Transitioning to a new country often comes with a whirlwind of emotions. As a newcomer in Singapore, adapting to the change in culture and way of life may leave you grappling with tangible shifts in lifestyle and a spectrum of emotions that can sometimes be overwhelming.
High-functioning anxiety, a lesser-known facet of this condition, often goes unnoticed, lurking beneath a veneer of apparent normalcy. For those undergoing it, and even for observant friends or family, pinpointing its presence can be elusive. But what exactly is high-functioning anxiety?
What is high-functioning anxiety?
While high-functioning anxiety isn’t officially classified as a clinical disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), its effects are very real and can deeply impact those who experience it.
High-functioning anxiety describes individuals who experience symptoms of anxiety but continue to operate effectively in different facets of their lives. On the surface, they might excel in their careers, engage actively in community or volunteer activities, and maintain robust personal relationships. This sense of command and composure they emanate leads many to believe they’ve got everything under control. But internally, they grapple with continuous worry and sensations of always being on edge.
What does high-functioning anxiety look like?
At work, individuals with high-functioning anxiety often project an image of perfection. You might see them as:
- Overthinking perfectionists
Beyond the confines of work, the inner turmoil continues. Here are some signs that someone might be dealing with high-functioning anxiety:
- People pleaser.
- Persistent self-doubt despite their achievements.
- An inability to relax and true downtime is a rarity.
- Overextend themselves and always be ready to help.
- Jam-packed social schedules.
Apart from this, an individual has high-functioning anxiety may also display symptoms closely aligned with those of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), some of which include:
- Excessive anxiety or worry that often spans most days for at least six months.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Easily fatigued.
- Muscle tension.
- Sleep problems.
What happens if I have high-functioning anxiety?
Recognising high-functioning anxiety is only the first step. If left unaddressed, high-functioning anxiety can be a gateway to several diagnosable anxiety and mood disorders, including the following:
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD): This condition is characterised by persistent, excessive anxiety and worry spanning over time. Unlike the ‘high-functioning‘ aspect, GAD can be debilitating as it often interferes with an individual’s daily activities and ability to complete tasks.
- Social Anxiety Disorder: Individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder fear criticism, judgement, or scrutiny from others. This pervasive dread can lead them to evade social scenarios, crippling their social lives and, in extreme cases, resulting in social isolation.
- Major Depressive Disorder: Beyond anxiety, persistent feelings of depression, despondency, or a prevailing sense of worthlessness can take root. This can result in a lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities, impacting every aspect of an individual’s life.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Characterised by chronic, uncontrollable recurring thoughts or behaviours, OCD can manifest in various ways. These thoughts or actions often feel excessive, intrusive, or irrational, yet the individual feels compelled to act on them, leading to cycles of repetition that can disrupt daily life.
If you think you may be suffering from some kind of anxiety please seek support from a mental health doctor in Singapore
How to treat high-functioning anxiety?
There are various approaches and coping mechanisms available to those suffering from high-functioning. What works best can vary from individual to individual, but here are some treatment methods to consider:
- Meditation and Mindfulness: Mindfulness helps you remain anchored in the present, offering clarity and acceptance of emotions.
- Stress Management Techniques: These techniques include maintaining a regular exercise routine, ensuring a good night’s sleep, and focusing on a balanced, nutritious diet. To help individuals requiring assistance in these areas, Osler Health offers multiple lifestyle medicine programmes so you can access the tools, knowledge and professional guidance needed to adopt these practices.
- Professional Therapy: High-functioning anxiety can be addressed in the same manner as other anxiety disorders. Engaging in sessions with a therapist or mental health doctor, such as our medical professionals at Osler Health, provides an environment to address the root causes of your anxiety. Treatments like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) have proven successful in understanding and modifying behaviours.
Get guided support for anxiety at Osler Health
Adapting to change while navigating the turbulent waters of high-functioning anxiety alone can be challenging. At Osler Health, we are always ready to assist you every step of the way. We have supported many people with mental wellness and can offer a safe space to talk, conduct any appropriate tests and agree a treatment plan together.
Our mental health doctors have years of practice in international medical settings and our personalised approach means we can support you in your mental health challenges whether they be anxiety, depression and beyond. Don’t forget we also support physical health through our women’s health screenings and men’s wellness checkups in Singapore .
Recognising the signs and addressing your condition early can make all the difference. Take the first step towards prioritising your mental wellness: schedule an appointment with our clinic today.