High Functioning Anxiety: Support It or Suppress It?

By Dr. Tony Ebel, DC, CPPFC, CCWP
High Functioning Anxiety: Support It or Suppress It? | PX Docs

One of our absolute favorite parts of working with so many young adult, teenage, and grade school patients with challenges like High Functioning Anxiety and ADHD is helping them find that “space” and resiliency within their nervous system. This allows them to get the most out of the beautiful and incredible brain God gave them, but not be wound up and stressed out that the things they love to do turn into a daily struggle. 

It’s not an easy topic to tackle because for so many kids things seem to be going just fine… until one day they’re not. I’m going to dive into five support strategies for supporting kiddos dealing with high-functioning anxiety.

These strategies will all begin with the letter “S” to make them easier to remember and implement. Naturally, when our children are struggling with high functioning anxiety and emotional dysregulation challenges, we get anxious, stressed, and wound up, and it can be hard to get out of our emotional brain and be in a good place to help them.  These five strategies will help with that!

1. See High Functioning Anxiety Differently

Looking at high functioning anxiety differently is essentially asking you to change your perspective about high functioning anxiety. I could actually say the exact same thing for ADHD.

God gave me high functioning ADHD. When I’m in that mode, my brain doesn’t necessarily go down the anxiety road – that would be what happens to my beautiful wife. So we have high functioning ADHD with high functioning anxiety and our children are our children growing up in our driven life to serve and impact others.

I wanted to approach this topic from a personal perspective as I have a strong understanding of these five support strategies due to using them for my ADHD and to support my loved ones with high functioning anxiety. I will tell you every single morning in my prayers I thank God for making me the way I am. But if I saw my ADHD as a negative, the way traditional medicine tends to, I would feel like I needed to stop or suppress it, instead of supporting it. 

If there is a thesis statement I could write for this, it would be that our children don’t need to be told there’s something wrong with them. They don’t need to be diagnosed with a disorder that sounds detrimental and bad. They don’t need medication to suppress it and stop it. They need the right action steps without drugs, that support it. 

Those action steps come in three different categories. They need emotional support from their loved ones and the professionals around them. They need physical health and they need chemical, nutritional, and natural health – not medications.

We’ve seen time and time again that if a child with high functioning anxiety is told there’s something wrong with them or given a drug to stop it, that is a Perfect Storm pathway fast. That is a child who gets off track onto the struggle bus big time, and it is hard to get them off of that struggle bus. 

God doesn’t make mistakes when He designs us and designs our children. But a lot of times what we need is support to bring the best out of our design, and that’s what I’m talking about with support strategy number one. 

2. sleep

Number two is without a doubt, prioritizing sleep. Kiddos who run their brains and nervous systems hard, need to have a longer cooling-off period. Sleep can be a tricky one to prioritize because our high functioning anxiety kiddos are the ones that are most likely pretty driven. Which might mean they are in a lot of activities, taking honors courses, and doing a lot of things that feed where their success comes from. But then it can feed back and aggravate their anxiety and get in the way of sleep.

3. Structure/schedule

You need number three to build and prioritize sleep. In this structure and schedule you need to prioritize sleep and also allocate time for flat-out free fun, leisure, joy, and outdoor activities.

A high functioning anxiety teenager or adult loves to max out their schedules with sports, school, academics, jobs, etc. These high functioning anxiety and ADHD kiddos are the leaders, doers, and drivers, and this is why I’m so passionate about getting them the right kind of support.  I want to make sure they know how important these things are to make them that much more effective in the things that they love.

4. Supplements

Number four is supplements, things such as magnesium, zinc, and adrenal support which can be a mix of different B vitamins and even herbs. There are options that are designed to support these supplements, like magnesium, zinc, and sleepy time supplements – and they can all help to prioritize sleep.

There are a lot of great brands out there, but Ancient Nutrition is by far our favorite supplement brand for kids and adults. 

5. Scans/subluxation

This final strategy is my domain. I want to dig into some neurology, something that is very in play with high functioning anxiety and in my opinion the thing that can turn it into a detriment.

The sympathetic, or fight or flight, side of the nervous system can take a child off the sympathetic cliff causing them to get locked so deeply into fight or flight that they are no longer high functioning and productive. It can be detrimental and take over their life, so what used to be exciting for them – school, sports, and extracurricular activities – becomes a source of pain and anxiety. 

In neurologically focused chiropractic, we call this subluxation. If a child is subluxated, we know that their fight or flight or sympathetic nervous system is running the show too much, too often, and too high. We also call that the gas pedal of the nervous system.

If a child whose nervous system is already prone to go onto the gas pedal goes too far, that drive into the central and autonomic nervous system triggers subluxation and goes into dysautonomia. This is a catchall word that anxiety lives within where the nervous system is shifted too much onto fight or flight and not enough on the vagus nerve and the parasympathetic side of the nervous system. 

A child with high functioning anxiety needs their vagus nerve to be fully functioning and their autonomic nervous system to be organized, balanced, and functional. 

THe power of iNSIGHT Scanning Technology

That’s where the INSiGHT scans come in. In our PX offices, we run these super safe, noninvasive scans that look deep into the central and autonomic nervous system. There are three different scans and it takes only 15 minutes to run them. 

These scans are going to tell us, number one, if your child is subluxated and if their nervous system is shifted too far and too much into that fight or flight side of the nervous system or not. 

Number two, if your child is subluxated, we can actually quantify and measure how distressed and stuck in fight or flight they are. 

Number three, we can locate where within the body and neuro-spinal system tension lies and where that subluxation is trapped and stuck. 

Subluxation early in life can present as minor issues that may appear as “normal” occurrences such as colic, increased sensory sensitivities, more frequent meltdowns, and tantrums. But then they can become high functioning anxiety and ADHD later on in childhood and through the teenage years.

It may seem like it just showed up recently, but it didn’t. There was a Perfect Storm that happened. There was a sequence and build to it, and medicine is not trained to find it. We know that neurologically focused chiropractic is the missing link that can pull a child back up over that cliff and get their sleep back on track. 

What about the gut?

Lastly, let’s talk about the gut because one of the biggest challenges high functioning anxiety kids deal with are things like constipation, indigestion, and reflux. They may have trouble breathing because their diaphragm and thorax are stuck. Flight or flight causes things to tense all the time. So maybe your teenager is always cracking their neck or asking for massages for their sore back.  These are all signs of subluxation, dysautonomia, and tension on the sympathetic nervous system. There is no medication, supplement, or massage that gets rid of subluxation.

This is when you need a trained and ready neurologically focused pediatric and family chiropractor. And that is why we created the PX Docs network. We have a network of neurologically focused pediatric chiropractors just like me all over the world, who have the same technology, approach, and perspective.

Please visit our PX Docs directory, and find a PX Doc near you to get scans done, and a care plan put in place for your kiddo. Then watch your child’s gut, sleep, and nervous system get back on track. 

Then that high functioning tension, which is who they are at their core, becomes a success, a hidden weapon, and the thing you are thankful for. 

God bless, and be well.

Dr. Tony Ebel is the lead writer and educational guide for PX Docs. He is a Certified Pediatric + Wellness Chiropractor with 15 years of clinical experience. In addition, Dr. Tony has been teaching and training other Pediatric + Family Chiropractors for the past 10+ years, primarily teaching the clinical protocols he created for pediatric neurodevelopmental challenges such as Autism, ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, Epilepsy, Anxiety, and more. This clinical program is now taught in collaboration with the Life University Postgraduate Department and has over 500 graduates. Dr. Tony’s passion is educating, empowering, and informing parents about the nervous system's role in natural, drug-free healing for all pediatric conditions and cases.

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