At its core, high functioning anxiety is persistent anxiety that doesn’t appear to disrupt day-to-day life. For example, a person with high functioning social anxiety may still attend functions despite their unwillingness to do so.
High functioning anxiety symptoms have little to do with the severity of the anxiety but instead focuses on how a person with anxiety tends to handle the feeling. People with high functioning anxiety may appear outwardly successful. They can maintain family, careers, and other aspects of modern life. However, because individuals with high functioning anxiety can conceal the signs of their disorder, they often go longer without treatment or support.
Childhood anxiety is far more common than most people think, and to some degree, it’s natural. Healthy anxiety levels are the brain’s way to assess danger, risks, and stressors. However, when anxiety is persistent and/or severe, it’s considered an anxiety disorder. Here are the statistics for anxiety in children.1
High functioning anxiety doesn’t exist as a diagnosis. It is more accurate to consider anxiety as the diagnosis. High functioning refers only to the patient’s lifestyle as perceived by family and friends. Anxiety diagnosis and their corresponding treatments may differ.3 For example, social anxiety and general anxiety require separate, although nuanced, treatment. As such, being diagnosed with anxiety is only the beginning. What follows is discovering the exact source of the anxiety and committing to treatment.
Children undergo several stressors throughout development. These are the most common causes of childhood anxiety:
It takes a trained professional to confirm the existence of high functioning anxiety symptoms. These are the most common signs and symptoms of anxiety in students and children.4
The most common signs of high functioning anxiety in students include:
Anxiety causes cortisol to release in the brain. The long-term effect of cortisol is impaired memory, reduced mental clarity, depression, and other mood disorders. Cortisol increases white matter in the brain, causing anxiety to interfere with learning and mood, thought, and essentially every mental function.5
Anxiety and addiction in students frequently occur together. Mental illnesses such as clinical anxiety increase the chance of substance use. Substance use intensifies the effects of mental illness. Substance use can also aggravate underlying mental illnesses such as depression.
It can be challenging to establish anxiety symptoms from addiction when they co-occur. This challenge can complicate treatment for one or both disorders. However, there are treatment options available to help curb anxiety in students and children.
The most important thing any parent can do to treat anxiety and addiction in their children is to be proactive. A parent that is aware of their child’s emotional needs and actively works to meet those needs can reduce anxiety symptoms. Take note of any behavioral or personality changes and seek medical treatment when necessary.6
Accommodations to help an anxious student vary based on the specific type of anxiety. These are some of the general ways to assist:
Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin are medications that help with anxiety. All of the aforementioned drugs are benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are often prescribed for anxiety. Non-pharmaceutical forms of treatment may include trauma therapy, meditations, and a change of environment.7
To overcome mental illness such as anxiety or addiction in students requires consistent treatment and an emotional support group. If your child shows signs of high functioning anxiety, it is never too early or too late to find help. Treating mental illness in children takes patience, time, and understanding from their parent or guardian.