What is high functioning anxiety hosted by Wellin5 online counselling platform. Image is of a woman looking stressed and anxious in a work setting.

What is high functioning anxiety?

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health conditions in Canada, affecting 1 in 4 people at some point in their lives. Many are able to get the help they need after a successful diagnosis. However, complications arise when a diagnosis isn’t clear, like in cases of high functioning anxiety. High functioning anxiety is often invisible, but it affects millions of people. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of the signs and symptoms to get to get the help you need — so you can start feeling better. 

High functioning anxiety defined

High functioning anxiety isn’t an officially recognized form of anxiety. It’s a term used to describe people who live with anxiety but manage to function, and even thrive, in most aspects of their lives. What does it mean to be high-functioning with anxiety? ‘High functioning’ refers to the ability to meet the demands of day-to-day life however, that doesn’t make this form of anxiety any less debilitating. It simply means that the mental illness is rendered almost invisible, making it difficult to diagnose and treat.

What it’s like to have high functioning anxiety

High functioning anxiety is trickier to diagnose than other forms of anxiety. People who are high functioning are often successful because their anxiety allows them to see future threats and plan for them — putting them ahead of their peers. Instead of seeming anxious, they often come across as having it all together. What are signs of high-functioning anxiety?

  • High-achieving 
  • Organized
  • Composed 
  • Controlling
  • Often outgoing 
  • High attention to detail 
  • Orderly and conscientious
  • Helpful to others 
  • Proactive, always planning ahead 

These can all be signs of high functioning anxiety. Although they’re positive traits that are often rewarded in society, the problem arises when these traits mask what’s going on underneath the surface. 

Diagnosis for high functioning anxiety 

It’s easy for people with high-functioning anxiety to feel misunderstood because their symptoms don’t always present themselves in obvious ways. This can lead into a downward spiral, feeling isolated from those around them and feeling that people don’t understand what they’re going through. It’s difficult for some to understand that a condition can be both serious and not obvious. Therefore those with high functioning anxiety may end up feeling lonely when trying to cope with their invisible mental illness. Education and awareness of symptoms are crucial to understanding mental health disorders and offering proper support to loved ones. 

High functioning anxiety symptoms:

  • Constantly overthinking 
  • Difficulty expressing emotions 
  • Excessive worry 
  • Fear of failure and striving for perfection
  • Insomnia and fatigue
  • The need to please others and difficulty saying no
  • Ruminating about the past
  • Habits like leg shaking and nail-biting 
  • Comparing self to others

Treatments for high functioning anxiety

If your symptoms are interfering with your ability to live your life as fully as possible, you could benefit from treatment options. How do you treat high functioning anxiety? It’s managed similarly to other forms of anxiety. Many find relief with a combination of counselling and medication, such as antidepressants or beta-blockers. Some physicians recommend low doses of benzodiazepines for short-term relief from some symptoms; however, these medications can cause physical dependence if used long-term. No medications should be taken without medical advice or supervision.

For those who don’t want to take medication or who simply don’t respond well to it, there are many non-medicinal treatment options available. 


A skilled counsellor is specifically trained to equip their clients with tools to manage anxiety and ease uncomfortable symptoms. Over time, this will make anxiety less of a barrier to enjoying your daily life — allowing you to get back to your routines and hobbies. 

The good news is that there are many types of therapy available. So if you don’t find success with one version, there are plenty of other options available including: 

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Trauma-informed therapy
  • EMDR therapy
  • Integrative therapy
  • Individual and group therapy


The goal of mindfulness is to increase presence and take control of your thoughts rather than allowing the mind to control you. One of the most popular forms of mindfulness is meditation — a process of focusing on the breath to calm the body and mind through moment-to-moment awareness. You can also find peace in moving meditations such as yoga. 

Breathing exercises 

Breathing exercises are an excellent tool to implement when you feel a wave of anxiety coming on. They allow the body and mind a moment of pause — putting a stop to the fight or flight response. The mind can then return to a calmer, more rational way of thinking.

Get help for high functioning anxiety today 

When you’re experiencing anxiety as a high functioning person, it can be hard to recognize that you need support. What many people don’t realize is that being high functioning doesn’t mean there aren’t real symptoms taking a toll on your life. Your ability to ‘deal with it’ doesn’t discount the severity or impact of anxiety. If you’re experiencing anxiety symptoms or you’re finding it difficult to go about your regular routines, we’d recommend reaching out for support sooner rather than later. 

A mental health professional can put you on the right track and empower you with successful coping skills. Wellin5’s online counselling platform matches you with a counsellor who meets your unique needs. Get started with online therapists who are highly specialized in anxiety counselling.