Seeking support for your mental health?

Start here

What is High Functioning Anxiety and How to Cope

Angela Sheddan

Reviewed by Angela Sheddan, DNP, FNP-BC

Written by Our Editorial Team

Published 06/16/2021

Updated 05/17/2021

Are you the type that outlines every single worst case scenario? Perhaps you spend hours researching even the most mundane things so you feel maximally prepared. 

Or maybe you replay work conversations in your head over and over again, wondering if you should have responded differently. 

If this type of thinking hits home, you may be dealing with anxiety

Dealing with an anxiety disorder is not uncommon. In fact, an estimated 19.1 percent of all American adults are affected by some sort of anxiety disorder each year.

And, like with most mental health issues, anxiety can vary in terms of type and severity. In fact, 43.5 percent of people with an anxiety order, only experience a mild impairment.  

Translation: they’re able to function extremely well in life while dealing with this form of anxiety. Some people call this high-functioning anxiety. 

But just because someone can function with this type of anxiety, doesn’t mean it isn’t frustrating — and it doesn’t mean they have to function with it.  

High-functioning anxiety falls under what is called Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which is characterized by excessive and persistent worry over a number of things — such as finances, health, work or family.  

If you’re high-functioning or have a mild case, it means you may suffer from this but are still able to function well in life.

For example, someone with high functioning anxiety may spend the night tossing and turning in fear about having to give a presentation at work. 

But when it comes time to present? No one watching them would know they had been dealing with anxious thoughts over the presentation. 

Someone with high functioning anxiety may even find a lot of success at work or in life because their anxiety propels them to over-prepare and overachieve. 

One important thing to know: high functioning anxiety is not a medical diagnosis, but rather a conversational term. 

Another thing to know? Many people who deal with an anxiety disorder also deal with another disorder or physical illness.  

Common things people with anxiety also deal with include headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep disorders and more.

Fortunately, you can treat high functioning anxiety. Here, some things you can do on your own or with the help of a medical or psychological professional. 


Psychotherapy, sometimes called “talk therapy,” is a very common treatment for high functioning anxiety. 

Specifically, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)  has been found to be very effective.  

Generally, CBT is very solution-oriented and helps people identify what is causing them anxiety and come up with different ways of thinking and behaving. 

There are many licensed mental health professionals out there who offer this type of therapy to help people deal with the turmoil of anxiety. 

Research has found that people who suffer from anxiety and use CBT have better results when it comes to coping than those who do not.  

CBT can be done in an in-person, virtual one-on-one session or in group therapy.  

No matter what format you choose, it’s not uncommon for a therapist to give homework between sessions to help you improve your coping skills. 

online psychiatrist prescriptions

talk to a psychiatry provider. it’s never been easier


If you’re open to taking medication, there are quite a few that are used to treat high functioning anxiety. 

Teaming up with a healthcare professional will help you identify what the best one may be for your particular situation. 

Often, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (also known as SSRIs) are the go-to when it comes to treating anxiety. Commonly prescribed SSRIs include: 

While medication won’t cure anxiety, it can help manage it. 

Generally, it takes SSRIs a bit of time before they kick in. So, it’s important to give them a chance for a few weeks before you judge whether or not they’re helping. 

Another thing to know is that they may also worsen your anxiety slightly before making it better. 

By working with a healthcare professional, you can discuss ways to manage this, should it happen to you.  

In addition to therapy and medication, making tweaks in some of your everyday habits could help. These are some of the lifestyle habits that are most beneficial:

Regular Exercise

Breaking a sweat is important for lots of reasons.  Not only is lack of exercise bad for your physical health, it can affect your mental health, too — including types of anxiety disorders and depression.  

Research has shown just how beneficial breaking a sweat can be if you have anxiety, including high functioning anxiety. People who regularly exercised have been found to have less anxiety.  

In particular, mindful movements like yoga and Tai Chi have been found to decrease anxiety. So, consider signing up for a virtual yoga session or an outdoor Tai Chi class.

Get Some Sleep

It’s pretty much impossible to be in a good mood when you don’t sleep well. 

But more than leaving you cranky, poor sleeping habits can actually increase anxiety.  

That’s because sleep is needed to replenish the neurotransmitters in your brain that are responsible for mood regulation. 

If you don’t sleep well, those don’t get replenished, and anxiety can creep up on you.

What’s more, a study found that people who don’t sleep are much more likely to classify neutral images as “negative.” 

This means that, without good sleep, you are more likely to view everyday situations and occurrences as negative — which can contribute to anxiety in a big way. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults between the ages of 18 and 60 need at least seven hours per night.

A few things that can help you get better sleep: 

  • Go to bed at close to the same time each night and get up at around the same time.

  • Sleep in a dark, quiet room. 

  • Remove electronic devices from your bedroom — the blue light they emit is thought to affect sleep. 

  • Skip large meals, caffeine and alcohol right before bedtime. 

Calming Techniques

Trying not to feel anxious when you’re a big ball of stress? Yeah, that’s pretty much impossible. 

But making everyday stressors vanish? Well, that’s pretty much impossible, too.  

This is why finding healthy ways to cope with stress can help in your battle with high functioning anxiety. 

Research has found that meditation can destress you and ease anxiety. That’s because when you meditate, you’re forced to be in the moment and not think about all the things that make you anxious. 

Another helpful (and fun!) trick to ease high functioning anxiety: hang with your friends. 

While it may be tempting to isolate when you feel stressed and anxious, feeling the support of loved ones can help calm you down and put things in perspective.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways you can cope with high functioning anxiety — and you should. Just because you can manage your life while dealing with this type of anxiety, doesn’t mean you should. 

Scheduling time for an online psychiatry evaluation, looking into medication and making some lifestyle changes can all set you on the path to feeling less stress and anxiety. 

12 Sources

  1. Any Anxiety Disorder (2017). Retrieved from
  2. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (2020). Retrieved from
  3. Van Dis, E., Van Veen, S., Hagennars, M. (2020, November). Long-term outcomes of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Anxiety-Related Disorders. Jama Psychiatry 77(3):265-273. Retrieved from
  4. Bandelow, B., Michaelis, S., Wedekind, D., (2017, June). Treatment of anxiety disorders. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 19(2): 93-107. Retrieved from
  5. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) Information (2014). Retrieved from
  6. Anxiety disorders. Retrieved from
  7. Sarris, J. Moylan, S., Camfield, D.A., et al (2012, August). Complementary Medicine, Exercise, Meditation, Diet, and Lifestyle Modification for Anxiety Disorders: A Review of Current Evidence. Evidence Based Complimentary Alternative Medicine. Retrieved from
  8. Abbott, R., & Lavretsky, H. (2013). Tai Chi and Qigong for the treatment and prevention of mental disorders. The Psychiatric clinics of North America, 36(1), 109–119. Retrieved from:
  9. Evidence Based Complimentary Alternative Medicine. Retrieved from
  10. What Lifestyle Changes Are Recommended For Anxiety and Depression? Retrieved from
  11. How Much Sleep Do I Need? CDC. Retrieved from
  12. Tips For Better Sleep. CDC. Retrieved from
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Angela Sheddan, DNP, FNP-BC

Dr. Angela Sheddan has been a Family Nurse Practitioner since 2005, practicing in community, urgent and retail health capacities. She has also worked in an operational capacity as an educator for clinical operations for retail clinics. 

She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, her master’s from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, and her Doctor of Nursing Practice from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. You can find Angela on LinkedIn for more information.

Read more