As Grimes shook, “Girl, you know you have to watch your health,” the woman looks dead in the eye and explains that you may be displaying the “four hidden signs” of high performance anxiety.
The hugely popular TikTok is one of many: High performance anxiety videos have more than 113.3 million views on TikTok, while performance anxiety videos have more than 47.1 million views.
Meanwhile, mindfulness app Headspace offers a description of what it’s like to live with high-functioning anxiety, and online mental health company Talkspace offers the same for high-functioning depression. Google searches for both terms peaked last year in February, but have remained relatively flat. Most inquiries look for symptoms or the definition of the condition.
The problem is that there is no actual answer to these questions.
A number of TikTok users claim they can explain the “hidden signs” of high functioning mental illness.
“There is a gap between scientific knowledge and public understanding of this topic,” Melanie Badale says. “As a clinical psychologist, I practice and promote science-based assessment and treatment of anxiety. The term ‘high functioning anxiety’ is not a term I use.”
For example, PubMed, which is composed of more than 33 million citations for biomedical studies, does not contain any findings for high-functioning anxiety or high-functioning depression (although there is one paper on the need for more research on how to support “high-functioning” people higher” who recovered from depression).
Could the pros miss out on a part of the live experience?
However, “the fact that there is no research does not mean that there is no research or that it is not a topic worthy of study,” says Al-Badali.
Could the pros miss out on a part of the live experience? She asks. “It is possible, but I think it is more likely that mental health professionals will use different terms to describe the experiences people have as ‘high functioning anxiety.
While it’s possible that these terms obsess over something the professionals miss, Badali thinks it’s possible that they’re obsessing over the stigma result. Conversations about mental health may be more acceptable than ever, but that doesn’t mean that identifying your own mental health needs isn’t a difficult process with its own hurdles.
Videos like “4 Subtle Signs You Have High Performance Anxiety” describe high achievers and high achievers — palatable phrases that skip the difficult parts of anxiety.
“I think it might be easier for people to come to terms with the fact that they have an anxiety problem if it’s also related to high intelligence or achievement,” Badley says.
What does “high performance” look like?
Although there has been no study of high-functioning anxiety and depression, it is clear that the phrase “high functioning” still resonates with people who come to understand their mental health.
Psychologist and counseling, Dana Giunta, tells me that the term refers to a person still being able to carry out and maintain their daily responsibilities and actions.
“Their tasks are carried out on a regular basis and no one sees any challenges in their day-to-day abilities and relationships,” says Gionta. “Often, the individual may also not realize that they have some depression or anxiety, because it does not harm their daily functions and does not significantly affect their life or relationships.”
She explained that the main difference between perceptions of “high performance” and not perceptions of “high performance” is consistency. If depression and anxiety are consistent, this can compromise “a person’s ability to be consistent in their daily functioning, motivation, and energy levels, despite their intentions.”
The way we use words related to mental health is not necessarily consistent with their many meanings. You can feel anxious or depressed without being anxious or clinically depressed. A mental health professional will often indicate that you have something that can be diagnosed if your symptoms are severe enough to interfere with daily activities and relationships.
“Labeling can be useful, especially for research purposes. But labels can also be harmful.”
For example, the American Psychiatric Association describes sadness as something that comes in waves and major depressive disorder as having symptoms such as a loss of energy and feeling worthless for at least two weeks.
But it is possible that what you encounter does not fit into these categories. Research shows that mental health is widespread. And while formal terms can help people learn about an experience — for example, mood depression is technically a mild but long-lasting form of depression — this also helps explain why some people are drawn to non-technical phrases like ” High-functioning depression.”
What stops Badali is the language used in this situation. If you search for high-functioning anxiety via Google Scholar, for example, you’ll find a number of studies on high-functioning autism. Al-Badali explains that “there are many people in the autism community who are trying to stop the use of ‘functional’ labels.” Arguments against effective labels are many but include that they are capable and do not tell the whole story.
“While I generally support people using their own words to describe their personal experiences, I am concerned that there are people who talk about high performance anxiety as if it was something that has been scientifically studied,” Badley says. “Labeling can be useful, especially for research purposes. But labels can also be harmful.”
You may be someone who pleases people with a high degree of achievement, but you may also be experiencing anxiety – not high-functioning anxiety, but anxiety. If anxiety or depression is causing you distress, it may be time to talk to a professional about your experiences rather than adjusting because you can.