High Functioning Anxiety- I don’t want to disappoint you.

Many people have high functioning anxiety.  Because they are “high functioning”, most other people don’t realize that anxiety is present.  Traits that others see as positives might sometimes be expressions of anxiety.  Even counselors have missed my anxiety, because I mask very, very well.  More or less, I’m able to fake most of my life, looking and acting like I’m ok when I’m absolutely not.  By the time it begins to actually look to others like I’m struggling, I’m significantly past not ok anymore levels.  When someone else can see that I’m not doing well, that’s usually when I need to get home, change into the softest set of pajamas I have, get under my weighted blanket and sleep.  There are some classic signs of high functioning anxiety.  Knowing them and being able to identify them is helpful, because a person with this type of anxiety is probably not going to tell you they’re not ok.  They’re going to have a hard time saying how they feel and advocating, and you can show them love by recognizing what they are too stressed inside to tell you.  I am always afraid of disappointing people, of upsetting them, of causing problems, of being an “issue”.  This is one of fifteen typical characteristics of high functioning anxiety.  The contentment of those around us, though not truly our responsibility, is ours in our perception.  Consequently, when someone near us is not satisfied, we internalize this.  It’s our fault, our mistake, our poor judgment.  It is easy to manipulate a person with high functioning anxiety, because we will believe everything that went wrong is because we messed up and we’ll apologize and try to fix something that we didn’t even have anything to do with.  We will try to prevent any conflict, without even realizing we’re doing it and we often believe people are upset with us all the time.  For example, I’ve ordered something I didn’t even want from a fast food restaurant because I thought the worker behind the counter was annoyed with me and I didn’t want to make it worse.  A huge issue in my marriage is my tendency to say I’m sorry–for everything.  My husband can do nothing but walk into the living room and sigh and my gut instinct is to apologize for whatever I’m doing at that moment, because obviously I caused that sigh.  Then, I rush to apologize again, knowing that the initial sorry hurt him.  At times, I even feel that not being at a family event is better than me attending, because at least when I’m not there, I can’t mess anything up.  My internal monologue of shame just starts playing and I worry that me being worried is just another way that I’m somehow making something about me.  In a matter of minutes, my brain goes to amazingly dark places of self-doubt, but I’ll probably look fine in the moment and I’ll probably tell you I am too, worried that me being honest would be socially inappropriate and make you uncomfortable.  I guess what I’m trying to write in a roundabout way because I’m nervous to even be writing this is that if you know someone who can’t seem to make up their mind and always defers to your preferences and then apologizes when they don’t have fun, they’re probably not ok if they don’t look ok to you.  Given that they’ll likely pretend they’re fine if you ask and feel more nervous that they drew attention somehow to themselves, be patient with them and tell them you love them.  I don’t know a single person with high functioning anxiety who feels lovable but they all try to be loved, sometimes in emotionally unhealthy ways, often unaware of their tendencies, including myself.


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