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Can Success Impact Anxiety and Depression ?

KD Holmes, LPC

I see so many clients who have no idea that overachieving is a part of their mental health problem.  They come to me with so many achievements, yet they are consumed with anxiety and/or depression, thinking that their inner overachiever god is "good", necessary, and "essential" for life.

What they don't know is that this part of them will never be fulfilled or settled...it will keep wanting more.  Like an inner monster cloaked in a disguise of goodness and health, this part is actually an inner foe, a thief of joy, and a barrier to healthy living.  

Are you an overachiever? Or is someone you love an overachiever?

  • Are you goal-driven to the point that only the outcome matters?

    Do you often focus on the outcomes in your life, equating your worthiness with only perfect outcomes?  Overachievers often report anxiety about the fear of a perceived unfavorable outcome.  I say perceived because inside their heads they think a B is an F, or that doing a workout 3 times a week rather than 5 times equals failure.  

  • Are you perfectionistic?

    Does your brain like things "just right"? I say just right because perfectionism is a personal internal line that if we do not meet means failure.  There is no room for mistakes or errors of any kind.

    Do you go over performances (games, dances, work projects) either internally reviewing, watching over and over again externally, or discussing with others with the intent of reliving perceived mistakes to rectify them in the future? 

  • Do you ONLY feel good enough or (relieved) when you achieve, but only for a brief moment because you are on to the next achievement?  

    It is like there is no reservoir to hold your achievements so you stay in a perpetual state of achieving, your anxiety is followed by relief that you achieved and then back into the loop of anxiety about the next achievement.  Individuals without this inner process relax after a project.  

    Overachiever cycle
  • Do you suffer from anxiety triggered by anticipation of goals not being met even though in your history you always meet the goal?

    These teens and young adults have a history of making As with only a few Bs or Cs and no Ds or Fs yet they live in a state like it is about to happen.  Logically when they speak to me, I think "oh you struggle in school."  Not the case -- they have never even made a bad grade, yet they live and think like they have a history of failures.  

    These individuals are consumed by anxiety.  Some even drop out of college, not because they failed a class, (they had straight As), but because they feared failing a class.  

  • Do you overwork, over-study, check, and recheck work (OCD)?  

    Overachievers do this to manage their anxiety and ensure they complete their tasks perfectly...which will ensure the best outcomes...if only it stopped their anxiety rather than increasing it.

  • Are you over scheduled?

    Adults and teens often have insane schedules that consist of task after task with minimal breaks in between.  These individuals have maybe 30 minutes to 1 hour of wiggle room in their schedules daily.  Honestly, most of them do not even have that.  Their bodies are in a perpetual state of adrenaline highs, rushing to meet task after task. 

  • Does your life consist of more work-focused tasks than relaxation or fun-focused tasks?  

    These individuals engage less in activities that are purely fun or relaxing: meditation, laughter, states of being, and fun activities with no outcome.  They often over-engage in work like activities: school work, hobbies that are goal-driven, chores at home, and running marathons.  Their schedules are filled with these work activities.

  • Do you have problems in relationships?

    This one does not always happen but can because the person does not have time to nurture the relationships in their lives and if/when they do, these relationships become places to seek reassurance for his/her anxiety.  

The end result for anyone with this underlying issue is a body and mind that is exhausted which causes:

Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety:

  • Fatigue
  • Problems sleeping
  • Excessive worrying
  • Increased anxiety sensations in the body
  • Moods managed by compulsive achieving
  • Irritability
  • Hyper-focus on goals
  • Relationship problems.  

If this rings true for you or someone you care about...it is possible to change your habits and increase your overall wellbeing.  It starts with identifying what is happening and knowing this type of behavior/thinking significantly impacts you!  

depression, anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Overachiever Consequences, Over achieving, Perfectionism