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How Does Anxiety Look In High Functioning Adults?

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

Adults with high-functioning anxiety can carry out their duties and responsibilities, and have a reasonable social life. From the outside, many may not even know that the person is suffering, because they are still getting everything done and even be excelling at everything they do.

So, how does the stress of anxiety look like in high functioning adults? Kind of like this:

The Physical Symptoms

  • Restrictions in breathing

  • Sleeping issues, restlessness and/difficulty to go to sleep

  • Fast heart rate

  • Fainting

  • Panic attacks

  • Feeling numb in some body parts.

  • Gastrointestinal:

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea/ IBS type issues

  • Loss or gain of appetite

The Emotional and Psychological Symptoms:

  • Overthinking & racing thoughts: It is hard to quiet the mind. Many of the thoughts are around accomplishing tasks, perfectionism, or fear of missing out on opportunities (socially or professionally)

  • Regularly feeling of worry or internal fears: High Functioning adults that suffer from anxiety tend to experience feelings of worry for different reasons. The worries can be about thinking of worse case scenarios, perfectionism, fear of missing out, amongst others.

  • Harsh critics of the self: It is not uncommon for high functioning individuals that suffer from anxiety to be harsh critics of themselves. Perfectionism is a common trait that results in regularly being focused on whether tasks or interactions were done “well.” This way of thinking is partly why they accomplish so much & so well, but at a high price affecting feelings of self-worth.

  • People-pleasers: They are afraid to say ‘NO’ therefore taking on a ton of work even when there is limited time. Time crunch from these two characteristics makes it difficult for them to relax and work since they also love being on time.

  • Self-esteem issues: Due to people-pleasing and perfectionistic tendencies, individuals with anxiety might suffer from low self-esteem. The people-pleasing comes as a way to attempt to avoid being judged or make others feel uncomfortable. It can also result in frequently seeking reassurance from others to eliminate the worry of being imperfect and falling short of expectations. Even in simple situations, you will find that they are over-prepared in order to avoid making a mistake. The possibility of running into a problem or experiencing pressure can cause them to cancel an appointment, invitations, or work opportunities in fear of failing at it.

  • Procrastination: Procrastination is a common behavior of high functioning adults that deal with anxiety. Most of the time, adults suffering from anxiety will seem to be very busy, canceling any new plans, but they may be under pressure due to procrastination and taking up too much work due to people-pleasing and perfectionistic tendencies.

  • Edginess, feeling agitated because of constantly feeling of overwhelming.

There are Positive Behaviors in High-Functioning Anxiety adults

High-functioning anxiety adults have extremely positive traits such as being:

  • Outgoing

  • Punctual

  • Efficient planners

  • Extremely organized

  • And detail-oriented

  • All of this makes them good at whatever it is they decide to do. Other positive characteristics include:

  • Being empathetic

  • Always trying to be helpful to others

  • Very calm even when the symptoms are present

  • and they are VERY passionate about their work.

Are You a High-functioning Adult with Anxiety?

If a lot of the descriptors above relate to you, here are some ways simple ways to deal with Anxiety as a high functioning adult:

  • Take some time out, no matter what is going on in your life, take a few moments to disconnect

  • Meditation and focused breathing exercises.Try breathing in for 4 counts and breathing out for 4 counts for 5 minutes total. By evening out your breath, you’ll slow your heart rate which should help calm you down.

  • Journaling: Writing down what’s making you anxious gets it out of your head and can make it less daunting.

  • Count to 10 slowly

  • Sleep Hygiene: work at getting 8 hours of sleep.

  • Have a balanced meal, and try to minimize your caffeine and alcohol intake.

  • Find a Cognitive Behavioral or Solution Focused Therapist to work on thinking patterns that exacerbate the symptoms.

Your Therapy Friend,


Sofia Robirosa is the owner of Infinite Therapeutic Services and is a Perinatal & Relationships Expert. She offers individual, couples, and family counseling to individuals seeking to enhance their relationship with their children and significant other. Her private practice is located in Plantation, FL. She attended Nova Southeastern University for both her Bachelor and Master Degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy and in Business Administration. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a Perinatal Mental Health Certified Professional, and a Leader in Active Parenting for children and teens. She loves her family, which consists of her husband, daughter and son, and two dogs. Some of her interests outside of work include spending time outdoors, traveling, and dining. Read more about her at: and follow her on Facebook at:

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