HOW do you know you have HIGH FUNCTIONING Anxiety?
You probably aren’t even aware of the fact that those who know you, watch in awe as you drip brilliance. They think you are so articulate and intriguing that even the chic serving you coffee at Gloria Jeans is captivated by every word you say.
Others may follow you on social media, watching you turn everything you touch into pure gold. You are seen as a fearless go-getter that has everything going for you, who appears to be limitless and free from self-doubt. Not only are you successful at what you do, you are also fun! People love how they feel around you and they are pretty sure you are an example that God does have favorites! People wonder how you stay so inspirational all the time, they are exhausted just watching you.
I have clients and friends like you and I’m always amazed when they share their overwhelming worries and anxieties with me.
And ‘Self-doubt’ is NOT a four letter word after all.
Driven overachievers more often than not, suffer from High Functioning Anxiety. Many don’t even know they have HF Anxiety as they have been like this and have felt this way for as long as they can remember.
They think its just part of their nature or personality and sometimes label themselves as ‘perfectionists’ and ‘overachievers’. Many highly intelligent, successful, movers and shakers that suffer from HFA, don’t resonate with the term ANXIETY. When I bring it up with a client, they often respond with “I don’t think I suffer anxiety, I bound out of bed in the morning and attack the day. I don’t ever want to hide under the blankets and not leave the house. I can’t think of anything worse”.
There are differences between crippling Anxiety and High Functioning Anxiety. They both start off with the same internal thoughts and feels and body responses however the difference is what happens next, what the person DOES with those thoughts, feelings and body responses.
As you well know, anxiety SUCKS big time!
In the work I do with people who suffer from HF anxiety, the most common responses to anxious thoughts and feelings are…
Staying Busy, Busy, Busy!!!…
Taking on lots of responsibilities and projects in a desperate attempt to drown out negative committee in your head! To outsiders you have your act together. The perfect home, family, hair… you appear to everyone around you, to have all your ducks in a row. You have more energy than a 4 year old on red cordial, you ROCK at your job or career and you get sh**t done! However, you have high expectations of yourself (and others), which can make you easily annoyed when things don’t go right. Your nerves can have a short fuse, sitting still is tough, you make list after list and take on projects to keep busy in the pursuit of drowning out the constant chatter in your head. You are highly successful because you have to be.
The world sees your greatness, yet you are probably filled with self-doubt, fearful that you are a huge imposer and will be found out that you don’t really have your act together and will be caught out at any moment. This actually propels you forward to constantly succeed because of fear of being exposed. Would’t it be nice to motivated by a more positive, healthy, helpful driver?
Suffering from high functioning anxiety can be exhausting! It may motivate you and get you results but at what cost? You pay a huge price and there is much better, healthier ways to be motivated.
Inner thoughts consist of analysing everything you did or didn’t do, the ‘would have, could have, should have’ cycle. Worrying about the future and things that MAY happen. “What if…” starts a lot of your internal dialogue and the hypothetical scenarios you stress about rarely, if ever, actually happen.
Critiquing your own actions and results, as well as everyone elses’!
Comparing yourself to other, more successful people.
Never satisfied with outcomes.
Always striving for that next project, award or success as you need to keep busy and are rarely content.
The physical responses to the anxious thoughts are often tension headaches, heart racing, breathless, tense shoulders and neck, clenched jaw, shaking, irritability, rush of adrenaline, the need to escape, feeling agitated and restless. Butterflies in your tummy. Nausea.
Then the action responses to those physical symptoms can be anger and knee jerk reactions. The need to go for a walk to clear your head. Rush around cleaning your house. Rouse on your kids for having messy rooms. Drink alcohol because you can’t just sit there doing nothing, at least you have something to do while you are ‘relaxing’. It’s hard to just sit still. Avoid quite time. Nail biting and inner cheek biting.
It can be tough admitting you suffer from anxiety, especially if you incorrectly view it as a weakness. It’s exhausting, feeling that sometimes your mind fills with awful thoughts you can’t control…you can, however, drown them out by not allowing yourself alone time, sitting quietly with your own thoughts. Your unconscious mind does everything possible to keep you safe from threats and danger, even those you conscious KNOW aren’t dangerous (like sitting with your thoughts). It’s just doing it’s job after all. Somewhere along the way, it picked up the default setting to keep you from ‘stopping’, at all cost!
This doesn’t stop you from beating yourself up, though!
“Seriously? What the hell is wrong with me??? Why can’t I just wake up in the morning without obsessing and worrying about EVERYTHING? My life is awesome, I have no reason to be like this! Other people do it, why can’t I?”
Anxiety is the result of high levels of stress hormones in your system and your brains Fight-Flight-or-Freeze responses have gone into overdrive, wreaking havoc with you emotionally, mentally and physically. Having these high levels in your body, often lead to illnesses…dis-EASE.
Millions of people all over the world suffer from anxiety, just like you. No matter how bazar you think your thoughts are, I guarantee there is someone else out there with the exact same problem. You are not unique…or, thankfully, alone!
When it comes to the physical responses to anxiety, first comes an emotion, a feeling, right? But before a feeling comes…you guessed it…a thought! Check out thoughts… Your thoughts present themselves in your mind in two ways, through pictures and words. You internal dialogue shapes whom you are and how you perceive the outside world, which is why it’s so important to speak nicely to yourself!!! The things we say to ourselves can be really vicious.
“Why do I feel the urgent need to go for a run, clean my house like a possessed person or work myself into the ground with a blinding ferociousness?”
Because, my friend, that’s how you try to avoid your thoughts and feelings. Your physical action needs to be at the same level of intensity as the anxious thoughts and feelings in order to stifle them, cover them, drown them out, not DEAL with, but instead to distract from them.You can’t run from your crap, I know because I tried. Ignoring it will just make it scream and bang on the doors louder.