High Functioning Anxiety
Most of the women I see live with some level of what would be considered "high functioning" anxiety.
In fact, anxiety is typically the symptom that brings most of my clients through the front (virtual) door.
Anxiety is considered "high functioning" when it doesn't significantly impair you in multiple areas of life or meet the diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder. But anyone who lives with high functioning anxiety can tell you, it sucks and the internal suffering is real.
For the women I work with anxiety usually looks like...
- impossibly high standards for themselves
- people pleasing
- seeking external validation
- presenting as outgoing and friendly (even if introverted)
- having a very hard time saying "no"
- difficulty setting boundaries
- conflict avoidance
- being highly organized and detail-oriented
- compulsive helpfulness or caregiving
- trouble being present
- worrying about the future
- staying in unhealthy or abusive relationships for too long
- fear that there is something fundamentally wrong with them, and trying to overcompensate to make up for it
Overachieving & Perfectionism
The confusing thing about high functioning anxiety is that some of the symptoms are actually "positive."
For instance, being organized and detail-oriented, or punctual, or outgoing are usually adaptive, prosocial behaviors. But the problem for those with high functioning anxiety is that underlying and fueling this ultra put-together presentation is deep fear, low self-esteem, and/or shame.
There is often an underlying belief that says some version of, "if I'm not perfect, then I'm not lovable."
I've been there myself, and I know how painful it is to constantly present as "fine" while dealing with so much unseen suffering on the inside.