It took me almost 31 years of life before I realized I had anxiety. Growing up, I thought I was just an average kid who regularly hid under tables and worried about getting ulcers until I cried.
I guess the clues were always there, weren’t they? Now that I’ve realized that I’m an adult living with anxiety, I’m also able to see how some of my daily habits are actually things I do because of my high-functioning anxiety.
If you’re an individual with high-functioning anxiety, you may recognize some of these little-known behaviors that probably hit close to home.
1. You always have a plan
Not having a plan for the day means dreaded, endless hours stretching out in front of you. A lot of people use careful plans to add structure to their day so they don’t spiral down a black hole of overthinking. This can lead to anxiety attacks.
2. You stay super busy
Similar to the need to always have a plan, a constant flow of “busy-ness” may be something individuals with high-functioning anxiety use to help ease their symptoms. Because after all, if you stay busy, you can’t slow down long enough to give in to your own mind, right?
3. You’re an overachiever
One of the strategies that individuals with anxiety use to cope with their symptoms is to “cover” them up with outward signs of achievement. This is one of the signs of anxiety that I found the hardest to accept, but it’s been very true for me.
In the moments that anxiety has taunted me with the thought that I wasn’t good enough, I have literally listed my “accomplishments” as a way to ward off the dark thoughts. It’s like having that concrete list to recall in mind helps me claw my way past anxiety when it threatens to make me feel small.
4. You have random aches and pains
Anxiety may be a hidden disorder, but sometimes, it chooses to manifest itself in very physical ways. Many individuals with anxiety are hyperaware of their bodies in ways that other people just are not. They tend to notice every single ache, pain, bump, and weird sensation that their body throws out. And yes, chances are, they will want to discuss them in minute detail and worry about them endlessly, too. Thanks, anxiety.
5. It’s tough to “loosen up”
“Why are you so serious?”
“Geez, loosen up a little, would you?”
… All common things I’ve heard my whole life. Also things I feel like I can’t do whenever my anxiety is flaring up.
6. You sometimes bolt out early
Those of us with anxiety often have to bolt out of parties and social functions early for one purpose and one purpose only: to relive each and every interaction and conversation we had. We do this until we are convinced that the other person most definitely hates our guts, and we are the most boring person to ever walk this planet. Anxiety is so fun!
7. You have a weird body habit
Are you a long-term fidgeter? Nail biter? Knuckle cracker? Skin picker? Have a strange eye twitch? A lot of us with high-functioning anxiety work hard to keep it all together on the outside. But our bodies know better and betray our hidden struggles with that one weird bodily habit. I’m personally a perpetual leg shaker and skin picker. It’s worse when I’m stressed.
If you live with high-functioning anxiety, you might be struggling on the inside, but appear totally normal to others. Don’t be afraid to open up to friends, family, and romantic partners for help and support.
Chaunie Brusie, BSN is a registered nurse in labor and delivery, critical care, and long-term care nursing. She lives in Michigan with her husband and four young children, and she is the author of the book “Tiny Blue Lines.”