High achiever anxiety is a term I use to refer to a top-performer who struggles with anxiety.
Someone who struggles with this often:
- Performs well at school or at work and is known for their hard work and drive.
- Has perfectionist tendencies.
- Excels in most areas in their life.
- Silently struggles with anxiety that they seem to be able to turn “off” and hide from the outside world when needed.
- Copes with this anxiety by working as a way to try to numb the anxiety.
Often high achievers find some benefit to their anxiety because it pushes them to work harder and excel at what they are doing. However, if it goes unmanaged it becomes problematic. The anxiety can go unnoticed for quite some time because others see that they are doing well at work or performing well in school and assume anxiety must not be an issue.
High achievers tend to be really good at turning anxiety “off” when others start noticing. This coping mechanism of numbing the emotion can fuel anxiety further down the road.
When a high achiever is feeling anxious they tend to cope with their anxiety by being “busy”. They may throw themselves into their work or school as a way to numb out and distract the anxiety they are feeling. Anxiety can become problematic for them when it starts to interfere with their ability to perform well.
To the outside world it just seems that they are hard workers, performing really well at everything they do. So others applaud their efforts, not knowing the anxiety they have been experiencing behind closed doors.
This can continue the anxiety—> overworking cycle because high achievers often like to please others. The applause and praise they receive can fuel them to continue pushing hard.
When High Performer Anxiety Becomes a Problem
High performers can burn out from working too much and then their work (and coping mechanism) suffers. They are then left feeling more anxious and unsure how to cope. High achievers can also suffer from disordered eating, depression, insomnia, substance abuse or an eating disorder.
How Can Therapy Help?
- Identify triggers to the anxiety.
- Come up with an anxiety prevention plan: How to structure your daily schedule to keep stress low and anxiety at bay.
- Learning how to step away from the busy lifestyle that fuels the anxiety.
- Incorporate mindfulness and relaxation techniques into your daily life to get the body out of fight-flight mode and reduce cortisol levels.
- Identify inner critic thoughts and learn self-compassion.
- Learn how to identify people-pleasing behavior.
You can perform well and not suffer from an anxiety disorder. Get the help you need today to start feeling better.
If you’re interested in setting up a free 15 minute phone consultation to see if I can help click here.
About Danielle Swimm, LCPC: Danielle is a therapist in Annapolis, MD. She enjoys helping other work through their anxiety and find rest and relaxation while still achieving their goals. Her areas of concentration include eating disorders, anxiety, and body image improvement for adults and adolescents. She offers both in office and online counseling.
Disclaimer: This is in no way a replacement for a therapeutic relationship or mental health services. This is for educational purposes only and should be in used only in conjunction in working with a licensed mental health professional. If you are looking for a local professional feel free to use the contact tab to request an appointment or search Psychology Today for local therapists in your area.