high-functioning anxiety symptoms

High-Functioning Anxiety Symptoms (Learning to Feel Safe)

High-functioning anxiety symptoms are something that everybody has experienced at some point in his or her life. So, don’t beat yourself up for having anxiety at times throughout your life. It is normal.

The difficulty with high-functioning anxiety symptoms arises when those symptoms match the criteria for an F41 diagnosis, which is Generalized Anxiety Disorder. When the symptoms become more than just “normal,” a person will struggle significantly to feel safe, typically on a daily basis. 

For most people, high-functioning anxiety symptoms become such a norm, that they don’t realize that those symptoms are enough to have an F41 diagnosis, where in lies the problem. When the severity of those symptoms isn’t acknowledged for what it truly is, then the effects on the mind and body are also not acknowledged.

High-Functioning Anxiety Symptoms

Anxiety can cause a host of problems, both mentally and physically. It’s common knowledge that anxiety can cause high blood pressure, headaches, stomach issues, and many other physical ailments.

Emotionally, your mind is rarely, if ever, able to rest or feel safe. Anxiety also prevents you from being emotionally balanced, which is needed for physical and emotional health.

Many people are aware that they have anxiety symptoms, and/or a F41 diagnosis. However, many people become so used to being in a constant state of anxiety that they don’t recognize their behaviors or thoughts as anxiety.

If you don’t understand that your anxiety symptoms are not how your mind and body were meant to function, then you can’t make changes to get better. So, let’s take a look at what the criteria is for Generalized Anxiety Disorder and what that looks like in reality.

Criteria for an F41 Diagnosis ICD-10-CM:

  1.  Excessive anxiety and worry (apprehensive expectation), occurring on more days than not for at least six months, about a number of events or activities (such as work or school performance)
  2. The person finds it difficult to control the worry.
  3. The anxiety and worry are associated with three (or more) of the following six symptoms( with at least some symptoms present for more days than not for the past six months.
  4. Restlessness or keyed up or on edge
  5. Being easily fatigued
  6. Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
  7. Irritability
  8. Muscle tension
  9. Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless, unsatisfying sleep
  10. The focus of the anxiety and worry is not confined to the features of an Axis 1 Disorder
  11. The anxiety, worry, or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning
  12. The disturbance is not caused by the direct physiological effects of a substance or a general medical condition and does not occur exclusively during a mood disorder, a psychotic episode, or a pervasive developmental disorder

Now, that’s a whole lot of information. We need to look at how these criterions actually show up in real life. You may have read these and think that they don’t really apply to you. Trust me when I say that several years ago, I would’ve thought the same thing.

If somebody had told me that I had anxiety, I would’ve laughed and quickly dismissed that thought. Even while I was in graduate school learning about mental health disorders, I still didn’t recognize myself as having anxiety. I had to take a deeper look at myself and step out of self-judgment.

Over-thinking and Obsessing Over Texts is Anxiety

Excessive anxiety and worry seem to be more and more common as our world seems to get a little crazier and chaotic. Text messages seem to be one of the biggest “things” that I see people having anxiety over today. I’ve also been guilty of that at times as well.

You send a text and feel good about it. You don’t get a response. Hello anxiety! Questions and obsessive thoughts start flooding your mind.

It’s hard to concentrate on anything until you get a response. Checking your phone over and over to see if you’ve gotten a response just increases your anxiety.

So, what if you get a response and it’s not the response you wanted or thought you would get? Cue the anxiety all over again.

You begin obsessing over exactly how to respond back or whether or not to respond at all. Throughout your day and probably days later, you go back to your texts to re-read them over and over to re-live the first time you read or sent a text.

You probably don’t recognize that as anxiety because getting and receiving texts is such a normal part of our lives now. However, be honest with yourself about how some text messages really do provoke anxiety and alter what you are doing or how you are feeling.

Some of that is normal, but if you are still re-reading, anaylzing, contemplating or processing texts several days later, do yourself a favor. Name that behavior as high-functioning anxiety. The reason you need to do that is so that you can try to do something about the anxiety.

Anxiety Over Decisions

That leads us into the struggle of controlling the worry. I could continue with the texting example, but I want to give you as many examples of high-functioning anxiety symptoms as possible.

I am in the process of hiring one, possibly two new psychotherapists at my office. Easily, I could step into anxiety throughout that process. My mind could get stuck on so many questions as to whether or not I am making a good decision for my practice. That would be normal to some degree.

However, if I was unable to control my hiring worries, then I’d have a problem. Fortunately for me, I have created processes to assess my energy to determine if I’m making a good decision based on my energy and my soul. Sometime down the road, I will share that process with you.

Think about times when you’ve had a big decision to make that could really change your life. Were you still able to function normally? Did thoughts continually pop up when you were in the midst of something else? Was it difficult to enjoy day-to-day life because you were concerned you were going to make a bad decision?

If so, then you were experiencing anxiety symptoms and if it lasted for at least six months, then you were probably leaning towards a Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I’ll continue to remind you that the reason for acknowledging your symptoms as anxiety is so that you can get help and create a more peaceful life.

Other Causes of Anxiety

Now, I don’t really need to explain the high-functioning anxiety symptoms that are associated with anxiety or worry. Those are self-explanatory. Just be honest with yourself as to whether or not you relate to the six symptoms listed in the F41 Diagnosis Criteria.

As for the focus of the anxiety and worry not being confined to the features of an Axis 1 Disorder, click here to learn what that means. I’m not going to waste your time on that but read up on it for yourself if you’re interested.

So, here we are at what I think is one the most telling of the Generalized Anxiety Criterion; significant distress or impairment in life. High-functioning anxiety symptoms often impact your life, but you may not be aware of that.

When You Don’t Feel Safe

It’s easy to get used to high-functioning anxiety symptoms and believe that you are emotionally balanced. When that happens, you don’t even realize that for the most part, you never feel safe emotionally and often physically as well.

Not feeling safe, whether you recognize it or not, is a really hard way to live. Let’s go back to the text example. If you are constantly re-reading, analyzing, or processing texts several days later, you do not feel safe emotionally.

It is an innate human need to feel safe, both physically and emotionally. When you don’t feel safe it is impossible to function in a healthy way. That’s where the day-to-day impact of high-functioning anxiety symptoms come into play.

You aren’t emotionally balance if you don’t feel safe. That bleeds over into every aspect of your life. It impacts your social life because it makes relationships difficult when you don’t feel safe. That means that you will also struggle to remain emotionally balanced while at work also.

I don’t really need to go into detail about the physiological effects of anxiety. Those are common knowledge. Again, my purpose is for you to be able to take a look at yourself and honestly assess whether or not you are emotionally balanced and feel safe in your day-to-day life.

Listening to Yourself

The key to doing that is listening to yourself. What’s the chatter in your mind telling you? Are you struggling to turn off the negative self-talk? Does it seem like the chatter never shuts up?

You would probably benefit in learning where your negative self-talk comes from that keeps you from feeling emotionally balanced. So, check out my post The Creation of Negative Self-Talk.

Obviously, anxiety symptoms can be related to substances, medical conditions, or other mental health issues. I’m not ignoring that, but it’s not the point of this post.

I’ll write a post in a few weeks about how to manage anxiety symptoms, but for now I just want you to start listening to yourself. Be aware of what your mind is chattering about. Acknowledge whether or not you truly feel safe and emotionally balance.

Be Honest About Your Anxiety

If you refuse to take an honest look at yourself, then just know that you are choosing to shorten your life. As I mentioned multiple times, anxiety causes physical issues and left untreated, those physical issues can kill you.

Not only that, but the life you do have will not be one that you can honestly say you enjoy. You might experience moments of peace or joy, but you will not have overall peace or joy throughout your life.

If you are listening to yourself and realize that maybe you have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I highly recommend you find a licensed therapist to help guide you through healing your anxiety. If you don’t know how to find a good therapist, I’ve got you covered. Read my post 5 Steps for Finding a Good Therapist.

Is it Anxiety or ADHD

There’s also something that you need to be aware of when looking at anxiety symptoms or an F41 diagnosis. Those are often misdiagnosed as ADHD. Yes, there are a lot of similarities, but they are very different.

For some reason, people tend to handle a diagnosis of ADHD better than a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I suppose that’s because it’s easier to say, “Oh my brain just doesn’t work right because I have ADHD.”

It seems to take the ownness off you when instead, you should be owning your anxiety in order to heal it. Not only that, but ADHD for some reason seems to be a more acceptable diagnosis in society’s eyes.

I almost fell prey to a belief that I had ADHD several years ago. I even went so far as to go to a doctor to try to get diagnosed with ADHD. Looking back, I had a lot of anxiety but there was also another reason that I thought I had ADHD.

My struggle to study of focus or study in graduate school was immense. However, I learned that my struggle was due to my being in constant pain from lingering effects of a car wreck.

Focusing was impossible when I was in constant pain. I went to acupuncture for pain management and those “ADHD symptoms” went away.

The reason I am explaining this is that I can still remember what that doctor said when I went to get an ADHD diagnosis. He asked me if I had trouble studying or focusing when I was in school as a child or a teen. Nope, I did not.

Next, he explained that if I didn’t have trouble with that as a child then I wouldn’t just all of a sudden develop that trouble as an adult. That made so much sense to me and I often say the same thing to my patients.

Keep that in mind if you’ve had an ADHD diagnosis or think you might. The truth is probably that you have anxiety. So, start listening to yourself. Notice your behaviors. Be honest with yourself about whether or not you are emotionally balanced, then get the help you need.

Anxiety does not have to rule your life. You can take your life back and create the peace and joy that you have always deserved!

If you found this post helpful or you have any questions about it, please comment and I will get back to you. It’s okay to have anxiety, but it’s not ok to know it and do nothing about it. You are only hurting yourself and you deserve to treat yourself much better than that.


This site is only intended for people who are truly willing to look at themselves with an open mind and have the ability to truly be vulnerable with themselves and others. Please understand that this site is in NO WAY THERAPEUTIC ADVICE. However, this site can be very beneficial in learning the causes of your Not Good Enough Stuff. This site is not intended to provide or replace medical or psychiatric treatment. Mary Beth HIGHLY RECOMMENDS finding a licensed therapist to help you process the information from this site and all that you learn about yourself. Visit Psychology Today to find a licensed therapist in your area

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