If you have high-functioning anxiety, to the outside world, you might seem confident and put-together. “You appear to be quite successful in life. You’re driven to do a lot of things and meet many challenges,” says clinical psychologist Marla Deibler, Ph.D. Since you’re able to pay your bills and socialize well with others, it gives other people (and yourself) the impression that you’re excelling personally and professionally. However, on the inside, it’s a different story.
Clinical psychologist Nicole Pensak, Ph.D., tells mbg that your desire to succeed is likely due to sophisticated compensatory strategies designed to repress your anxiety and persistent feelings of dread. “High-functioning anxiety is when you’re suffering a great deal internally, but you’re still able to perform exceedingly well at your job and in other domains,” she says.
Pensak says sufferers of high-functioning anxiety endure debilitating rumination and panic attacks but work overtime to hide visible symptoms. “Internally, it drives you to perform at high levels to avoid failure, rejection, or disappointing others, which is hidden by perfectionistic tendencies.”