High-Functioning Anxiety at Work

Many of us are struggling to maintain our mental well-being during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. We maybe experiencing difficult feelings and emotions, it could be about the government restrictions, losing loved ones to the virus, or even yourself getting sick.

But we all have monthly payments such as rent or mortgage and utility bills to pay, so many of us continue to work, if we can. But our worries will continue and this can lead into an increase of anxiety at work.

High-functioning anxiety is commonly known at work. If refers to workers who live with anxiety but identify as functioning reasonably well in different aspects of their life. For instance, behind every perfect presentation and flawless project could be a huge mountain of worries.

A member of staff, who is impeccably dressed, not a hair out of place and may arrive in the office before anyone. They will look immaculate and ready for the day ahead.

They may look driven, committed, ready to complete any task and never miss a deadline. Their diary is full, but always willing to help others when asked. Nobody would ever believe something was wrong, because they always portrayed themselves as being fine.

What those co-workers might not know is that beneath the surface of that seemingly perfect exterior and work ethic, that person maybe fighting a constant case of anxiety. Their nervous energy could be a fear of failure, fear of not being good enough and even about losing their job. It drives them to try and be the best in every aspect of their working life.

If these characteristics sound familiar to someone at work, or even yourself, let’s look at what you might experience or what you may observe if you have high functioning anxiety.

Signs You’re an Overachiever/Perfectionist

Characteristics of people with high functioning anxiety that are often thought of as positive include:

  • Has an outgoing personality. Is happy happy, a joke teller and smiles and laughs frequently.
  • Punctual. Being able to complete a required task or fulfil an obligation before or at a previously designated time.
  • Proactive. Will plan ahead for all possibilities. As Benjamin Franklin said “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail”.
  • Organised. Making lists or keeping calendars. Planning things carefully and keeping things tidy in all aspects of their work.
  • High achieving. Being dynamic, ambitious and being as successful as you can.
  • Detail-oriented. Being able to pay close attention and notice minor details. Giving a task undivided attention and catch mistakes or errors.
  • Active and helpful. For instances, always volunteers for the coffee run.
  • Appears outwardly calm and collected.
  • Passionate, pursue it daily with a mixture of enthusiasm and discipline.
  • Loyal. Sacrificing time and interest to put more energy into work.

Signs of Negative Characteristics

Characteristics of people with high functioning anxiety that are often thought of as negatives include:

  • A people pleaser. Being afraid of driving people away, fear of being a bad friend, spouse, and employee and fear of letting others down.
  • Talking a lot, including nervous ‘chatter’.
  • Nervous habits, such as playing with hair, cracking knuckles and biting lip.
  • The need to do repetitive things, such as counting stairs or rocking back and forth.
  • Overthinking. Thinking too much about your problems, mistakes or shortcomings
  • Lost time, like arriving too early for appointments)
  • The need for reassurance, making sure an employer is happy with their work.
  • Procrastination. Delaying an important task, usually by focusing on less urgent, more enjoyable and easier activities.
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Inability to say ‘No’. Always having an overloaded schedule, being constantly busy
  • Insomnia. Difficulty falling asleep or waking early and being unable to fall back asleep.
  • Being found to be ‘difficult to read’, such as unemotional or cold.
  • A limited social life. Turning down invitations to afterwork activities.
  • The inability to ‘enjoy the moment’ and being unable to relax.
  • The tendency to compare yourself to co-workers. A feeling of falling short of expectations.
  • Mental and physical fatigue

If you’re concerned about yourself or a colleague and have decided to say something. Your options could be:

  • See what support may be available from your employer.
  • Confide in a colleague you can trust.
  • If you see someone in distress or behaving out of character, take them aside discreetly and ask if they’re OK or if you can help.
  • Seek professional help, from a doctor or other professional if things are particularly tough.

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