18 Consequences of High-Functioning Anxiety

By Simi
18 Consequences of High-Functioning Anxiety

There is a saying, “People with depression are focused on the past, and people with anxiety are focused on the future.” It may help explain those two conditions in a broad sense, but there is a ton of missing information that fits in between. People experience anxiety on a scale, but it can be terrifying at every dose. People who suffer from anxiety tend to have a bad reputation in society. They are often told to just calm down, to not think too much about it.

For a person with standard brain chemistry, this may work. But, not everyone has standard chemistry in their brains. There are people who can’t control their thoughts and fears. They can’t stop that growing pit in their stomach that threatens to consume them. They will worry, they will stress, and at times these emotions will be debilitating. A high-functioning anxiety sufferer experiences all these symptoms.

The difference is they can hide it to some degree. However, there are other consequences of high-functioning anxiety. On most days people with anxiety may be able to get up and go to work. They may be able to talk to people and engage socially, too. But none of these tasks are easy. Their anxiety is a constant presence, and it manifests in unrecognizable ways.

These people are not easy to spot, which means that they tend to suffer alone. People are not sympathetic to them because they have no idea what anxious people are going through. If you suffer from anxiety, here are 18 things that result from high-functioning anxiety you should know about.

1. You Exhaust Your Mental Power Needlessly

Apparently, there are optimists, pessimists, and realists. This is how we try to categorize humans. It may be true in some cases, but it is also quite limiting. People can change their outlook on life depending on the day or even the situation. They can be optimistic one day, realistic another and pessimistic the next. One thing is for sure; people are subject to change.

High-functioning anxiety, on the other hand, is quite consistent. People with this condition tend to dwell on the worst possible outcome. They don’t do it because they want to torture themselves. They do it because they are always anxious. They are anxious that things will go wrong, that if something bad can happen, it will.

They can’t abate their anxiety by thinking of every bad outcome. But, at least they are prepared or aware when the worst does come to pass. The problem with this kind of thought process is that it can be consuming. A person who is constantly stuck in this mental loop may be terrified into inaction. They could spend so much time thinking about what could go wrong, they convince themselves that things will go wrong.

The result of all of this is that you may end up not doing anything at all. If you don’t try, then you can’t fail, right? Anxious people are not pessimistic. They don’t do this because they want to. They do this because they can’t help it. Their brain naturally turns to the worst, and it becomes difficult to convince them otherwise.

2. Constructive Criticism Slays You

Does constructive criticism exist? People are not perfect. There is no doubt about that. But, is there a way to point out a person’s faults without damaging their self-esteem? Does it depend on the motives of the accuser, the character of the accused or is it a combination of the two?

Consider an average day with an average person. If one were to point out a fault or mention a trait of that person, they might feel hurt, but they will probably do one of two things. They will either refute the claim entirely or they will refuse to acknowledge the opinion of the accuser and go about their day. One other option is to consider the claim made and work on the deficit in character they have pointed out.

Obviously, you need to consider the source of the claim when listening to criticism. But, if you act according to the second scenario, you probably have a strong, yet changeable character. You can take criticism in context and in stride. But a person with high-functioning anxiety doesn’t behave in either of these ways. When someone points out something about them, it could be as innocuous as saying they are not looking their best.

A person suffering from high anxiety will internalize this fully. They will take this passing opinion as absolute fact. To them, the accuser may as well be an expert in the field. This kind of internalization is partly due to inherent insecurities.

But it is also because their anxiety is now exposed. It is no longer hidden, they have been laid bare and vulnerable. Which in turn, produces more anxiety. It is a non-stop spiral downward.

3. The Future Terrifies You

Live in the moment, they say. This is the life hack to being happy. Don’t worry about the past they say, you can’t change it, they say. But don’t worry about the future, because it hasn’t happened yet. What are you left with, then?

You are left with the present. This is not inherently bad advice. There is appreciating the moment. To be able to look at a sunrise and experience its beauty is a gift. To be able to laugh without worrying about tomorrow is also a gift.

But if you really think about it, you can find a gift in most moments if you look for them. But, what if the present is not comfortable? What if, instead of it being a calming and enjoyable moment, it is riddled with anxious tension? Would you want to experience this moment?

And if this moment is so horrible, then what is to stop the next moment from being just as or maybe even more unbearable? Where are you left to exist? This a real dilemma anxious people face every day. This here and now is a terrible place to be, but tomorrow may be even worse. This is how anxious people tend to think.

This is the reasoning that keeps them from thinking about the future. You could say that if there is a chance of the future being bad, then there is also a chance that it could be good. But anxious people also tend to dwell on negative possibilities, which render these statistics useless.

4. You Experience Debilitating Mental Exhaustion

You can’t brush anxiety aside. And you can’t think or wish it away, either. It is a constant gnawing presence. A person who is suffering from anxiety can’t escape their condition. They are forced to confront it daily, and for the most part, they lose.

However, you may experience small victories every day that you can celebrate. But, even these are overshadowed in an anxious person’s mind. Even the most mundane tasks are filled with a baseline level of anxiety. Then there are the tasks that are more demanding. An example of this could be social interaction.

Each task on its own is accompanied by negligible amounts of anxiety. But what happens when these small doses build up and grow? The total is a hot load of anxiety. How is your mind supposed to deal with such an onslaught? You may persevere for some time, but at a point, you will be exhausted.

You will use up all your reserves and will quickly slump into a state of fatigue. Mental fatigue doesn’t exist solely in your mind. It transfers into your body. This doesn’t mean being mentally exhausted will lead to being physically exhausted. But, the only way that you can rest their mind is to rest your body.

It is common for an anxious person to suffer from periods of intense fatigue that originates in the mind. They may be forced to rest for hours on end, in the hopes of rejuvenating a tired and battered mind. The mind, like the body, can only be pushed so far.

5. You Can’t Have a Social Life

Human beings are social creatures. You can’t exist in isolation. A person who is alone for too long is not a thriving person. There are optimal levels of social interaction each person requires. If you head back into the realm of stereotypes, there are extroverts and introverts.

Extroverts tend to socialize more because they draw energy from these interactions. People energize them. Rather, they find it exhilarating and exciting to interact. On the other end of the spectrum are introverts. These people tend to tire easily in social engagements.

Introverts don’t draw energy from people but have energy drawn from them. They require adequate alone time to recharge their batteries. These people tend to interact less than extroverts, but they still interact with people. However, there are anxious people in both these groups.

It may seem like there would be more anxiety among introverts, but it is possible for an extrovert to suffer from anxiety, too. The difference with anxious people is not whether they want to interact with people or not. It is about whether their anxiety will let them. Anxious people may want to go to a social event. They may even be prepared and excited for it.

But, then the anxiety kicks in. The mind then draws up possible situations that could intensify the anxiety. The person may even worry that their anxiety will decrease the enjoyment of the event for everyone else. If this happens, then others will not want them there.

At least this is what an anxious person thinks. So, they conclude it would be simpler if they just didn’t attend the event at all. This scenario replays with every social event.

6. You Suffer From Sleep Disruptions

A person can go longer without food than they can without sleep. Adequate sleep is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Specialists don’t always agree with what the optimal amount is, and it can vary quite a bit between individuals. But, there is one fact that remains – people need their sleep. A sleep-deprived person doesn’t function at their highest level.

They may have puffy, red-rimmed eyes from a lack of a good night’s rest, but there are other ramifications below the surface. One of these is an alteration in your mood. If a person hasn’t slept well the previous night, they will likely be quite cranky. Their mind will be foggy, and they will tend to have a shorter fuse than on any other normal day.

Then there are the health risks associated with sleep deprivation. These can range from a decrease in immune function to increased blood pressure. Modern life is often the cause of this sleep disruption. For example, you could get home from work too late, or you may not have enough hours in the day to sleep enough. Even at their worst, these causes tend to be transient.

Either the weekend rolls around, and you catch up on your sleep, or you adjust your schedule. The point is that the influence is external. However, when you have anxiety, you experience sleep disruptions because you can’t turn off your mind. A constant stream of thoughts keeps you awake.

So, when you lay down at night, you can’t close your eyes and drift off. The process tends to be far more active, sometimes resulting in a sleepless night altogether. For people with high anxiety, getting adequate rest is a constant battle.

7. It’s Always Your Fault

It is not easy to admit your mistakes. Yes, mistakes are a part of the human condition, and all people make a couple of them every day. But there is a certain kind of vulnerability you display when you must admit to your errors. To acknowledge you have made a mistake, you need to first admit to yourself that you came up short in some area. There are honest mistakes of course.

These are the kind that doesn’t carry any fault. You may have made one without any real lapse in judgment or forethought, and you can rectify them easily. The mistakes worth noting are the ones you make with consciousness. These are the ones people don’t like to admit. You can deny these mistakes in a couple of ways.

Either you can lie about them or deny their existence altogether. You may even place the blame on someone else. A person with even a small bit of moral fiber would feel bad about these mistakes, especially if they negatively impacted another person. This is a kind of guilt most people carry. Anxious people also experience this guilt, but there is another source that adds to it.

When another person makes a mistake and doesn’t admit it, or they fail to do something, an anxious person will take on the load. They will believe it is their fault. That somehow, they were the one who fell short. If you suffer from high anxiety, you may think you misunderstood your role. You may also think you caused the other person to make the mistake. Although your rationalizations may become complicated, the blame will always land on you.

8. You Constantly Compare Yourself to Others

In life, people have their own paths to walk. Individuals have their strengths, weaknesses, failures and victories. The course that one’s life takes is unique to each individual. No two people start in the exact same place, so don’t achieve the same things. With this logic in mind, you can’t possibly compare your achievements to others. This is not to say you shouldn’t evaluate yourself with others in mind, but you should do so in context.

You can have role models. Most people look up to someone and aspire to achieve like those before them. This is healthy. This is a natural motivating factor for many people. The problem comes in when you start comparing yourself to others and consistently find yourself coming up short. Life can be difficult enough without people bullying themselves.

You can’t get stuck in a routine of beating yourself up because you won’t progress or perform as well as the next person. It is not fair to measure your victories against others. You can’t speak for the effort and hard work others have put in because you can only speak for yourself. This is what context means. A person can’t evaluate themselves properly if they don’t look at their circumstances.

Einstein was one of the greatest minds of our time, and even he said that everything is relative. But anxiety doesn’t allow for this kind of context. Anxious people will constantly look at others and chastise themselves for not being as good. They will feed badly for not being as well-adjusted or as functioning as others. This is self-defeating and results in nothing positive.

9. You Overthink the Small Things

The world would be a much simpler place if people said what they meant and meant what they said. Unfortunately, this is not the way humans interact with one another. Instead, they lie, conceal the truth, and fail to admit to ourselves or others what we are feeling. There are times when you do this to avoid hurting another person’s feelings. This is a common thing in the dating world.

In fact, this way of acting has become so normalized and widespread, people have developed names for this pattern of behavior. Perhaps you are familiar with the term, “ghosting.” A person will ghost another for various reasons, but it is sometimes to avoid hurting the other person. Instead of coming right out and saying that they’re not interested, they will slow down their communication until all channels are closed.

This may sound cruel at first, but how well do you deal with rejection? Could you bear to hear that someone doesn’t like you instead of having the chance to fabricate reasons for their slow disappearance? In this world, individuals have to read between the lines. You have to interpret a person’s smallest gestures to glean their true feelings.

Perhaps you analyze every text and word. Although you may obsess a bit, there comes a time when the majority of people will move on. They will allow themselves to forget about the interaction and accept the things the person said at face value. However, this option is not open to anxious people. They are always worried they have done or said something wrong, so they can’t let it go.

10. You Obsess Over Every Mistake

People try to control their surroundings to some degree or other. It may just be a drop in a vast ocean. But in your life, your sphere, you play a vital role. And considering this, you can’t just float along with the current and accept anything life throws at you. As long as you are human and alive, you will plan, and you will think.

You will plan events and activities, and you think about your words and actions. This is how the world goes around, by sheer force of will and physics. But, no matter how much you plan and think, there will always be things that go wrong. Maybe it was out of your control or maybe it was due to an oversight on your part. This is another fact of life: humans make mistakes.

An intelligent and aware person will learn from these mistakes. They will define where they went wrong and aim to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Once a person does that, they will try to let it go. This whole process will progress even quicker if the mistake is a small one.

However, if you suffer from anxiety, you can’t let the small things go. When you have made a mistake, any mistake, you will obsess about it. You will analyze and evaluate and berate yourself repeatedly. You will be utterly disappointed in yourself for making a mistake in the first place.

11. Conversations Don’t End When People Stop Speaking

Do you remember that class when you were a kid where the teacher poured toothpaste out the tube and then asked you to put it back? Students would then proceed to shove the offending paste back into the tube but to no avail. The lesson was that the toothpaste is like words, once you have been said them, you can’t take them back.

At the time this may have seemed like a silly lesson, but its importance grew as the years progressed. The power of words is undisputable. They can forge relationships, change the course of history or even destroy the world if those words were to release the nukes. To avoid the mistake of saying the wrong thing, you probably think before you speak.

There should be a delay between the mind and mouth. You may have heard the advice to not verbalize every single thought, but to weigh your words. Think about what you are trying to say. Who will it affect? Does it really exemplify what you are thinking, or could you phrase it differently to produce a better understanding? This is what an adult does naturally. While there are those who have no filter, hopefully, they are few and far between.

Although you can think about what you say before saying it, you can’t change what you have said. A person can try to explain their point further, but they can’t take their words back. It is impossible. But this kind of logic doesn’t matter to an anxious person. If you are anxious, you will be consumed with what you said because you believe you must have said something wrong.

12. You Find it Hard to Interact in Person

The technological age has redefined how humans communicate. When is the last time you called your friend on the phone? If you are an avid participant in the digital revolution, chances are you can’t remember that last phone call. People text each other now. These are not letters, and they are not long.

They are a few lines they use to convey almost everything. Some people even try to convey emotion with these lines. This has been made possible by those little things called emojis. If a person sends a wink after an ambiguous statement, then you know they are joking. If the line ends with a single full stop or even no full stop at all, there could be something wrong.

This is the language of the new millennium. There are some who may chastise the movement. They may say that it has diminished the ability to communicate. But, there are people, people with anxiety who find it a welcome relief. They are given the opportunity to think carefully about what they want to say.

If you suffer from high anxiety, texting allows you to construct the perfect message before sending it. The problem comes in when you have to speak to people face to face. Anxious people feel stripped of their digital camouflage and may find it difficult to voice their thoughts.

13. You Find it Hard to Concentrate

Anxiety involves the prefrontal cortex and amygdala in your brain– a key region involved in memory and learning. When you are anxious, your adrenaline levels rise, and the sympathetic nervous system takes over. This is not a state conducive to concentration. Even if you manage to take in what has been said, it tends to bounce around in your brain and not be adequately processed or stored in your long-term memory.

Students may experience high levels of anxiety when studying for exams. A study of undergraduates in the UK found that 20% of students who did not experience anxiety when starting their studies began to experience a significant level of anxiety by their second year. The minds of anxious students are often full of racing thoughts, and they have great difficulty in trying to focus on information and remember it.

Anxiety can wreak havoc in a work environment where it’s necessary to concentrate, take in information and decide on what to do. It not only affects your productivity but the way you relate to colleagues and clients. If you fear a project is too large or complicated, you may procrastinate and put off starting it. Excessive worry can also make you jump from one task to the other and be unsuccessful in completing any of them. It can also affect your ability to listen and take on board what others are saying.

When anxiety is severe, it will affect your concentration in every area of your life. It impairs your short-term learning and concentration areas of the brain. It’s important to realize that you don’t have to put so much pressure on yourself to remember everything because when the pressure is lifted, the stress response subsides. More strength to focus and to memorize creates the opposite effect of what you want to happen.

14. Your digestion suffers

The changes that occur in your digestive system don’t start in your stomach but your brain. When your body is in “fight or flight” response mode, it slows down processes that are less important at the time, such as digestion. Usually, this response is supposed to be temporary, but the problem occurs when anxiety is a long-term, chronic condition. It can cause symptoms such as constipation, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, bloating and acid reflux.

Long-term anxiety can also cause inflammation and even change the way your stomach digests nutrients. When your sympathetic nervous system is activated, muscle spasms in your stomach occur and can result in various digestive problems. Increased anxiety can also affect acid levels in the stomach which impairs the ability of the stomach to digest food properly. When anxiety continues over an extended period, the bacteria in the gut can become unbalanced, also preventing proper digestion.

In many cases, digestive issues cause further anxiety. For instance, bloating and gas can lead to chest pains, and if you suffer from anxiety attacks, they may be triggered by chest pain. Indigestion causes pain and discomfort that can lead to more anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle, and if anxiety is causing poor digestion, there’s a good chance that this will have long-term adverse effects on your health.

Keeping track of your digestive problems can help you to determine whether anxiety is causing them. Write down what you’re eating, how you’re feeling emotionally and what you’re experiencing physically several times a day. For example, if you’re experiencing symptoms on the days when you have important meetings, they could be caused by anxiety. Eating healthy foods and exercising can improve your digestion, but you will need to find ways to deal with your underlying anxiety.

15. You have aches, repetitive habits, and tics

Certain habits may indicate an underlying level of anxiety. These habits such as hair twisting or pulling, scratching, fingernail biting, knuckle cracking and lip chewing may be clues that you are not dealing with your anxiety as well as you thought you were. You continuously perform these repetitive actions to release your nervous energy – even if you seem quite calm in other ways.

Shoulder and neck pain, as well as a constant knot in the stomach, are common signs of high-functioning anxiety. Your anxiety ‘leaks out’ in the form of physical pain. When you’re experiencing a high level of anxiety, your body is like a car with the engine racing, but it’s not in gear and moving forward. Your body releases adrenaline and your blood vessels constrict which causes tension, and this constant tension has negative side effects.

Anxious people will often fidget or act restlessly. They cannot sit; still, they pace the floor, wring their hands, adjust their clothing, play with their jewelry, or mindlessly tap their fingers on a table. They may play incessantly with objects on their desks, swing their legs or keep tapping their feet up and down on the floor. Some people grind their teeth while they sleep and wake up with a sore jaw.

Many people suffer from these kinds of symptoms, but they have commonly brushed aside and may not even be recognized as being caused by anxiety. If you realize that anxiety causes many of your symptoms, you can get a proper diagnosis and treatment. Early treatment may prevent severe mental and physical complications that may occur when anxiety is experienced over an extended period.

16. It may affect your heart health

Researchers today are trying to establish whether there is a link between anxiety and poor heart health. They think that the hormones released by your body when you are anxious might hold a clue. When you are in a stressful situation, adrenaline and cortisol are released by the adrenal glands, situated just above your kidneys. These hormones are both critical for survival in life-threatening situations, but when they are being released too often due to perceived threats, they have a dark side.

If these hormones are continually being produced due to ongoing anxiety, hormonal dis-regulation can occur. This can lead to increased inflammation and buildup of plaque in arteries. The presence of too much cortisol in the system can lead to weight gain which in turn can trigger diabetes, both conditions being risk factors for heart disease.

A panic attack and a heart attack share similar symptoms. You may end up in the emergency room fearing you have a heart attack. Your blood may be tested for specific heart muscle enzymes to establish if you have a heart attack. If none are found, your symptoms were most likely caused by a panic attack.

One of the most dangerous side effects of the constant release of stress hormones is what this does to the major organs of the body. Adrenaline and cortisol have been tied to abnormal heart rhythms and even to conditions related to the blood vessels and structure of the heart. If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, your body reacts in ways that can put a strain on your heart. If you already have heart disease, this can raise the risk of having a heart attack.

17. You see the world differently

In a study that took place at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, it was found that anxious people were unable to discriminate between an experienced initially, threatening stimulus and a newer, similar one that was safe. Researchers found that emotional experiences induced changes in sensory representations in the brains of patients with anxiety. These plastic changes in the patients’ brain circuits affected the way they responded to new safe stimuli. They over-generalized emotional experiences due to this fundamental difference in their brains.

People are not usually born with anxiety. They form it after a traumatic experience that leaves them with unresolved fears and worries. They often develop triggers that cause these events to resurface. This is why they may proceed very cautiously and overreact in circumstances that do not bother others at all. They may jump when a door slams or keep looking over a shoulder when walking down the street.

For instance, you get on the train, and the person next to you looks suspicious and is wearing a hoodie. He reaches into his pocket, and you expect him to pull out a knife when he is only reaching for his cell phone. You probably can’t even see the damage yourself, and it may be somewhat like an invisible wound that you could bump and tear open at any time.

Your anxiety creates a fundamental difference in the way you perceive things. When you are focused on discerning threats, negative information dominates your consciousness. Developing self-awareness of the way your anxiety may be driving your perception of the world and a bias for threat may be the first step towards preventing it from instilling fear and distorting reality.

18. You can’t just ‘stop it’

You can’t just tell yourself to stop being anxious and expect it to disappear. However, you can learn to cope with anxiety and lessen it. You need to recognize it is an issue because, if it left untreated, the many symptoms could start affecting your mental, emotional and physical well-being. Not only that but if you try to cope with the symptoms yourself, it can also lead to mal-adaptive behavior such as drinking too much, to deal with the painful feelings inside.

Trying to deaden anxiety in unhealthy ways usually leads to greater feelings of anxiety and contributes to the development of depression, sleep disorders and more. Fortunately, it is treatable, and knowledge is power. If you recognized yourself in these 18 consequences of high-functioning anxiety, you could do something about it. Treating it does require time and effort. Various means and modalities may be used to address it because it is likely to have developed over time.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is regarded as one of the best therapeutic approaches for people suffering from anxiety. They are taught to recognize irrational thought patterns and behaviors and learn how to replace them with healthy ones. Psychotherapists may also help to creatively implement real-life actions that support their well-being and help to reduce behavior that contributes to anxiety.

Genetic, social, lifestyle and biological factors were all probably involved in its presence in your life, and this is why you will probably need some support in finding different ways of living with it and treating it. You may also need medication in conjunction with therapy. Your anxiety does not mean that you are ‘broken.’ However, learning to acknowledge it means that you can find ways of coping with it and minimizing its adverse effect on your life.

Did you recognize yourself in these 18 consequences of high-functioning anxiety? Knowledge is power, so now that you know, you can do some self-help. But if you find it hard to stop any of these negative actions, consider seeking some professional help. You don’t have to suffer in silence with high anxiety.

Advertisement