Your Guide to Living With Functional Anxiety

Anxiety and depression rates increased by 25% globally during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stress, fear, and loneliness were some of the root causes of mental health illness spikes. Unfortunately, many people were unable to receive adequate healthcare or face-to-face visits. 

Have you wondered, “do I have functioning anxiety?” Functional anxiety is relatively silent anxiety without many obvious outward signs. While you may live your day-to-day life without a hitch, you can still deal with fear, worry, and other debilitating symptoms. 

If this sounds like you or a loved one, you will want to keep reading our complete guide on functional anxiety and the best treatment options. We will also break down ways you can start feeling better through natural remedies and therapies. 

What Is Functional Anxiety?

Functional anxiety, also known as high functioning anxiety, is difficult to identify. From an outsider’s perspective (or even the person dealing with anxiety), they can work and participate in daily activities. Yet, these individuals continue dealing with the debilitating effects of anxiety, such as:

  • Excessive worrying
  • Fear
  • Overthinking
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Irritability
  • Perfectionism
  • Desire to keep busy all the time
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Appetite changes

The two most prominent symptoms of functional anxiety are impaired sleep and appetite. Signs of functional anxiety may be mild, atypical, hidden, recurrent, or severe. It isn’t uncommon that a person appears confident and calm to others, even those closest to them. 

What Causes Functional Anxiety?

The causes of functional anxiety are similar to other anxiety types, including:

  • Genetics
  • Other mental health conditions
  • Childhood personality types
  • High-stress exposure
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Heart conditions
  • Substance abuse

There are also close ties between functional anxiety and depression. Although, it can be challenging to pinpoint which causes the other. Approximately 60% of patients with anxiety also have depression indicators

Functional Anxiety vs. Generalized Anxiety Disorder

How is coping with functional anxiety different than other types of anxiety disorders? Most times, the symptoms are closely intertwined. People with a generalized anxiety disorder diagnosis may show signs of:

  • Nervousness or irritability
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Difficulty sleeping and concentrating

The primary difference is how someone copes with their anxiety. For example, anxiety often puts a person into a constant fight or flight mode. A person may avoid work, school, or other anxiety triggers with a generalized anxiety disorder. 

You may notice people with generalized anxiety withdraw from family, friends, or hobbies. Functional anxiety typically shows up in the form of perfectionism, focused routines, and productivity. This makes it much harder for others to see and may deter people from getting help.

Risks of Functional Anxiety

What are the risks of living with functional anxiety? Like other anxiety forms, you have a higher risk of depression (noted above) and other medical complications, such as:

  • Hormonal and chemical imbalances
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiac disease
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Weakened immune system
  • Worsening asthma symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Chronic muscle tension

If you have other comorbidities such as COPD, functional anxiety can exacerbate symptoms and increase hospitalization risks

Anxiety Treatments

Many people dealing with anxiety don’t seek treatment. Since functional anxiety can often be missed, it is critical that you take time to check in with yourself and your loved ones on their mental health. The first line of defense when it comes to managing anxiety is utilizing coping mechanisms, such as:

  • Managing triggers (e.g., work deadlines, to-do lists)
  • Relaxation techniques (e.g., deep breathing, meditation, yoga)
  • Regular physical activity
  • Limiting alcohol intake
  • Eating a nutritious and balanced diet

Counseling, therapy, and medications can also facilitate long-term success. Unfortunately, many medications can cause several negative side effects such as addiction, dizziness, weight gain, or nausea. Functional medicine uses natural supplements and bioidentical hormones that can help reduce side effects. 

Hormones and Anxiety

Did you know that a few of the signs of hormonal imbalances are depression, mood swings, and anxiety? Thyroid hormone imbalances can be a contributing factor. Yet, your sex hormones also play a crucial role in your mental health.

Hormonal imbalances affect sleep quality, sexual function, and memory. All these signs can also overlap with anxiety. 

An excellent example of how sex hormones affect anxiety is in the case of estrogen and females. When females start perimenopause, hormones like estrogen and progesterone start declining. 

Researchers found that declining estrogen levels can play a factor in anxiety symptoms, and hormone therapy could help improve cognition and reduce symptoms. 

What Is Hormone Therapy?

Hormone therapy is a treatment option for anxiety and other conditions. It uses synthetic or natural hormones to help regulate your body’s hormonal levels. Bioidentical or natural hormones are structurally identical to your body’s production. 

Using bioidentical hormones can more effectively replenish depleted sources without adverse side effects. Medical experts prefer using hormone pellet therapy for several reasons, including:

  • Reducing the need for daily pills
  • Absorbed through your cardiac system
  • Optimal dosing
  • Fewer side effects

Hormone therapy can include testosterone, estrogen, or thyroid hormone replacements. Combined with other functional medicine practices, such as supplements, lifestyle changes, and nutrition, these treatments can positively affect your health and wellness. 

Managing Your Functional Anxiety

Functional anxiety isn’t something you should brush under the rug. When your body is in constant fight or flight mode, your chemicals and hormones become unbalanced, leading to long-term feelings of stress or depression. 

It also increases your risk for other chronic diseases. Sometimes, hormonal imbalances cause anxiety symptoms. Many menopausal women might feel this sudden shift after drops in estrogen levels. 

For help getting started with treatment, find a certified provider that is trained in helping you manage your functional anxiety. 

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