63: Confessions of a High Functioning, Anxious Therapist

In the spirit of normalizing therapy and making mental health relatable, Nikki Young and Alyssa Najera get real about their own mental health. Join the conversation as they each share how they came to the realization of just how much their own anxiety has been showing up in their personal and professional lives.

High-achieving, perfectionist, detail oriented, driven, workaholic, and “successful” are all common descriptors of someone who may also closely identify with high functioning anxiety. While high functioning anxiety is not a diagnosis or disorder, it is commonly used to describe someone who may struggle with anxiety symptoms internally, yet on the surface appears calm, collected, and even well-accomplished.  

In this episode we talk about:

What is High Functioning Anxiety?

High functioning anxiety is not a diagnosis or disorder among the anxiety umbrella in the DSM5. It is, however, commonly used to described someone who struggles with common anxiety symptoms yet is fairly successful at managing all facets in their life such personal, professional, financial, and family responsibilities.

Someone who identifies with high functioning anxiety is typically not experiencing impairment in any given are of their life and is often described as

  • Accomplished
  • Successful
  • Driven
  • Overachiever
  • Detail-oriented
  • Perfectionist
  • Type-A Personality

Despite the outward accolades and achievements, the individual navigating high functioning, anxiety is likely also struggling internally with anxiety symptoms such as

  • Excessive worry
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Muscle tensions
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Racing thoughts
  • Internal fears (i.e. fear of rejection, failure, or disappointing)
  • Ongoing self-doubt
  • Questioning whether you are good enough or deserving

Possible Causes of High Functioning Anxiety

Causes of anxiety or anxiety symptoms vary, however, genetics and environment can be contributing factors. Here is a list of things to consider.

  • Family history of anxiety disorders
  • Exposure to negative or stressful life events
  • Certain physical health conditions
  • Substance or alcohol abuse
  • Childhood experiences

Types of Anxiety

Although high functioning anxiety is not a diagnosis or disorder, there are several forms of anxiety that do meet criteria of a formal diagnosis including

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Panic disorders
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Phobias
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder
  • Selective Mutism
  • Agoraphobia
  • Substance/Medication Induced Anxiety Disorder
  • Anxiety disorder due to another Medical Condition

Resources mentioned:

We’ve pulled together any resources mentioned in this episode and put together some links:

To learn more, check out Therapists Uncut episodes on anxiety including our 50th episode, “Living with Anxiety.”

You can also visit our Mental Health Resources page for additional links.

Thank you for allowing us into your lives and helping us make mental health relatable and a part of your everyday conversation! For more information or to access all episodes visit TherapistsUncut.com.

What is the Therapists Uncut Podcast:

The Therapists Uncut Podcast is a light-hearted, informative self-help podcast for grown-ups. It is hosted by off-the-clock therapists hoping to validate your experiences, normalize therapy and therapists, and help you prioritize your mental health.

Who are the Therapists Uncut Podcast Co-Hosts:

Nikki Young is co-host of Therapists Uncut and a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Nikki keeps it personable and professional. Yet, she always manages to keep the Therapists Uncut family and followers laughing. You may find her squirreling through topics, stories, or jokes, and all in good fun. Don’t worry because someone will bring her back around to the conversation. Nikki is a licensed marriage and family therapist in her private practice located in Modesto, CA, and she is also a Crisis Junkie at heart. In addition to being co-owner of a group private practice, she is also a crisis clinician responding to local mental health crisis and emergencies. Learn more about Nikki at catalystcounselinginc.com

Alyssa Najera is co-host of Therapists Uncut and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Alyssa is typically calm and composed on most days, but often has difficulty containing her excitement about the little things in life. She loves to laugh, spread positivity, and is often caught with a smile on her face. Alyssa is also a Child Welfare Services social worker and supervisor alumni, previous child sexual abuse forensic interviewer, trainer and consultant, and CEO of a group private practice in the small town of Oakdale, CA. Learn more about Alyssa at smalltowncounselingca.com or alyssanajera.com.


Thank you for joining Therapists Uncut, a production of AMP Smart Business. To learn more about Therapists Uncut and stay up on upcoming episodes, please subscribe and follow us on social media. As a reminder, although the Therapists Uncut co-hosts are licensed therapists, they are not your therapist. This podcast is not intended to substitute professional mental health counseling. If you need professional therapy, please contact your local provider or primary care provider.  Thanks for listening and we’ll see you on the next episode of Therapists Uncut!

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Therapists Uncut is a production of AMP Smart Business.

Voice Over by Alexia Gloria