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Why We Need to Take 'High-Functioning' Anxiety Seriously

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A woman with “high-functioning” anxiety explains why it needs to be taken seriously.

The original version of this story by Erica Chau can be found here.


When you imagine anxiety, what do you see?
Shaking, crying, screaming?
Panic attacks, hyperventilating, incoherent sentences?
For some people, this is what it is like.
But it’s not always the case.

“High-functioning” anxiety looks like you have your life together.
You smile, your clothes are freshly pressed, your hair is shiny, your arrive on time.
You finish your work on time and have hobbies.
“High-functioning” anxiety makes it look like you’re busy living your life — and you are — to a certain extent.

For me, it’s keeping busy so I don’t lose my mind.
The more I do, the more tasks I assign myself and the more things I can keep in control, the more I can control my anxiety.

The issue with not speaking out about “high-functioning” anxiety is the risk of people thinking it’s not real.
And it is.
And when we need to take a sick day, when we are brave enough to take some time for self-care, we need to be taken seriously.

The ability to be “high-functioning” doesn’t negate the anxiety.
I was in desperate need of a mental health day, but I was too afraid to call in sick to work because I knew nobody would believe me.
This is the downfall of having an invisible illness.
The trouble with having a disorder that masks itself as “just fine.”
Looking at me, you wouldn’t ever guess I have suicidal tendencies.
Behind the mask is a girl struggling to breathe because of a small typo in a tweet or because my lipstick might be one shade too bright.
I don’t know how I can be “high-functioning,” I just know I am.

It makes it that much harder to ask for help because I don’t think anyone would believe me.
I want to be taken seriously.
And without awareness, we can’t ever move forward and ask for help.

Originally published: February 27, 2019
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