Although it's not a recognised mental health disorder, High Functioning Anxiety, is cropping up more frequently in my practice. The problem is that this type of anxiety propels your forward rather than leaving you frozen in fear.
On the surface, you probably appear to be successful, calm and together. Perhaps you excel at work for example, however, the way you feel on the inside in terms of your own self-worth, your achievements and your future, is very different to what other people see. You may feel trapped in a cycle of worry and negative thinking which holds you back and gets in the way of you enjoying the simple things in life.
So in this blog, we're going to be exploring 10 signs and symptoms of High Functioning Anxiety to help you recognise it and I'll share how I help my clients overcome the internal struggle it creates.
What is High Functioning Anxiety
High Functioning Anxiety is a kind of catch all term for people who live with anxiety but are able to get on with daily life, functioning well in different aspects of their life, career and family life. A mild type of anxiety. It gives you very real symptoms but does not stop you from doing the things you need to do in your daily life.
Often when we think of people suffering with anxiety, we may conjure up thoughts of people feeling nervous, continually worried, restless, and unable to sleep. People with anxiety often try to avoid certain situation and triggers which provoke their anxiety - that fight or flight response.
What are the signs of High Functioning Anxiety video
Learn about High Functioning Anxiety, its symptoms and how hypnotherapy can help you to overcome it.
When you're suffering with High Functioning Anxiety it tends to be more of a fight response that encourages you to work harder to combat the anxiety. So often you may come across as confident, outgoing and organised and other people probably wouldn't know how you were really feeling on the inside.
What does High Functioning Anxiety feel like?
You can think of our mental health on a spectrum and with anxiety for example, the spectrum runs from no anxiety issues to debilitating anxiety. High-functioning anxiety falls in that middle ground. And although not a clinical psychological diagnosis, the anxious feelings and the way it affects your thoughts, feelings and actions are very real because anxiety can affect you both physically and mentally.
So, you may notice some of the physical symptoms of High Functioning Anxiety like:
- Faster or rapid heart rate
- Muscle tension, pains in your neck and shoulder
- Tiredness, feeling physically and mentally fatigued
- Digestive issues such as cramping, upsets or indigestion
- Flushed skin, feeling hotter and sweating more
You may find yourself just coping with these physical issues, the problem is, they can lead to further emotional concerns and that's why it is important to spot the warning signs.
Here are 10 signs and symptoms that you may have High Functioning Anxiety:
1. Avoiding Social Situations
Turning down things you actually want to do, maybe you've had things in the diary for a while and even looked forward to an event but decide at the last minute to cancel - feeling full of worry and dread at the thought of going out.
2. Poor Sleep
You get very little sleep, maybe you are erratic with bedtime routines or find your head filling with thoughts when your head hits the pillow, waking up too early in the morning - so you're sleep deprived which affects your ability to be at your best and just makes anxiety worse.
3. You're a perfectionist
Fixating on the tiniest details. Not taking action until you have every small detail done and dusted. It can mean you become extremely picky and preoccupied with making sure that everything is flawless, which can lead to attempts to control situations or people and this just creates more stress and impacts your relationships with others.
4. Fear of failure
Being afraid to fail often gets in the way of you starting something new. Because you can place so much weight on the ambition or goal and feel disappointed by anything less than perfection and so failure becomes a very scary prospect. And since anything less than perfection is seen as failure, it makes it difficult to get started on anything new.
It seems odd that despite being driven to work hard, people with High Functioning Anxiety are prone to procrastination, because perfectionism and procrastination do tend to go hand in hand. This is because the fear of failure means you'll often worry so much about doing something imperfectly that it stops you from getting on with other things or new projects. The problem is procrastination can lead to greater feelings of failure, further perpetuating a vicious and paralysing cycle.
6. You're always worrying and coming up with the worst-case scenario
Your mind is constantly busy, always overthinking every small details and imagining the worse-case scenario - every time you have a new opportunity, you begin to think about all the things which could go wrong? Then this is anxiety at work - encouraging you to fear the worst so you'll avoid potential danger. The problem is it means your caution may come across as pessimistic times, it encourages more of the same and continues to feed those anxious thoughts.
7. Constant People Pleaser
Are you afraid of driving people away, worry about being a bad friend or letting others down? You work hard to make others happy at the cost of your own wellbeing, maybe not feeling good enough until you have gained everyone's approval? It means you have less awareness of what you want and your needs, even feeling like you have little purpose if you cannot help others.
8. Difficulty saying no
It's hard to say "no" - you might worry that telling someone "no" or turning down a request for help will make them think you don't care about them. Agreeing to do what they want might seem like a safer option, even if you don't actually have the time or inclination to help. As a result of this, you then worry about the lack of time and pressure to do what you've promised. So, you agree to do something even when you'd prefer not to! The problem is you continue to put other people's need before your own, which can sometimes lead to people taking advantage of this.
9. You're distracting yourself all the time
Because you're often feeling tense when you're not busy, you get into the habit of keeping yourself busy as a distraction from your worry and negative thoughts. Not by doing anything productive but quite happily doing all the unnecessary things like cleaning the oven with a toothbrush! The thing is - you don't mind doing anything as long as it's a distraction from your thoughts and worries.
10. You compare yourself to others
You may find yourself comparing yourself to friends or colleagues, who you perceive to have more accomplishments, seem more attractive, make more money, or have a better social life. The problem is, these thoughts can damage your own self-esteem leading to more anxiety and stress.
If you identify with any of these signs and change is possible.
How does hypnotherapy work for High Functioning Anxiety?
If you're suffering with High Functioning Anxiety, hypnotherapy can help you see things from a different perspective and resolve the thoughts and reactions that create your anxieties, helping you to relax, sleep better and focus. It helps break the cycle of negative thinking boosting your self-esteem so you can begin to feel at ease and enjoy life again.
I practice Solution Focused Hypnotherapy which is a positive approach focusing on your future rather than analysing the past. We avoid problem-talk, instead I help you learn to think and express yourself in a positive way which helps reduce anxious patterns of thought so you can begin to see things for a calmer perspective.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy uses a specific structure, which incorporates Solution Focused Brief talking therapy, an understanding of how the brain works combine with hypnosis so that you can create the changes both consciously and subconsciously.
The process begins with an initial consultation where we'll explore your concerns and understand the changes and best hopes for the future, so we can create a tailored approach for your needs.
How many hypnotherapy sessions are needed for anxiety?
The number of hypnotherapy sessions required for lasting change is different for everyone because each of is unique in terms of our feelings and experiences. It's important to know that hypnotherapy is not something that is 'done' to you, but a collaborative approach where your commitment to change and a willingness to learn new strategies and ideas helps you create the positive change you desire. Typically for anxiety and stress related issues, a minimum of 6-8 sessions are required, sometimes more to get you where you want to be.
What happens during hypnosis?
As you relax during hypnosis we'll use guided relaxation and mental imagery which encourages a trance state. It also causes a natural shift in our brainwave patterns, perhaps from being a fully alert mental state into more relaxed states. As we are guided into deeper levels of relaxation, the brain demonstrates more alpha and theta wave activity, where we feel calmer and more relaxed but can also visualise images and reflect on different ideas that may be useful to us.
The great news is that Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can be so beneficial, because it combines powerful solution-focused discussions, followed by encouraging a relaxing trance state so that the ideas and solutions discussed can then be explored and utilised by the brain for positive benefit.
How do I start hypnotherapy?
If you'd like to explore how hypnotherapy could help you overcome High Functioning Anxiety, please get in touch for a free initial chat to explore your situation and discover what your personalised treatment plan might look like.