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15 'Red Flags' That May Mean You Have 'High-Functioning' Anxiety

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In a society that values busyness and productivity, people struggling with “high-functioning” anxiety can be easily overlooked. People may say, “You’re just stressed” or “You just need to rest,” without realizing someone is struggling with a very real mental health issue. When this happens, it’s easy to question whether you’re actually struggling with your mental health… or just struggling to keep up.

That is why we asked members of our Mighty mental health community who struggle with anxiety to share one “red flag” that made them realize they had “high-functioning” anxiety. Because when everything seems OK on the outside, it can often be hard to validate your struggle and to actively seek help. Just because everything appears “fine” on the outside doesn’t mean you don’t deserve help.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “[I knew] when I talked to friends and realized they don’t worry about every situation. But I’m able to still lead a normal life in constant worry.” — Chris W.

2. “I have a 3-year-old. I wake up every day and take care of him. Even during a panic attack, all I can think about is keeping him safe and not scaring him. There are days I wish I hadn’t woken up, and then I see his happy face and he pushes me forward. The fact that I have done this for three years and still push forward, that’s my red flag.” — Corrie W.

3. “I can keep a face of cool, calm, collected on in situations that might cause panic for others. I have always been picked at prior jobs to do hospital runs with clients or even with friends — I am the one who takes them when they have surgery or need support in a stressful situation.” — Stefanie H.

4. “Realizing that my over-ambition and need to always be busy was actually me hiding and running away from my anxiety. I was always told I was smart, so I felt like I needed to be perfect, until the stress of it all made me break down and get professional help. That’s when I realized my ‘neurotic personality’ was actually an anxiety disorder.” — Carmela M.

5. “When I’d go to therapy and keep a straight face all the way through and not cry.” — Catherine W.

6. “When my boss told me I was amazingly cool under fire (when we had emergencies and such), and didn’t believe me at first when I told him I needed a break after talking to a very angry customer. The sick, voracious ‘butterflies feeling’ was rising fast, and he thought I was joking until it started showing on my face.” — Ariel M.

7. “When I’m having an anxiety attack, all I can think about is how I should be reading this chapter for class or working on this essay, but instead of working, I’m freaking out. Another one is how alert I am for something bad to happen because I always expect a worse case scenario so I’m ready for it and can act if it happens. It does mean I’m always on my toes, but I’ve had cases before where something I anticipated happens, and while others were freaking out, I could make light of the situation and tell people what needed to be done so they could do it.” — Audra B.

8. “When I can finally see that I am working so hard to ‘hold it together’ in public, but realizing once I’m home I am barely staying above water.” — Jo A.

9. “Even when I’m feeling really anxious, I don’t always have a complete meltdown. I can still be at work and get things done. And when I tell people I’m feeling really anxious at that point in time, they don’t always believe me. Just because I feel anxious doesn’t mean I look it.” — Katelyn W.

10. “I have panic attacks at the idea of getting out of the house, but when I do get out, I look like nothing ever happened.” — Livia S.

11. “Once I realized how draining social interactions truly were for me and how much I need alone time to decompress after being around people (work, parties, family).” — Elizabeth N.

12. “I was constantly doing too much, too many things, too fast — and even in the middle of a massive anxiety attack, I wouldn’t stop. I just kept going and I refused to ask for help.” — Erin G.

13. “After a very stressful day, I must have finished locking up my job and got halfway home on autopilot and I don’t remember anything I had done or even if I had closed up properly.” — Louise E.

14. “I was sitting eating lunch with a friend and I suddenly realized I didn’t want to go home because I was terrified what I was going to do to myself.” — Katie S.

15. “When my boyfriend asked me why I wasn’t my cheerful self. He told me I would just sit on the couch and switch though channels. I didn’t realize my anxiety turned into depression until he pointed it out to me. Then I realized I had anxiety and that must be why I kept throwing up and not sleeping. I had no idea what was wrong, but now I got help and I haven’t had a pain attack in one month and the depression is almost all gone.” — Sophia M.

Originally published: September 21, 2017
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