When someone you love has high-functioning anxiety, it isn’t always obvious. And success in life ― whether recognition at work or, say, being particularly sparkly at a party ― doesn’t mean he or she isn’t dealing with something internally.
While those living with the condition are dealing with debilitating side effects, they hide it well ― even from their loved ones or significant others. People who struggle with the disorder often experience excessive worry and panic, headaches and more.
As with any mental health condition, the more people know about it, the better. Education is critical when it comes to erasing stigma ― and less stigma could mean more people with disorders will reach out for help. Research shows negative stereotypes often prevent people with mental health issues from seeking treatment.
We asked our Facebook communities to share what they want their partners and families to know about high-functioning anxiety as a way to shine a light on the condition. Below are some things to keep in mind if you love someone who is dealing with it:
1. Routine tasks can feel impossible.
“Some daily activities that may seem easy for them are not for me. Shopping, going to the post office, school, etc. It’s not easy and sometimes there are days that I can’t fake it and pretend that my anxiety isn’t out of control.” ―Sabrina Campbell
2. There are physical symptoms on top of the emotional ones.
“I wish he understood I physically feel like I am on a roller coaster with an endless drop, and I fight back tears as I beg my body to normalize.” ―Julie Carr
3. Acknowledging the condition can be an act of love...
“I’m ashamed of my anxiety and so I try to hide it. Unfortunately, because he’s closest to me, when I can’t hold it in anymore, he usually gets the brunt of it.” ―Amy Schultheiss
4. ...But even to loved ones, the struggle can be invisible.
“I wish my significant other could realize that just because I get out of bed and tackle the day does not mean that I’m not having anxiety. Anxiety is not well seen by others who don’t experience it.” ―Emily Yocom
5. Little gestures go a long way.
“Something my girlfriend does that I really appreciate is that she waits for me to bring up that I’m being anxious, even though she can see things at home and work are piling up. And then when I finally lose it, she helps me make a big list of all the things going on.” ―Maria Lyon
6. Anxiety can be unpredictable.
“I can hold meetings with nearly 200 people who report to me, speaking eloquently and persuasively, yet become paralyzed when I am at a party, unable to think of something to say to friends. We can be having fun at a barbecue when something triggers me and I need to flee ... It isn’t something that you can always predict.” ―Susan Vliet
7. The person can never feel like they’re safe from the condition.
“That there’s never a sense of security. Every great thing that happens is dulled by wondering how it’s going to go wrong or what other thing in my life is going to fall apart.” ―Alexandra Mykita
8. What you say about the condition matters.
“Telling people to just ‘get over it’ or to ‘face your fear’ is not helping and just makes the feeling worse because it makes you feel crazy when you’re not.” ―Haley Michelle
9. High-functioning anxiety is not in someone’s control.
“It’s not a choice. If it were up to me I certainly wouldn’t choose to feel like this. My hope is that there will be more tolerance and understanding that this is out of my control.” ―Carla McDonald
10. It causes unfounded fears.
“I wish he knew that my constant fears of him breaking up with me has nothing to do with him or that I don’t trust him, it’s my brain telling me that I’m not worth the trouble. That I’m a liability.” ―Christina Loken
11. Your encouragement is vital.
“Just be there to support and love, and be open.” ―Glori Sutton
Just a few gentle reminders to tuck away. Anxiety is the worst, but loved ones know the warning signs -- and acting on them -- can help make it better.