and depression may also result in high-functioning anxiety, such as:

  • Family history of an anxiety disorder

  • Experiencing stress or trauma at any point in life 

  • Medical conditions like thyroid issues, adult ADHD, and fibromyalgia

  • Drug and alcohol abuse 

  • Childhood traits of shyness, fear, or nervousness 

High-functioning anxiety vs. generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is one of the top disorders diagnosed in the United States. A person with GAD experiences constant and excessive fear that interferes with their personal, work, and social life. The persistent worry may also lead to physical symptoms, like:

  • restlessness

  • fatigue

  • difficulty concentrating

  • dizziness

  • heart palpitations

  • sweating

  • muscle aches and tension

  • sleep issues 

The fight or flight response is the most significant difference between GAD and high-functioning anxiety. 

People with GAD tend to engage in flight, meaning they use coping behaviors focused on getting away from situations that cause anxiety. They may withdraw from family and friends, mentally shut down, have breakdowns, and develop phobias to prevent anxiety. 

Those with high-functioning anxiety in contrast, tend to deal with their anxiety by using the fight response. Therefore, their coping methods include whatever they can use to help them control anxiety-causing situations, such as overachieving, or fixating on productivity, achievements, routines, and habits, and developing a black-and-white thought process

Treatment options for high-functioning anxiety

People with high-functioning will find many of the same treatment options for anxiety disorders that can help manage their anxiety. 

Always speak to your healthcare professional to find your best treatment plan. 

At-home care

In conjunction with medications and therapy, making lifestyle changes can play a significant role in reducing anxiety symptoms. 

These involve:

  • Getting regular exercise

  • Evaluating your current sleep schedule to improve your sleep hygiene

  • Scheduling daily times of relaxation and meditation

  • Being mindful of workload, timelines, and due dates

  • Having a nutritious, well-balanced diet 

  • Decrease or eliminate processed and inflammatory foods

  • Reduce or quit smoking and drinking 

Professional treatment options 

Psychotherapy (talk therapy) and prescription medications are often used to manage symptoms, especially in more severe cases of anxiety or when lifestyle changes alone don't help. 

Several healthcare professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, and social workers, offer talk therapy to help someone understand and cope with thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The National Alliance On Mental Illness can help locate a therapist near you. 

Certain mental health medications are also effective in controlling anxiety symptoms. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), benzodiazepines, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, buspirone, antihistamines, and beta-blockers are all medication types used for anxiety disorders. 

The most commonly prescribed medications for anxiety include:

When to see a doctor

Whether it's high-functioning anxiety, GAD, or another disorder, experiencing any form of consistent anxiety can be debilitating. 

The good news, anxiety is treatable. But getting professional help to develop a treatment is essential in managing your high-functioning anxiety. Consult with a doctor or other healthcare provider if you:

  • experience constant symptoms of anxiety that impact your physical, mental, and/or emotional wellbeing

  • can't control your symptoms, or they get worse even with treatment 

  • find your anxiety affects relationships, work performance, or self-esteem

  • are using alcohol or drugs to cope 

At CareCard, we are passionate about helping make your prescription payments more affordable, saving members up to 85% on prescription drugs and medications. Learn how CareCard can help make your high-functioning anxiety medication payments more manageable.

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Pharmacy names, logos, brands, and other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Prescription savings may vary by prescription and by pharmacy, and in some cases may be discounted up to 85% off cash price*. Please note, this is NOT insurance. CareCard offers you the opportunity to find prescription discount prices, which ultimately depend on the provider. You are fully responsible for paying for all health care services but will be entitled to receive a discount from those health care providers in accordance with the specific pre-negotiated discounted rates. CareCard Inc. is not sponsored by or affiliated with any of the pharmacies identified in its price comparisons. This information is not mean to be a substitute for professional medical advice, treatment, or diagnosis. For additional information, please reach our customer support at 1-866-410-1217, Mon- Friday 9am – 5pm Est or email us at By using the CareCard prescription discount card or service, you are agreeing to CareCard’s Terms of Service.

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