It might not be an official diagnosis, but High Functioning Anxiety impacts all areas of your life.

Whether it's simply a subconscious inkling or an overtly presented issue, High Functioning Anxiety (HFA) is a term used to identify individuals who live/cope with anxiety whilst functioning fairly well in other parts of their life.

Although many people who do suffer with bouts of anxiety or panic disorders can acknowledge how it inhibits everyday activities, HFA is more of an aloof relative, not impairing those who have it from going about their daily routine, but consistently present, even if one may be unaware of its recognisable traits.

A 'Type A' Personality

With HFA there are both positive and negative aspects to it. A Type A personality is one which describes someone who strives to excel at everything they do, professionally or socially. A term which could be implemented here is 'overachiever', depending on how somebody views their own symptoms.

A few symptoms which are often recognised as 'positive' include the person being outgoing, organised, detail-oriented, proactive, active, observant, passionate, and they can also appear to be more collected than reality lets on. These signs are usually commended, as someone is able to consistently deliver and be alert in different aspects of their life, but often times long term side-effects can include burn-out, or exhaustion.


Although these traits are often praised, anxiety is the key factor driving this type of behaviour, or personality. Thus, it must come out one way or another, maybe in subtle ways, or at once.

Photo: Sally Deng
Photo: Sally Deng

People with HFA tend to try and please people due to their own insecurity or fear of driving people away, often saying more of what people want to hear. Additionally, due to the accumulated amount of stress, there is a nervousness which builds up, which can result in habits forming such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), overthinking, a constant need for reassurance, insomnia, and inevitably leading to mental and physical fatigue.

The Dark Side of Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a characteristic of high-achieving individuals who are subsequently living with HFA. However, living with a 'perfectionist' mindset can prove extremely detrimental to one's mental well being, as it is not realistically possible to maintain this ideal constantly.

Many times people who are battling with the pros and cons of HFA live in denial, waiting to assess their internal emotions later on, delaying dealing with them or compartmentalising them in your mind rather than confronting them. The stigma around it does exist, but seeking help for it after recognising the symptoms will only help those with it handle it better, and perhaps take breaks and time for themselves.

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Coping with HFA

The first step is accepting the symptoms, which only make the ordeal more manageable. Whether it be by repeating affirmations daily, exercising, reaching out for help, reconnecting with your body and confronting that which you may fear. When we need support, it is completely understandable to ask for help, be it in whatever way someone is comfortable with.

High Functioning Anxiety may not be considered as 'serious' as various disorders but it is very real, and living with it comes with many challenges, but inevitably, it can be handled with time and investment.

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