How High-Functioning Anxiety is Exploited

`Those with high-functioning anxiety can find themselves being used by others.


High-function anxiety can feel endless. In fact, it is often shaped by the fact that there are no days off, no days of rest or self-care because the desire to appear fine goes so far that people will continue with life and work flat-out without tacking any time to themselves.

It can be a relentless condition, that makes management and recovery after a bad episode feel like an uphill battle. The stereotype of anxiety is someone who may be unable to do certain things which are expected by society as routine, such as socialising or going to work. This isn’t the case for everyone. Some people with anxiety feel stressed and like failures if they aren’t working all of the time, or they believe that people are secretly doubting and judging them and so may go out of their way to seem fine. This mask takes its toll. It can mean zero time for yourself, but it can also mean working long and unsustainable hours.

“Some people with anxiety feel stressed and like failures if they aren’t working all of the time”

When people find out, sometimes the reaction is rightly one of support. But there are always those waiting to take advantage and therefore people with high-functioning anxiety may be at risk of exploitation.

It’s easy to see why predators would prey on those with high-functioning anxiety. If those with anxiety always want to please and never admit failure, then abusers may jump at the chance to use them to do their own work, while knowing their victim will never feel able to speak out.

It can start without people realising. Someone forgets to do their own work or is struggling to meet a deadline and needs an extra hand, but this happens again and again. Or perhaps you’re in a position of authority and an employee isn’t delivering but you don’t want to speak out because of how it will reflect on you as a leader, even though they are consistently and deliberately letting the team down.

The abusers can feel as though they’re getting away with it but they can be spotted, they can be seen and they should be called out – and it is up to the team as a whole to ensure everyone is doing their best whenever and wherever possible.

As high-functioning anxiety gets more understood, there’s a risk people become more aware of how to exploit it for their own gain. It’s not enough just taking time to talk, it’s about taking serious action and being pro-active to ensure that those with high-functioning anxiety are getting the support they need.

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