For so many of today’s young adults, anxiety is a dividing line between them and the rest of the world. Where “normal” people may be able to find some amount of happiness in the simple pleasures of life, the chronically-anxious find each day to be a struggle, albeit in different degrees. Nowhere is this more true than in the social and work spheres, where high-functioning anxiety can be misunderstood as a whole host of things.
Here are some of our observations on the most commonly misunderstood aspects of being a person living with high-functioning anxiety:
1. Not attending parties or events, even if you might want to: A major difficulty in anxiety is anything which requires planning. Namely, if you have more time to wait for the day to arrive, that’s more time for anxiety to build, too. Fearing that you’ll be a downer, it’s easier to cancel, instead.
2. Constantly worrying about almost unnoticeable things: Hypervigilance, an extremely strong awareness towards any potential danger, goes hand-in-hand with anxiety. The tiniest mistakes might irritate you for days, staying on your mind longer after an average person would have forgotten them.
3. Late to bed, early to rise: Sleep never comes easily for the chronically anxious. Engaged in constant processing of the day’s events, it can be tremendously difficult to find the peace that leads to restful sleep. Even when you’re tired after waking up, the constant press of anxiety leads you to get started on your day right away.
4. Looking for disaster around every corner: Even in the most benign of situations (sitting in a café, at a friend’s birthday party, waiting in line), the worst case scenario is constantly on your mind. The weight of this seems to make everything around you worse, no matter how it might have started.
5. Replaying old conversations: Even when it seemed to go well, you will rewind and play back bits of conversation over and over again, looking for flaws in your dialogue. In many ways, this is a way to help protect from and avoid confrontation.
6. Not being able to accept others’ care: An expression of concern from a friend or relative may end up backfiring. Instead, you become even more worried about the same thing, because people are now noticing that you’re not well. Again, this leads to a spiral of self-doubt.
7. Everything is your fault: Especially when it comes to communicating with people. If a person doesn’t respond immediately, your first thought is “What did I do wrong?”. In reality, people are often just a bit too busy to respond right away, even when they do care about you very much.
8. The future is terrifying: While others may look forward to the events and challenges to come, your perspective is decidedly different. With the present being as hard as it is, why would the future be any better? It’s a daunting task to even begin to plan your next day.
9. You can’t help but compare your success to others: Even when you don’t want to, the constant comparison comes up. Am I good enough? Do others like me as much as they like him? It’s not so much jealousy, as a question of whether you’ll ever find any success in your life.
10. Beating yourself up over mistakes is an everyday thing: No matter how hard we try to be perfect, it’s not a real possibility. But each time the anxious person makes a mistake (especially at work), it’s followed by days, weeks, or more of beating yourself up over even the tiniest mistake.
11. Exhaustion is always there: With the results of the previous 10 items constantly taking a toll on you, sometimes even getting out of bed can be a struggle. Mentally and physically worn-down, each day becomes more difficult than the last.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms of anxiety, the authors recommend reaching out to friends and loved ones as a first step towards help.
This article inspired by one found here.