Anxiety is a mood disorder that affects 18.1% of Americans each year according to ADAA. Though the holidays are an extremely hectic time that can cause elevated stress, what about the almost ¼ of Americans that suffer year long?

As prevalent as anxiety is, there are many individuals that go undiagnosed and untreated due to the phenomenon of “high-functioning” versus “low functioning” anxiety.

The symptoms of both types are the same: extreme worry and fear that can lead to a myriad of physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, gastrointestinal issues, and sleep issues. The difference lies in the ability to function adequately day to day.

Individuals with regular or “low-functioning” anxiety have mild to severe issues completing regular tasks in daily life. The task that is a struggle depends on which of the 6 types of anxiety an individual has, but the common factor is a disruption of daily functioning. This daily functioning is impaired by these feelings of worry and fear. These symptoms of anxiety are pretty obvious to the person suffering and others due to this disruption.

The other side of the coin is “high-functioning” anxiety. Despite there not being an official diagnosis, many anxiety sufferers go undetected due to society’s pressure on the individual to be productive. High-functioning people with anxiety suffer the exact same symptoms, but are better at suppressing in the moment. This ability to power through may pay off in the short term, but will very likely lead to an extreme crash later on. Another factor that keeps the cycle moving are the side effects of this type of anxiety- productivity, good work ethic, and achievement.

Oftentimes, many overachievers are in reality so propelled by anxiety to succeed that they push these feelings down and don’t end up tending to themselves. They also experience those crashes due to suppression. People suffering from high-functioning anxiety are often caught in a negative cycle- their “positive” behaviors that are in reality fueled by extreme anxiety, are rewarded. This causes them to continue these unhealthy behaviors that don’t end up resolving their underlying anxieties.

Both manifestations of anxiety are damaging. Treatment depends on the specificities of the situation, but definitely consult a professional if you feel symptoms of anxiety.