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Functional Anxiety

This post first appeared on Healthy Minds Canada’s website:


If dysthymia is persistent mild depression, is there a clinical term for persistent mild anxiety?

There should be.

I’ve been feeling a chronic, mild state of anxiety for so long. I’m going to call it functional anxiety.

I have established a “baseline” anxiety and “baseline” depression level. I hate that they are both there daily, but I do have days that are better than others, my so-called “functional days”.

I find that the symptoms of both anxiety and depression are challenging to deal with but for different reasons. The symptoms of depression are easier to deal with when I am in public/at work. I find anxiety is a bit trickier because of the physical symptoms that come with being anxious like becoming overheated, becoming flushed, difficulty breathing etc.

I have mentioned before that I have become so good at hiding my anxiety (or moods) that the people closest to me miss it sometimes, or I even fool myself. I unintentionally became an actress of sorts.

This quote from an article on The Mighty, “A Day in the Life of a Girl With Anxiety“, is a perfect example:

I’m sure anyone who lives with anxiety can agree with me when I say hiding anxiety may be one of the greatest talents people with anxiety have. There are few people who can see through me, see past the walls I have put up and see the pain I’m hiding from the rest of the world.

It’s so true though, there really are few people who can see through the facade, and sometimes no one realizes a facade has been put up at all. No one notices at work, that’s for sure. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I sit in a semi-isolated area, so it is quiet a good deal of the time, and I am not forced to talk to people.

Another great quote from that article is:

You see, the thing about anxiety is that it is internal. I get to decide what you see me struggling with, and I typically choose to keep my struggles buried deep inside

A day in the life of a girl with anxiety looks just like a day in the life of a girl without it.

So functional anxiety is what it is. A functioning form of anxiety. I can work with it. I can go places with it. I can attempt to socialize with it. I don’t require daily doses of Ativan or Rivotril (Clonazepam). Breathing exercises and counting exercises are enough…when I am functionally anxious.

Speaking of enough, it is also important to remind yourself that you are enough. Try to be nice to yourself, and don’t beat yourself up for the bad days. Here is a helpful article I found about self-love and how to implement some self-love practices if you’re interested. I like the happiness jar idea.

There are other suggestions aside from gratitude journals, don’t worry! Sometimes the idea of “adding” anything else to your routine can seem overwhelming, but perhaps you can find something small or that’s easy to implement to show yourself that you do care about yourself, without creating additional anxiety or stress. Lately, for me, I have been colouring in adult colouring books when I have time and to make myself relax, having found really great ones with intricate designs that keep my mind distracted. I am also trying to read when I have a few spare minutes/before bed if I can stay awake because I get lost in books.

C.S. Lewis once wrote, “We read to know we are not alone”. I’ve always loved books. Books have been there for me through all my ups and downs and can be comforting.

It comes down to the power of words. Think of how words can be used to comfort…Positive words, phrases, quotes, mantras…We read books, articles and blogs to relate to each other and to know we are not alone, right? For one reason or another, several series of letters strung together in a certain order has the ability to bring hope and remind us of the light at the end of the tunnel or that tomorrow is a new day.

Categories: Bipolar Disorder Healthy Minds Canada

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Melanie L.

Mental health advocate. Blogger. Writer. Creative being. Sensitive soul.

(Also law clerk, social media writer/marketer and book worm).

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