Living With High Functioning Anxiety
Are you living with high-functioning social anxiety? Or do you think you might be but you’re not sure?
People with high functioning social anxiety have many of the same physical symptoms and negative thought patterns as though with more severe types of social anxiety.
However, they push themselves to keep going and meet the demands of daily life. This act of not avoiding means that they end up feeling a bit less anxious (though still probably quite stressed).
People with high functioning social anxiety typically have developed their own strategies to manage anxiety and push through when needed.
In this way, a person with high functioning social anxiety is a little like someone with ADHD who has learned about tools and organizational strategies to “hack” their life problems.
For example, someone with high functioning social anxiety might limit social encounters by sending emails instead of making phone calls or meeting in person.
They might have a habit of doing things alone instead of with other people and avoiding non-essential human connections.
They’ve found ways to get what they want out of life, and eliminate what they view as not important enough to warrant the social anxiety that it induces.
Most people with high functioning social anxiety will have some form of friendships, relationships, jobs, etc.
They can probably order pizza or a meal at a restaurant without having to ask someone else to step in.
Some people with high functioning social anxiety were always that way, and others had more severe anxiety that they received treatment for.
People with high functioning social anxiety are also savvy about using tools to support themselves, such as self-help books on topics like communication, self esteem, etc.
They probably use tools to help them manage physical anxiety such as yoga or meditation and might try things like hypnosis or art therapy to retrain their brains.
People with high functioning social anxiety might also have a hard time explaining to others what they are going through. You might appear normal to those around you, because you hide your anxiety so well.
Finally, people with high functioning social anxiety might be reluctant to completely eliminate their fear, because in some ways they feel it propels them forward.
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Their anxiety might drive them to over-prepare at work, which leads to good results. It might also feel like so much a part of your personality that you can’t imagine who you are without it.
If you still aren’t sure whether you have high functioning social anxiety, below are some signs to consider.
Fear of Embarrassing Yourself
If you have high-functioning social anxiety, you’ll probably avoid any situation that involves potentially embarrassing yourself.
That might mean saying no to things that you don’t think you will be good at or not taking risks. While that keep you safe in the moment, it can mean missing out on new experiences and trying new things.
If you have high functioning social anxiety, you probably are familiar with staying up worrying at night about future events.
You might be anxious about an upcoming meeting at work, or worried about a social event where you won’t know anybody.
This usually doesn’t mean you won’t go through with the event; just that you’ll stay up most of the night worrying about it.
Just like someone with more severe social anxiety, you probably still have your fair share of physical symptoms.
You might blush if you’re unexpectedly the center of attention in a group or if someone says something that makes you feel embarrassed.
Your hands might shake if you have to do something in front of other people like sign a document, hold a glass of water in a job interview, or present in front of a group.
You might also end up a sweaty mess if you find yourself in a stressful social situation such as a business lunch with a group of people you don’t know well.
Afraid to Share Opinions
If you have high functioning social anxiety, you probably are afraid to share your true opinions with others out of fear you will be judged.
While this feels safer in the moment, it can mean that others don’t always know where you stand and they might find you hard to read.
This can make it harder to develop friendships or get to know people on a deeper level.
Afraid to Respond
A person with high functioning social anxiety may take a long time to respond to emails, texts, or replies on social media, because they are overthinking what to say.
You might edit your replies or try to think of the “right” thing to say that is what the other person wants to hear. The problem is that this can take up a lot of your time, and you end up not being able to find your own voice anymore.
Trouble Thinking of Words
Have you ever been in a social situation and struggled to think of the words that you want to say? This can be another sign of high functioning social anxiety.
You might be eloquent in some situations when you are comfortable, but become tongue-tied when your social anxiety kicks in.
This can be frustrating because you can’t show how much you know or share your opinions when they matter; this can be especially troubling if you have a job that involves a lot of meetings or face-to-face communication.
Assuming Others Are Judgmental
People with high functioning social anxiety have a default assumption that the world is a dangerous social place and that others are always judging them.
This might hit you when you meet someone new, go for a job interview, or just have to share your opinion about something.
As an example, being asked what you do for a living might create anxiety that other people won’t think your job is good enough or that you should have a better answer.
Shame About Being Different
If you have high functioning social anxiety, you probably also have shame about feeling different from everyone else.
You might feel like an imposter and that everyone else knows what they are doing while you are just a fraud.
Self-Criticism and Second-Guessing
Have you ever left a social situation and beat yourself up about what you said or what you did? If so, this is another sign of high functioning social anxiety.
You probably second-guess your decisions when it comes to how you interact in social situations, which can lead to you feeling bad about how they went afterward.
Discomfort Around Authority Figures
Do you have discomfort around people in authority? If you’re called into the boss’ office, do you have trouble paying attention to what is being said to you because you’re too self-conscious to focus?
While people with high functioning social anxiety don’t shy away from dealing with people in authority for the most part, they do usually do so with a lot of trepidation and fear.
Discomfort Around Strangers
How do you feel around strangers or when meeting new people? If it always feels hard, or as though the people you meet are somehow “dangerous” until they become friends, then you are probably dealing with high functioning social anxiety.
While you might not show outward signs of being uncomfortable around new people, your brain is likely churning through thoughts about how you just want to escape the situation.
Defensive/Paranoid When Asked Questions
Do you become defensive or paranoid when you are asked simple questions like where are you from or what do you do for a living?
When you have high-functioning social anxiety, you will end up putting yourself into a lot of social situations. Unfortunately, your default brain state is that everyone is “out to get you” so to speak.
People Are Surprised You Have Social Anxiety
If you ever do mention feeling anxious about giving a speech or going someplace where you don’t know anyone, do people act surprised?
Many people with high functioning social anxiety put on such a good mask that it’s hard for others to understand than underneath it all, they don’t feel confident at all.
You Feel Inadequate/Don’t Recognize Achievements
Have you ever downplayed your achievements or felt like they still weren’t good enough? This is the comparison trap or the critical inner voice that is prevalent in high functioning social anxiety.
It can mean that you are driven to work hard, sometimes to the point that it takes over your life, since nothing is ever good enough as far as your perception of what others must be thinking.
Driven By a Fear of Failure
Are you sometimes driven by a fear of failure? Do you accomplish a lot at school or at work because you feel like you need to appear perfect to everyone else?
This can be another sign of high functioning social anxiety
Are you a people pleaser who tries to assess what other people want you to be and then mold yourself into that person?
Many people with high functioning social anxiety identify as people pleasers, and might even think that this is a personality trait rather than a part of their anxiety.
Need to Control Situations
Do you feel an unnecessary need to control social situations so that you know what to expect? This might mean making sure you know who will be at a gathering or the order of events that will happen.
This can also mean that you break down if things don’t play out the way that you imagined in your mind, because you need to know what to expect at all times.
Don’t Ask for Help
Are you afraid to ask for help? Many people with high functioning social anxiety will feel as though they can’t ask for help, because they are doing “well enough.”
You might also not want to be branded as having a “mental health disorder,” and so you keep trying strategies on your own, when sometimes seeing a professional would get you results faster.
Being Around People Is Draining
If you are living with physical symptoms of anxiety when you are around people, then it is natural to feel exhausted after social encounters.
This is true for public speaking as well. Perhaps you are able to hold it together long enough to get through your work presentation but feel exhausted for days afterward.
Cling to Your Anxiety
Finally, is there a part of your that is afraid of who you are without your social anxiety? Maybe you feel as though it keeps you safe or motivates you in some way?
If that’s the case, this could be another sign of high functioning social anxiety. Your anxiety is not so debilitating that you’re in crisis, and there is even a small part of you that thinks it might just be who you are.
What about you? Do you feel you have high functioning social anxiety?
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Related Posts About Social Anxiety
- 7 Hidden Benefits of Having Social Anxiety
- What Is Social Anxiety? 10 Things to Know
- Learn About the 4 Types of Social Anxiety
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20 Signs You Have High Functioning Social Anxiety
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John A says
When this article describes your whole life… it’s amazingly accurate!
Thank you! It doesn’t get talked about a lot, so I wanted to help people understand what it’s like.