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Anxiety vs Stress vs High-functioning Anxiety

PEACE with Anxiety Podcast Episode 2

Ep 2: Anxiety vs Stress vs High-functioning Anxiety

In this episode, I give you a detailed overview of 3 different types of anxiety presentations, sharing with you the main feelings and behaviours of anxiety, stress, and high-functioning anxiety that will definitely give you some big AHA moments when it comes to recognising anxiety.

 

Listen as I talk about:

  • Anxiety as it presents in thoughts, feelings, behaviour, relationships and career

  • Stress as it presents in thoughts, feelings, behaviour, relationships and career

  • High-functioning Anxiety as it presents in thoughts, feelings, behaviour, relationships and career


Click play to listen below:



What does Anxiety look like?


1. Personality:

  • Persistent and intrusive thoughts,

  • Caught in a cycle of overthinking,

  • Anticipating potential negative outcomes,

  • Tendency to magnify potential threats,

  • Everyday challenges can be perceived as impossible obstacles,

  • Feel on edge,

  • Physical restlessness and emotional irritability.

  • Inability to relax and be present in the moment.

  • Heightened awareness of the surroundings,

  • Coping mechanisms such as avoiding certain places, people, or activities that trigger anxiety

2. Relationships:

  • Heightened fear of rejection or abandonment in relationships,

  • Insecurity and doubt,

  • Tendency to catastrophize, imagining the worst-case scenarios in relationships and interactions,

  • Social interactions feel challenging.

  • Constant vigilance in relationships, such as being hyper-aware of potential threats to the relationship's stability.

  • Avoidance of social situations or conflict to prevent potential discomfort or rejection.

  • Overanalyzing conversations and interactions with others,

  • Seeking reassurance and validation that their fears are unfounded.

3. Work:

  • Doubt of their accomplishments,

  • Fear of being exposed as a fraud,

  • Fear of criticism or judgment from colleagues or superiors,

  • Stress and tension in the workplace,

  • Feeling restless and unable to fully relax,

  • Overthinking work-related tasks,

  • Fear of failure,

  • Procrastination is common as they may struggle to initiate tasks due to fear of failure or perfectionistic tendencies.


What does Stress look like?


1. Personality:

  • Persistent worrying thoughts,

  • Challenging to redirect their thoughts,

  • Difficulties in concentration and focus,

  • Decision-making becomes more challenging,

  • Experience physical symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches, or a racing heart,

  • Irritability and a shorter temper,

  • Mood changes,

  • Reduced patient levels,

  • Overeating,

  • Excessive caffeine consumption, or increased use of substances like alcohol or tobacco,

  • Sleep difficulties.


2. Relationships:

  • Irritability,

  • Withdrawing socially due to stress,

  • Preferring solitude to manage overwhelming feelings,

  • Guilt is associated with not being fully present or engaged in relationships due to stress,

  • Struggle to express themselves clearly or may become less receptive to others' needs during times of stress,

  • Interactions with others can be more tense than normal.


3. Work:

  • Everyday tasks at work are viewed as threats,

  • Belief in the inability to cope with work-related challenges,

  • Overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tasks or goals they need to accomplish,

  • Anticipation of negative outcomes.

  • Sense of a lack of control over personal goals,

  • Emotional exhaustion and reduced professional efficacy,

  • Struggle with finding fulfilment in their work,

  • Procrastination as a way to avoid confronting the source of stress,

  • Difficulty concentrating on specific goals,

  • Distancing from work temporarily alleviates the pressure.



What does High-Functioning Anxiety look like?


1 Personality:

  • High achievers who excel in various aspects of their lives.

  • Fear of failure or not meeting expectations drives them to strive for excellence.

  • A constant state of restlessness, as if time is always running out.

  • Struggles with patience

  • Difficulty to relax, even during leisure time,

  • An underlying sense of unease or impending doom.

  • Success doesn't bring the expected satisfaction;

  • An immediate shift to move to the next goal,

  • Hold themselves to exceptionally high standards.

  • Tendency to overplan and anticipate every possible outcome,

  • The mind is often preoccupied with what-ifs and contingency planning.


2. Relationships:

  • Fear letting others down and seeking to meet perceived expectations consistently,

  • Tendency to overanalyze social interactions,

  • Fear of any misstep that could harm their relationships,

  • Fear of being judged, and they may go to great lengths to maintain a positive image.

  • Constant vigilance in relationships, monitoring for signs of dissatisfaction or disappointment,

  • Pressure to maintain relationships at a high standard may lead to social fatigue,

  • Overcommitting in relationships, despite personal stress.

  • Difficulty opening up about their internal struggles, fearing vulnerability or judgment.

  • Strong desire for approval from others.


3. Work:


  • Question their competence despite numerous proofs of external success,

  • They are constantly afraid of failing, even in the face of consistent professional achievements,

  • Praise and recognition may be uncomfortable, as they fear they won't live up to future expectations,

  • Hesitancy to delegate tasks, as they fear that others will not meet their standards

  • Constant busyness and staying occupied,

  • The fear of idle time may drive them to fill their schedules to avoid confronting anxious thoughts.

  • Despite external success, they cannot truly relax, as their mind may continue to race with thoughts about future tasks or potential issues.

  • Workaholism becomes a way to cope, but it's driven more by anxiety than genuine passion.



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Full Transcript


Welcome back to the "PEACE with Anxiety Podcast." In today's episode, we will dive into three types of anxiety. I wanted to do this because I believe that by detailing the thoughts, feelings, and behaviours associated with anxiety, you will get a real, detailed look into what it feels like. Describing those types isn't just about information; it's about knowing that, you're not alone in this. When we get into the specifics, it's like we are pulling the curtain, we demystify anxiety. And by doing that anxiety loses its power over you, and you start to feel free from its grip. The hope is that you hear something and think, "Yeah, that's me," or "I know someone who goes through that." It's about empathy and understanding. I want these descriptions to be a tool for you, a way to see the complexity of anxiety, and maybe even encourage some of you to take that brave step towards seeking support or being there for others who might need it. Alright, Let's break down the stigma, empower each other, and make our mental health conversations open, real, and supportive. So let’s get started. 


Anxiety, in its purest form, is a natural and universal human response to perceived threats. It's our body's way of preparing us for challenges, with symptoms ranging from mild worry to intense fear.  In episode 1, we talked more about what anxiety is and where it comes from, if you haven’t listened yet, please head over to episode 1 to tune in. While anxiety is a common part of the human experience, it is important to understand how it presents itself when it comes to personality, relationships and career.


Someone with anxiety often experiences persistent and intrusive thoughts. They may find themselves caught in a cycle of overthinking, anticipating potential negative outcomes in various situations. There might be a tendency to magnify potential threats, leading to catastrophic thoughts about the future. Everyday challenges can be perceived as impossible obstacles.

Because Anxiety is fundamentally linked to fear. Someone with anxiety may constantly feel on edge, anticipating danger even in regular situations. This pervasive fear can lead to a heightened state of constant arousal. They may experience physical restlessness and emotional irritability. The constant undercurrent of worry can make it challenging to relax and be present in the moment. There may be a heightened awareness of the surroundings, with individuals constantly scanning for potential threats. This hyper-vigilance can be mentally exhausting. Many people with anxiety, especially high-functioning anxiety, may exhibit perfectionistic tendencies. They set high standards for themselves, fearing that any deviation from perfection might lead to negative consequences. We will talk more a bit more about high-functioning anxiety shortly.

Now, In an attempt to manage anxiety, individuals may develop avoidance behaviours as a coping mechanism. This can involve avoiding certain places, people, or activities that trigger anxiety, leading to a narrowing of experiences.


Anxiety may manifest as a heightened fear of rejection or abandonment in relationships, leading to insecurity and doubt. There might be a tendency to catastrophize, imagining the worst-case scenarios in relationships and interactions. Anxiety can contribute to social anxiety, making social interactions challenging and leading to feelings of self-consciousness. There might be a constant vigilance in relationships, with individuals hyper-aware of potential threats to the relationship's stability. Individuals may avoid social situations or conflict to prevent potential discomfort or rejection. Overanalyzing conversations and interactions with others can be a common behaviour driven by anxiety. Individuals with anxiety might seek reassurance frequently, needing validation that their fears are unfounded.


Anxiety can contribute to imposter syndrome, where individuals doubt their accomplishments and fear being exposed to fraud. There may be a heightened fear of criticism or judgment from colleagues or superiors, impacting confidence. Anxiety often manifests as heightened stress and tension in the workplace, impacting overall job satisfaction. They may feel restless and unable to fully relax, even during non-work hours, due to persistent work-related thoughts. Overthinking work-related tasks may lead to difficulty shifting focus and an increased risk of burnout. Fear of failure may lead to avoiding challenging tasks or projects, hindering professional growth. Anxiety can lead to procrastination as individuals may struggle to initiate tasks due to fear of failure or perfectionistic tendencies. Those with anxiety might find it challenging to delegate tasks, fearing that others won't meet their standards. This can result in increased workload and stress.


Stress is a specific response to external pressures or demands, usually with a defined cause or trigger. It's a transient state that arises in response to particular situations—like deadlines, financial pressures, or life changes. Once the stressor diminishes, so does the stress response. Unlike anxiety, stress is time-limited and tends to resolve when the external pressure eases. So the main distinction between anxiety and stress is the temporary nature of stress.


Stress often brings about persistent worrying thoughts, primarily centred around the source of stress. They may find it challenging to redirect their thoughts away from the stressor. And this mental preoccupation with the stressor can lead to difficulties in concentration and focus. Decision-making may become more challenging. Because Stress is closely tied to feelings of anxiety and tension, Individuals under stress may experience physical symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches, or a racing heart. Stress can contribute to irritability and a shorter temper. Everyday frustrations may elicit stronger emotional reactions during periods of heightened stress. Prolonged stress can lead to changes in mood. They may become more prone to mood swings or experience a generally more negative outlook. Stress can reduce patient levels, making it harder to tolerate minor inconveniences or delays.


Stress can lead to irritability, making it challenging to navigate interpersonal interactions calmly. Individuals may withdraw socially due to stress, preferring solitude to manage overwhelming feelings which then results in feelings of isolation and loneliness, because they are socially isolated. There may be guilt associated with not being fully present or engaged in relationships due to stress. They may struggle to express themselves clearly or may become less receptive to others' needs during times of stress and their Interactions with others can be more tense than normal.


Someone under stress may perceive everyday tasks at work as threats, contributing to heightened stress levels which leads to a belief in the inability to cope with work-related challenges. They often feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tasks or goals they need to accomplish, and they tend to anticipate negative outcomes.

The inability to meet personal goals within a desired timeframe can lead to frustration. Stress often brings a sense of a lack of control over personal goals, contributing to increased tension. Prolonged stress at work can lead to burnout, characterized by emotional exhaustion and reduced professional efficacy. Someone who is stressed often struggles to find fulfillment in their work which can lead to procrastination as a way to avoid confronting the source of stress. They have difficulty concentrating on specific goals, impacting their productivity which then affects the overall quality of work and job performance. The impact of stress may result in distancing from work temporarily to alleviate the pressure.


In an attempt to cope with stress, individuals may turn to unhealthy habits such as overeating, excessive caffeine consumption, or increased use of substances like alcohol or tobacco. Stress can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep. This, in turn, can contribute to a cycle of increased stress and decreased resilience.


High-functioning anxiety often flies under the radar, masked by external achievements and apparent composure. That is because someone with high-functioning anxiety may excel in their goals but grapple with an internal struggle of not feeling enough. It involves a constant state of unease, perfectionism, and overthinking, all while presenting a facade of competence to the outside world.

Differentiating high-functioning anxiety from general anxiety lies in recognizing the ability to function externally while internally managing heightened stress and worry.


Individuals with high-functioning anxiety are often high achievers, excelling in various aspects of their lives. The fear of failure or not meeting expectations drives them to strive for excellence. There might be a tendency to overcommit due to a fear of disappointing others. Saying no can evoke anxiety about being perceived as incapable or unhelpful. High-functioning anxiety can manifest as a constant state of restlessness, as if time is always running out. They may struggle with patience and find it challenging to relax, even during leisure time. Despite outward success, there might be an underlying sense of unease or impending doom. Success doesn't bring the expected satisfaction; instead, there's an immediate shift to the next goal. Individuals with high-functioning anxiety often hold themselves to exceptionally high standards. They might engage in constant self-evaluation, fearing that any perceived failure will have significant consequences. There may be a tendency to overplan and anticipate every possible outcome, even in routine situations. The mind is often preoccupied with what-ifs and contingency planning.


Individuals with high-functioning anxiety may fear letting others down and seek to meet perceived expectations consistently. There may be a tendency to overanalyze social interactions, fearing that any misstep could harm their relationships. Similar to anxiety, individuals may be constantly vigilant in relationships, monitoring for signs of dissatisfaction or disappointment, while The pressure to maintain relationships at a high standard may lead to social fatigue. An attempt to meet expectations may lead to overcommitting in relationships, despite personal stress. They might have Difficulty delegating tasks which is created from a fear that others won't meet personal standards.

Despite external success, individuals with high-functioning anxiety may find it challenging to open up about their internal struggles, fearing vulnerability or judgment. High-functioning anxiety can lead to a strong desire for approval from others. There may be a fear of being judged, and individuals may go to great lengths to maintain a positive image.


High-functioning anxiety often involves thriving in high-pressure situations. These individuals may excel at work, meeting deadlines and surpassing expectations, but at the cost of heightened stress.  Imposter syndrome is very common among those individuals, causing them to question their competence despite numerous proofs of external success. They are constantly afraid of failing, even in the face of consistent professional achievements. Praise and recognition may be uncomfortable, as they fear they won't live up to future expectations. There might be hesitancy to delegate tasks, as the fear of others not meeting their standards can create additional stress. This can result in a heavy workload. Constant busyness and staying occupied can be a way to mask or manage anxiety. The fear of idle time may drive individuals to fill their schedules to avoid confronting anxious thoughts. Despite external success, they cannot truly relax, as their mind may continue to race with thoughts about future tasks or potential issues. Workaholism becomes a way to cope, but it's driven more by anxiety than genuine passion.


So to recap as we covered a lot today, the first point of this episode is that anxiety is our natural response to challenges, not a disorder. It's like a built-in alarm system, and we're breaking down the stigma around it. Second, stress – it's the temporary visitor, usually tied to specific triggers like deadlines or life changes. And finally, high-functioning anxiety – it's the hidden struggle behind the achievers. We discussed how it's about excelling on the outside while battling internal stress.

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