Anxiety rates around the world have been increasing over the years, but some experts believe this condition is still underdiagnosed. Many people go throughout their day-to-day lives without realizing they are experiencing symptoms of anxiety. In some cases, they might even believe that these symptoms are beneficial personality traits.
While it is not a medical term, many individuals describe this as “high-functioning” anxiety, meaning it does not tend to affect a person’s life to a debilitating degree, although the signs can cause long-term effects that are not noticeable in the moment.
People with high-functioning anxiety often excel in school and the workplace, largely due to being “detail-oriented.” However, what many individuals see as a benefit may also be a symptom of generalized anxiety disorder. The fear of making a mistake rapidly grows into perfectionism, which may trigger feelings of stress when the person is unable to meet their ideal quality of work.
An extension of the perfectionism mindset is severe procrastination. Anxiety sets in and triggers the idea that it is far too difficult to reach perfection. This, along with a fear of failure, discourages a person from even attempting a project that might result in something less than perfect.
Instead, they focus on other, less important tasks. Cleaning the work area, doing laundry, and even scheduling meetings are all necessary, but they are simply an outlet for a person to feel like they accomplished something without actually focusing on their main responsibilities.
High-functioning anxiety often causes people to feel like they do not have the time to take a break. These individuals work well into the night rather than resting or taking time for themselves.
In some cases, this can help them reach the levels of quality that they so desire. However, it can also cause them to feel frantic and as though they never have enough time to properly finish a task. Eventually, there is a build-up of stress that leads to sleep disturbances, cardiac issues, and other health problems.
Researchers have recognized the links between anxiety and sleep disturbances for many years. The two issues often impact each other, with one causing the other to worsen.
When a person does not realize they have anxiety, they often find ways to “fight” to get to sleep, which can have positive results but does not deal with the base problem. These tactics include
Often, anxiety and panic disorders cause people to feel like they lack control of their lives. To combat this, some individuals will use their evenings to plan out the next day in varying levels of detail. This can include laying out clothes, preparing meals, or scheduling events ahead of time.
While channeling anxiety into productivity can be a beneficial tool, it can also lead to overplanning. When well-made plans fail, it then causes extreme amounts of stress and anxiety.
Another sign that a person has anxiety issues is “people pleaser” behavior. In relationships, this may manifest as being overly nurturing. They are afraid of driving someone away or being a bad friend, partner, or employee.
Because of this, anxious individuals may come across as very social, charismatic, and thoughtful. But the root of the problem—anxiety—remains, and the act of caring for others may take away from caring for their own needs.
A signature symptom of anxiety is the need for reassurance. Everyone worries about doing the right thing when making a difficult decision. However, people with anxiety will often focus on all the possible ways their decision could lead to other issues, causing them to require support from family, friends, and coworkers.
While this could help avoid mistakes in some cases, like all anxiety symptoms, it can also weigh tremendously on the person’s mind, affecting their health.
Typically, being punctual is an ideal personality trait. When a person has anxiety, however, they may take it to the extreme, leading to lost time. Rather than arriving 10 to 15 minutes before a meeting, they might arrive 30 minutes to an hour beforehand.
In some cases, the anxiety of missing an appointment might also cause a person to fixate on that event for hours before the actual meeting time. This results in an inability to focus and an even greater amount of lost time.
Certain people develop self-soothing behaviors to manage anxiety symptoms. In many cases, they develop these behaviors subconsciously, without noticing the habits or the anxiety. A common example of these tics is twisting, pulling, or playing with hair.
Some people pick at their skin, others chew their nails, and some will tap their fingers. Regardless of the form the behavior takes, it is a sign that an individual is experiencing stress and anxiety.
Though people often associate anxiety with extreme emotions like anger or fear, anxiety disorders can also lead to a sense of detachment. When this occurs, others might describe the affected person as cold, unemotional, or stoic. Often referred to as depersonalization, this reaction is a muting of all experiences, leading to feeling detached from the world entirely.
Depersonalization can occur as an acute reaction to trauma or as a chronic issue due to conditions like generalized anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.
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