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Are You Type A or Do You Have High Functioning Anxiety?

If you’re anything like me, maybe you’ve always categorized yourself as a Type A personality. Maybe other people have characterized you as Type A and you’ve just accepted it to be true. You might even fit all the boxes, both good and bad. 

On one hand, type A personalities are goal oriented, go-getters, over achievers, multitaskers, ambitious, and trustworthy. On the other hand, if you ask someone else they may describe Type A personalities as controlling, work crazy, domineering, competitive, “my way or the highway” type people. 

Did you raise your hand for all of those, even the negative parts, or was that just me? We, along with everyone else, may have put ourselves in this Type A bubble. 

But did you know that having high functioning anxiety (HFA) can actually be mistaken as being Type A? On the surface you seem cool, calm, and collected, but on the inside your mind is running 90 miles a minute and you feel like you can’t say no or you’ll let someone down. It’s classic high function anxiety, not just a Type A personality. 

If you’ve ever felt like anything other than perfection was unacceptable and that you must follow how you’re “supposed to” do something to the exact letter and feel a weight of anxiety, you may have high functioning anxiety.

What is High Functioning Anxiety?

If you’re someone who experiences these Type A tendencies, you may feel like you don’t struggle with anxiety. That’s because Generalized Anxiety Disorder is different from HFA so many of us believe that we don’t suffer from anxiety. More importantly, the major distinction between the two is the way we respond to them.  

Although it’s possible to experience general anxiety symptoms, you can still suffer from HFA with these symptoms as well. The main difference between the two is the way that you respond to your anxiety. 

The truth, however, is that many of the characteristics described as Type A are often what it’s like to have high functioning anxiety. However, HFA may look a little more like this: 

  • Procrastination
  • Seeking constant reassurance, AKA Praise me, please!
  • Control freak
  • Busy busy busy
  • Lots of negative self-talk
  • Fear of letting people down
  • Lack of sleep
  • Numbing 
  • Physical symptoms
  • Everything is “fine!”

Sound familiar? While you may think your Type A personality is helping, these above aspects often hurt those “superpowers” of Type A personalities. 

Don’t worry, even as a high functioning anxiety coach, I struggle with these too. If you’ve struggled with these feelings your whole life, this still might come as a surprise to you. Sometimes, people with high functioning anxiety find themselves being more resistant to the idea that they may be struggling with it. The more we recognize what’s going on in our minds, the easier it becomes for us to really cope. 

HFA vs Type A Personality

Yes, it’s true that you could just have a Type A personality and not an anxiety disorder. But if you can relate to what we’ve discussed so far, then you might be wondering why you’re feeling that way. It may be because you have high functioning anxiety.

In fact, if you do have HFA, chances are that you find it hard to believe because you’ve spent your whole life feeling this way and it’s been just fine, right? Except it hasn’t, if you’re honest with yourself. 

In true HFA fashion, those of us who struggle with it try to cope with their anxiety through control. Rather than running from our worries and fears, we try to navigate them and make them less scary but finding ways to control them such as: 

  • Seek control by being high achieving
  • Have black/white or right/wrong thought processes
  • Fixated on milestones, achievements and productivity
  • Will do anything to not let others down
  • Focused on routines, habits, and rigidity
  • Insomnia, nervous ticks and physical ailments showing up as flight response

The truth is, HFA can look different for people surrounding us because it’s more of an internal struggle than an external one. Those of us with HFA don’t show the major signs of anxiety like other anxiety disorders might. In fact, it may seem so normal that we don’t even notice it sometimes. 

That’s why so many of our family members, friends, and colleagues will describe us as Type A because the outward appearance is one of control, poise, and achievement. But internally? We’re struggling with negative thoughts, controlling behaviors, and trying to cope in ways that actually hurt us.

Help for High Functioning Anxiety

People with HFA are often also high achievers, busy bees, and often excel at almost everything. You would almost never guess that on the inside they’re feeling insecure, overwhelmed, or stressed. But you might be thinking that’s just the way you are and there’s no changing your personality.

The truth is we tend to create “coping mechanisms” that more or less distract us from the root of the problem and worsen our HFA instead of making it better. For example, you may tell people you’re fine because you seem fine. So you try and hide your HFA by overthinking, overdoing, and overperforming, leaving you exhausted and depleted in the end. 

But deep down you feel that feeling of unworthiness so you may work ten times harder to not have to feel that way. And when we try to set boundaries, we end up second guessing those boundaries and stress out about what people think about us. Sound familiar?

That’s why it’s such a vicious cycle. You’re never really dealing with what’s causing your high functioning anxiety and find a hard time shutting off negative feelings that drive you to show off Type A traits. 

There is light at the end of the tunnel and, although there’s no magical high functioning anxiety treatment, you do have options. 

Talk To a High Functioning Anxiety Coach

Dealing with HFA alone can be challenging. Part of my coaching programs include helping clients understand their HFA and how to properly address it and approach it. My clients spend a lot of time barely scratching the surface of what they’re dealing with versus what’s actually going on. 

That’s why my Coach in My Pocket program includes Voxer, a voice messaging app that allows me to check in with clients without the formality of a face to face meeting. If you’re new to working with a mental health coach, this format may suit you well if your HFA coping mechanisms cause you to block traditional therapy sessions. 

Voxer allows you to communicate in the comfort of your own space, so you can have a more raw and genine session. It also fits into your already busy schedule so that way you can get help when you need it. 

Tired of thinking that being Type A is all there is? It’s time to discover how much more calm you can be—and how that can actually help you achieve even more in your life.