I still remember studying about anxiety in grad school. I thought it was a debilitating condition, where the person impacted had reduced ability to function along with other symptoms.

Fast forward ten plus years, after speaking with numerous clients who have been diagnosed with Anxiety, I realised that there is no black and white view of this condition. In terms of impact it creates there are many grey areas.

“I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside my head.”

Franz Kafka

High functioning anxiety

Anxiety manifests itself in different forms, but the most significant is our ability to function with Anxiety. I have often been questioned by people on their diagnosis of an Anxiety Disorder, like their ability on parenting, carers and sustaining relationships . People often catastrophize situations, generalize negative cognitions and at times personalize issues. However, they function and most times they function very well.

There are many people who see themselves as the crowd that could be never be inflicted with any form of anxiety. These people are high functioning individuals. We all do it and so we deny ourselves the power of Self-Compassion. While someone who has already been diagnosed, acknowledges and accepts the Anxiety Disorder and the capacity to demonstrate self-compassion through treatment, reflection and sharing.

People with high functioning Anxiety often never give it a thought. For them anxiety is a double-edged sword. At times it can have a positive side and motivate them towards their goals. They create a protective part within themselves that does not want to believe that under this calm demeanour their Anxiety lies in turmoil. They believe in not meeting this part which is tumultuous, as it will leave them vulnerable and unsafe.

“One is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid of the known coming to an end.”

— Jiddu Krishnamurti

This turmoil is often demonstrated in behaviours, such as fitful sleep, negative perceptions of oneself, seeking perfection, often health related issues and strong body sensations. Some of these symptoms could be unique to the individual and some more generic. People have their own coping mechanisms to help them cope and to keep up their functioning. But the question arises, are these constructive coping mechanisms? And would it be able to take them through life and its transitions?

“If you don’t allow a feeling to begin, you also don’t let it end.”

— Geneen Roth

Lack of perception and introspection over your internal state leads to an inability to thrive holistically. It‘s a volcano waiting to erupt, unless we can extinguish the fire. We need to dig deeper and explore the causes of our inner voice, at times being reflective about it, then nurturing it and allowing it to have a voice and being empathetic to it. This requires courage, compassion and the skills to be able to question our anxiety, even if it allows us to function. It could be feelings of panic to post traumatic stress disorder or a generalized anxiety.

Post Written By: Aarti Mundae , SAC Registered Counsellor

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