Are You HFA – High Functioning & Anxious?
Great job? Check. In a senior position? Check. Suffering from anxiety? Check. You’re part of the new group of women: high functioning & anxious
Kendall Jenner, Lena Dunham and Taylor Swift have a lot in common. But apart from the riches, the fame and being allround incredible women, they’ve each admitted to suffering from something that’s had a massive impact on their successful careers: anxiety.
‘I cannot believe 4 million people are looking at what I’m doing at all times. It kinda freaks me out and gives me anxiety,’ admitted Kendall, 20, who’s just landed her first Vogue cover and bought her second £5 million house in Malibu.
Meanwhile, Adele, who turned down the chance to perform at America’s Super Bowl, has confessed that playing in front of large audiences can cause her to suffer anxiety attacks. The 28-year-old singer’s revealed: ‘One show in Amsterdam I was so nervous, I escaped out of the fire exit. I’ve thrown up a couple of times. Once, in Brussels, I projectile vomited on someone. I just gotta bear it. But I don’t like touring. I have anxiety attacks a lot.
Anxiety is a common, with an estimated 5 per cent of the UK population suffering from generalised anxiety disorder – a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a variety of situations, rather than one specific event. But it’s high-powered professional women who are suffering most, with a recent study by Cambridge University revealing that women are twice as likely to experience anxiety as men and under-35s are disproportionately affected.
‘The workplace can really enhance anxious feelings,’ explains the London Anxiety Clinic. ‘But anxiety doesn’t need to cost you your successful career.’
Amy, 32, who works in property sales, admits that most of her colleagues have no idea she suffers from anxiety during work hours. ‘While I head up meetings and negotiate million-pound deals, I’m constantly overthinking every decision or worrying. A group email takes me a long time because I’ll check it about six times before I feel calm enough to send it,’ she says. ‘If my team knew, they’d be shocked – they often joke about how cool, calm and collected I seem. But inside I’m a mess.’
According to an eight-year study by the University of California, in Western countries like the UK the confidence gap between men and women is significantly more pronounced. And it seems that it’s at work where women put themselves under the most amount of pressure.
Sarah, 27, a self-confessed HFA and copywriter from Manchester, says it’s the simple tasks she can find the most stressful. ‘My heart will race and I’ll become sensitive to everything around me right before big meetings.’ she explains. ‘The feeling goes up and down – and then afterwards, I’ll think about how it went all night.’
But if you’re experiencing these feelings, it is possible to manage them. ‘There are particular patterns and themes of thought, feelings and behaviours that maintain the anxiety,’ says the London Anxiety Clinic. ‘By learning how to disrupt these patterns and at the same time develop new understanding and skills, you can reduce the anxiety and increase self-esteem and confidence’.
‘I have cognitive behavioural therapy once a week now,’ adds Sarah. ‘It’s helping me get back on track with my work. I’d recommend going to see your GP and talking through the right treatment for you, because what works for one person might not work for another.’
I seem calm and collected but inside I’m a mess