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What Is High-Functioning Anxiety?

What mental health professionals should know about this common condition.

While not an official diagnosis, “high-functioning anxiety” is gaining ground as a description of people who appear to be high-achieving but live with constant internal stress. Far from incapacitated, a person with high-functioning anxiety projects a confident image while struggling with typical anxiety symptoms. Those could include stress in social situations, insomnia, a racing mind, and the inability to relax. If left untreated, the condition could progress to a more severe form of general anxiety disorder (GAD) and an increase in symptom severity.

Anxiety disorders are widespread—affecting more than 30% of U.S. adults at some point in their lives1—and high-functioning anxiety may be even more common since it often goes undiagnosed and undocumented.


People with high-functioning anxiety can exhibit positive outward traits, despite the underlying adverse physical and mental impacts. Here are a few of the positive and negative behaviors:


  • Being driven and goal-oriented. Constant stress drives them to work harder and achieve more than the average person—especially in their career.
  • Always being prepared. They tend to arrive early for meetings, carry a first-aid kit, and never miss a deadline at school or work.
  • Being popular and entertaining. Friends might be shocked to learn their struggle with anxiety, because they seem so confident.
  • Almost always appearing calm and often being a source of strength to others. They’ve perfected the art of keeping a peaceful demeanor, even when they’re reeling with stress on the inside.


  • Having a mind that never stops. They might have a hard time falling asleep or wake up too early with their brain racing through a thousand upcoming tasks.
  • Being unable to fully relax. When they take a day off from work, they fill it with chores and other tasks in hopes of lessening their anxiety.
  • Being uncomfortable in social situations. They may freeze up while trying to get to know a new person at a party.
  • Relying on routine. Spontaneous changes to established patterns spike their anxiety, so they avoid them as much as possible.
  • Anticipating the worst. Even when there’s no reason to expect a negative outcome, they imagine the possibilities.
  • Always being tired. Anxiety is mentally and physically exhausting. Even when they sleep well at night, they feel tired because their brain is always going at top speed.
  • Being easily startled. Loud noises make them jump because their nerves are constantly on edge.

Seeking Help

While people with high-functioning anxiety are typically able to live their lives and perform needed tasks without interruption, they often experience increased quality of life when they seek treatment. Therapy, meditation, mindfulness, and medication are all viable options.2

Grow Your Capacity to Make a Positive Impact by Pursuing an MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

You’re already making a difference in the lives of others as a mental health professional. When you take the next step and earn an MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, you will be prepared to seek certification as a licensed clinical mental health counselor.

Master's programs in clinical mental health counseling train students to think critically and help patients make positive changes to deal with daily challenges. Walden University’s MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program is CACREP accredited, and many courses are taught by faculty who are members of the American Counseling Association. Students engage with concepts such as ethical practices, cultural development theories, and counseling skills in various settings. And with the flexible online platform, you can pursue your degree on your own time, without having to leave your current professional position.

If you have ever thought about becoming a school counselor, Walden also offers an online MS Dual Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling degree program that prepares students to pursue licensure or certification as both a mental health counselor and school counselor.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and an MS Dual Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling degree program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Walden University’s MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), which is a requirement for licensure in many states.

The MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program is designed to prepare graduates to qualify to sit for licensing exams and to meet the academic licensure requirements of many state counseling boards. Because no graduate program can guarantee licensure upon graduation, we encourage students to consult the appropriate agency to determine specific requirements. For more information about licensure, students should visit the National Board for Certified Counselors at, the American Association of State Counseling Boards at, and contact the appropriate licensing body. International students are encouraged to identify and contact their appropriate licensing body. Learn more about professional licensure.

The MS in School Counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), which may also be a requirement to become licensed or certified as a school counselor in some states. In addition, some states require school counselors to have an existing teaching license or certification, and teaching experience, in order to be eligible for a school counseling certification/license. Learn more about professional licensure.

Further, many states require school counseling programs to be approved in at least one state, either their own or another state. The MS in School Counseling program is approved by the states of Minnesota and Ohio, and while this approval is accepted by the majority of states which require state approval, it may not be accepted by all states.

Walden is not approved to offer the School Counseling degree in Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Mexico, or Tennessee, so if you reside in one of these states, you will not be eligible for the dual degree.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,