The Invisible Disorder
Perfectionist, workaholic, overachiever, are terms we frequently use to indicate positive connotations, without ever realizing what these people might actually be experiencing internally.
Anxiety disorders are highly dominant in India, with a prevalence rate of as much as 20.7% (Khambaty & Parikh, 2017). High- functioning anxiety is one of the disorders on the anxiety spectrum. As a disorder, it is hard to identify because on the surface, such individuals seem to be performing well in all aspects of life and thriving. However, internally, such individuals experience extreme nervousness, fears of failure, fears of disapproval, overthinking, insomnia, fatigue and difficulty enjoying the present moment. Research also indicates that such individuals are more likely to use addictive substances to self- medicate and thus, are at a greater risk of developing substance use disorders.
This concept of high- functioning anxiety, has only been recently gaining attention and it is not yet a recognized psychological disorder. Moreover, even if recognized, it might be difficult to officially diagnose. This is because, the definition of being high functioning, violates the standard psychiatric diagnostic criteria, of “causing clinically significant impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning”. To add to this, since such individuals seem to be doing well in life, they are often asked to “just snap out of it”. Such suggestions are not only unhelpful, but also dismissive in nature.
High- functioning anxiety is as debilitating an experience, as any other mental or physical disorder. If you notice the signs mentioned above in yourself or your loved one, it is best to seek professional help. Therapy for such a form of anxiety disorder, typically involves cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) that aims at identifying the underlying anxious thoughts and challenging these, with the help of trained therapists. In some cases, anti-anxiety medications may also be used, as an adjunct to therapy. Various everyday activities, such as deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, maintaining a thought diary and seeking support from family and friends, can also help manage this type of anxiety.
Clark, A. H. (n.d). 9 Surprising Symptoms of High Functioning Anxiety [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://aliciaclarkpsyd.com/symptoms-of-high-functioning-anxiety/
Hooley, J. M., Butcher, J. N., & Nock, M. K. (2017). Abnormal Psychology(16th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education Limited.
Khambaty, M., & Parikh, R. M. (2017). Cultural aspects of anxiety disorders in India. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 19(2), 117–126. doi:10.31887/dcns.2017.19.2/rparikh
Patel, A. (2017). ‘High-functioning’ anxiety: It’s not a diagnosis, but many say it’s real. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/news/3356596/high-functioning-anxiety-signs/.