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

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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

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