You may have suspected that someone has high functioning anxiety. This article will give you the seven signs that your intuition was right about them. Hiding anxious symptoms is a skill that the high-functioning yet anxious person has mastered unless you know what to look for.

7 Signs of High Functioning Anxiety

anxiety levels

1. Highly detail-oriented

Someone who has high functioning anxiety is usually hyper-focused on the details, planning, organizing, strategizing and working to make things as perfect as possible. This is because a person with anxiety often feels out of control. The parts of life that they can control give them a small sense of stability and control over their environment.

2. Think ahead like a chess player

Planning several moves ahead is a key technique of the best chess players. Plus, it is a skill for those with high functioning anxiety. Planning is one way to try to manage symptoms of anxiety because the more that they can control, the fewer scary unknowns there are.

3. Risk avoidance behavior

Anything perceived as ‘thrilling’ by the average person is something that someone who has high functioning anxiety would avoid. Risky situations like scary movies or extreme rollercoaster rides are not thrilling to those with anxiety. If you ask an anxious person to meet you after dark, they are likely to suggest a daytime meeting. If you suggest somewhere crowded, they will suggest somewhere with fewer people.

4. Seem a little fidgety

People with high-functioning anxiety often hide their nervous habits in public. But they also spend hours biting nails, picking, or rhythmically twitching or moving to deal with the constant anxiety. Nervous habits are a key trait of someone with anxiety. Indeed you may not know that they have these at all.

5. Need to control their environment

In times of stress, a highly functioning anxious person seeks to control as many things that are within their control as possible since they cannot control the uncontrollable. A research study found “one possible explanation as to why the need to control the environment is such a critical component of human behavior. The feeling of control enables organisms to deal with stress.”

6. Outbursts are rare but surprisingly intense

When someone has high functioning anxiety, they may suppress how they really feel or minimize the intensity of their feelings. Therefore, they seem calm most of the time. However, an anxious person is likely to explode at you when they continue to be frustrated or additional stressors like noise are introduced into an already stressful situation.


7. Thoughts seem preoccupied

When you’re telling them about something that is on your mind, their mind seems to have wandered. It might appear as if they only half-listen to others. Most likely they are worried about what to say in response, what you think of them, or if you bumped into them unexpectedly, worrying about the next unpredictable encounter. For the highly-functioning anxious person, thoughts are focused on the future or the past, not the here and now.

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago found that people with anxiety disorders had a fear of the unknown. Researchers say that “Uncertain threat is unpredictable in its timing, intensity, frequency or duration and elicits a generalized feeling of apprehension and hyper-vigilance.” Research explains that fear of the unknown makes people preoccupied about their fears.