The Hidden Dangers of High-Functioning Anxiety in the Workplace

by | Sep 25, 2023 | Axiom Medical, Employee Health Management, Workplace Mental Health

Anxiety affects millions of people in the United States alone and can manifest in different ways. For some individuals, it can be debilitating, leading to panic attacks, an inability to work, and other severe problems.

However, others experience high-functioning anxiety, meaning they can still function reasonably well in their everyday lives, but often at the cost of their mental health. High-functioning anxiety is a term coined for individuals who experience acute anxiety but hide it under a veneer of productivity, composure, and efficiency.

These individuals tend to be high achievers at work, quick to react to situations, and inclined to over-preparation. Yet, beneath the surface, they constantly fear failure, are restless, and stressed.

As an employer or employee, high-functioning anxiety can have significant implications for productivity, performance, and overall job satisfaction.

The Problem with High-Functioning Anxiety in the Workplace

Individuals with high-functioning anxiety generally don’t get the help they need as their symptoms are often perceived as normal or accepted coping mechanisms. However, the fact remains that even “high functioning” anxiety takes a toll on a person and their work.

In the workplace, it can result in an intense focus on work, perfectionism, a fear of failure, and irrational beliefs about what amounts to success. These can lead to employees working longer hours, taking few breaks, and sacrificing rest, all detrimental to their mental and emotional well-being.

Understanding the Impact of High-Functioning Anxiety in the Workplace

High-functioning anxiety is not just another buzzword; it has tangible effects on employees and employers. When employees experience high-functioning anxiety, they are prone to burnout, decreased productivity, increased errors, and absenteeism.

Employers deal with increased turnover, decreased morale, decreased job satisfaction, increased sick days, and potential legal liability under workplace safety and health laws. High-functioning anxiety can create a vicious cycle leading to mental health problems like depression and addiction.

For employees, high-functioning anxiety can create an ongoing sense of pressure and stress, resulting in physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and sleep difficulties. It can also lead to increased perfectionism, decreased self-confidence, and a constant need for reassurance.

Decreased Productivity and Performance

Although employees with high-functioning anxiety may seem productive at first, their condition can ultimately negatively affect their work output. As they constantly second-guess themselves and struggle with overthinking, they focus on completing tasks rather than brainstorming new ideas or being innovative.

Employees with anxiety may struggle to focus, make choices, and finish tasks on time, resulting in decreased productivity and burnout.

Physical Dangers

High-functioning anxiety can result in an individual neglecting their physical wellbeing, including failing to take breaks, skipping meals, or avoiding exercise.

These behaviors can have physical consequences that could affect an employee’s work and their overall well-being. For example, without regular physical activity, employees may not take advantage of exercise’s benefits on mental health.

The Cost of High-Functioning Anxiety for Companies

The cost of high-functioning anxiety for companies can be detrimental. A recent study by Mental Health America found that 63% of employees who experience anxiety or depression cannot work productively, leading to $17-$44 billion in lost productivity annually.

Additionally, employees with high-functioning anxiety are more prone to leave their jobs than their peers due to negative perceptions from managers, reducing the overall ROI for businesses.

The Importance of Workplace Support

Employers need to understand the issues surrounding anxiety in the workplace and support their employees. Supporting employees with mental health conditions can lead to better outcomes for the business, even financially.

Businesses that invest in their employees’ mental health can see healthier bottom lines and create a more supportive work environment. Managers should foster open communication and create a space where employees can feel comfortable sharing their struggles.

Tips to Help Employees with High-Functioning Anxiety

Employers can play a significant role in supporting employees dealing with high-functioning anxiety. Some tips include clearly defining job roles and responsibilities, offering employee assistance programs, providing resources for stress management and mental health support, and offering flexible work arrangements.

Another way businesses can tackle high-functioning anxiety in the workplace is through counseling and therapy sessions, as well as education and training programs. These initiatives can provide workers with tools and resources to manage their anxiety better and create a more inclusive work environment for everyone.

Employers can offer counseling services, mental health check-ins, and regular mental health resources for their employees.

Employers need to be aware of the risks and consequences associated with high-functioning anxiety. By acknowledging the signs and symptoms of high-functioning anxiety, offering resources and support, and creating a culture of well-being, companies can help employees manage their anxiety.

Employers that recognize the dangers of high-functioning anxiety and take proactive measures to address it can help their employees improve their performance, safeguard their mental health, and ultimately benefit their bottom line. Don’t let this hidden danger impact the health of your workforce. Download our latest white paper, your tool to combat high-functioning anxiety in the workplace.

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