Understanding High-Achieving Anxiety

Updated: Sep 2


Cast: Dr. Tara Egan, host, child & adolescent therapist, parent coach & author Anna, her teen co-host Ashley Francis, licensed therapist, on-line coach for teens and women experiencing anxiety



During today's discussion, we explore high-achieving anxiety, a concept familiar to all three women. How is anxiety defined? Ashley notes that anxiety is a natural response to stress, and it inspires us to remain safe, concentrate, and persist with tasks. It helps us increase self-awareness and attend to pain points. But sometimes anxiety is unproductive--it works against us for causing us to feel badly about ourselves (the "not enoughs"). Dr. Egan shares that she often uses a number line with her clients to help determine whether clients are apathetic (1-3), in the "just right" range (4-7), or entirely too anxious (8-10). Ashley reports that if someone is in the too anxious range most days of the week for weeks on end, a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder may be warranted. Do parents glorify anxiety? Do we need to feel like we need to peddle faster and be on high-alert to feel like we're doing enough? And do we fail to ask for help when needed because we want to appear successful and competent, despite feeling worried or overwhelmed internally? Anna notes that in high school, some peers initially appear to have it all together but then fret and fall apart later. She wonders if high-achievers seek out other high-achievers. Ashley says yes, because "like attracts like." High-achieving anxiety can be helpful-- it drives you, makes you more productive, and can have positive outcomes. But it can also be a burden, because it can be isolating and overwhelming at times. Teens can fall into care-taking or peace-keeping roles as they often come from families with at least one high-achieving parent. Tara discusses the "curse of the competent woman," ---a woman who is competent, calm, and detail-oriented, inspiring people to rely on that woman extensively and making it difficult for her to show vulnerability. Ashley counsels the audience to "know your truth" so we can identify when it's time to advocate for ourselves, speak up to express our needs, and harness our self-esteem. While Tara indicates that she's not plagued with self-doubt as an adult, she recalls experiencing those negative thoughts as a teen. Anna feels that being able to stand up for herself is essential, and describes an incident of her thoughts spiraling as a result of anxiety. Ashley discusses how anxiety often manifests physically--with headaches and stomachaches, for example, but also notes that parents need to encourage their teens to check in with themselves emotionally. Teens want to talk. Look for signs of your teen overextending themselves and burning out on activities that they normally find enjoyable. Meltdowns, quitting an activity, changing friend groups---these can be signs that teens are just trying to lighten their load. Parents should help their teens set boundaries, and should role model this for them.


Listen to more episodes of "One Day You'll Thank Me" Parenting Podcast by Dr. Tara Egan & her teen cohost here: https://podbay.fm/podcast/1520134585 https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/one-day-youll-thank-me/id1520134585 https://open.spotify.com/show/3Nljryqpf5FwGMnDRIWcVO


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