According to the National Institute of Mental Health, around 19% of adults in the United States have an anxiety disorder. With a rate this high, it is important to understand how anxiety presents in different ways, in different people.

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder 

Anxiety can actually be useful in some ways and is experienced to a certain degree by everyone at times. Generalized Anxiety Disorder, commonly referred to as GAD, is a diagnosable generalized form of anxiety.

There are four main features of anxiety to be aware of when recognizing whether or not what’s going on may be a diagnosable disorder.

  • Autonomy: when the anxiety begins to happen on its own without a trigger or a minimal environmental trigger
  • Intensity: when the anxiety exceeds an individual’s capacity to bear discomfort and is disproportionate to the situation 
  • Duration: when the anxiety becomes persistent, rather than transient 
  • Behavior: when the anxiety impairs an individual’s coping and results in avoidance and or withdrawal 

What is “High Functioning Anxiety”? 

To start, high functioning anxiety is not an actual diagnosis. There is no set-in-stone overview of what high functioning anxiety entails. However, the symptoms can be just as detrimental as those of diagnosable forms of anxiety.

The main distinction between high functioning anxiety and GAD is the lack of physical symptoms causing an influence on behavior. This is seen as a blessing and a curse for those experiencing high functioning anxiety because the physical symptoms they may have are not noticeable to those around them or limiting their ability to engage in an activity. 

Woman experiencing anxiety while sitting on the floor

by Joice Kelly

Signs to Watch Out For 

The name can be misleading, with the inherent positive spin on anxiety. High functioning anxiety is not an easy condition to deal with. According to Very Well Mind, these are some of the biggest signs to watch out for: 

  • Fear of driving others away, letting them down 
  • Constant talking, or nervous “chatter”
  • Overthinking 
  • Lost time 
  • Need for constant reassurance 
  • Tendency to dwell on the negative (cognitive distortions) or past mistakes 
  • Inability to say “no”
  • Insomnia 
  • Racing mind 
  • Limited social life
  • Inability to relax or enjoy a pleasant activity
  • Intimidation of the future 
  • Mental and physical fatigue 

Pros and Cons? 

Though the list above may make you think differently, there are actually both negative and positive effects that can come from experiencing high functioning anxiety. Some highly functioning anxiety people will describe themselves as driven, active, successful, organized, and passionate. However, inevitably there can also be major repercussions. Those dealing with high functioning anxiety will often be so caught up with doing everything “right” or pleasing everyone that their own well-being is an afterthought. 

High functioning anxiety comes with many different feelings, leading to failure and worry. Like the symptoms listed under GAD in the DSM, people with high functioning anxiety will often fear anxiety past their point of bearable comfort, yet continue to achieve. This is a dangerous combination. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

National Suicide Prevention Life



Peer Support Specialist Certification Training Available!

Painted Brain’s Medi-Cal Peer Support Specialist Certification Training program

Sign Up for Painted Brain’s Medi-Cal Peer Support Specialist Certification Training program


Since 2009, Painted Brain has been advocating for peer-driven services using the recovery model, and in September 2020 Senate Bill 803 was finally passed.

SB 803 recognizes the value of peer support.

Now, peer support services are Medi-Cal billable!

Painted Brain applied to become an approved training vendor for Medi-Cal Peer Support Specialist Certification in the state of California, and we’re pleased to announce that we are now an approved vendor!

For more information on how to get training, please sign up for our waitlist here.