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Mental Health

Are High Achievers More Prone To Mental Health Issues

Most people experience a mental health problem at some point in their life. But are high achievers more prone to mental health issues?

When we visualise persons with a mental illness, we look for the outward changes in mood, behaviour, appearance and performance. As a society, we fail to see the signs in the successful people around us. High achievers, like anyone else, are susceptible to mental health issues. Success does not exempt you from experiencing mental health problems.

Characters of High Achievers

According to an article from lifehack.org, high achievers have the following characteristics. They are:

  • Action-Oriented – they are driven and require little persuasion to get the work done. 
  • Optimistic – they focus on the positive and good in the world.
  • Visionary – have clear goals and plans to help them achieve their vision for their life.
  • Output-Focused – they look at the quality of their work and improve them to get better results.
  • Clutter-Free – they like their life organised, with no unnecessary distractions cluttering their mind.
  • Flexible – they are open-minded and willing to try different things to solve their problems.
  • Accepting – they accept past mistakes and regrets, learn from them and move on. 
  • Go-Getters – don’t slow down. They seek continuous self-improvement to achieve their goals.
  • Opportunity seekers – are always on the lookout for new opportunities and are not afraid to grasp them.
  • Lack of comparisons – they don’t focus on what other people are doing, only on getting better than themselves.
  • Disciplined – they create routines and structures that help them get things done.
  • Eager to learn – continuous learning is a part of their lifestyle. It helps them grow and expand their thinking.
  • Doers- get things done. They limit procrastination.
  • Intrinsically motivated – they motivate themselves into action. They have their goals and values and go after them.
  • Helpful – their commitment to outcome and growth creates opportunities and quality services for others.

High achievers have a wealth of good habits and characteristics. Despite this, these traits make high performers uniquely susceptible to specific problems.

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5 Issues Unique to High Performers

Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is a belief or feeling that you are not as good as other people expect. You feel like a phoney and doubt your abilities. You spend a lot of time feeling like you don’t belong. Instead of feeling pride and gratitude for your achievements, you belittle your performance and skills. 


The desire to be perfect and have everything be perfect is called perfectionism. Persons who are perfectionists are over-critical and controlling of themselves and others. Their need to be perfect makes them focus on mistakes and pushes them to work hard. However, it can also cause them to procrastinate and set unrealistic goals.


High performers can experience high levels of uncertainty about their lives. Their inner critic is very active and constantly judges their actions. Low self-esteem is a common characteristic of high achievers. They struggle with feeling good enough, so they work hard and push themselves to cover their insecurities and self-doubt.

High functioning Depression

Depression or major depressive disorder is a mood disorder that affects how you feel, think and act. It shows up as feelings of persistent sadness and loss of interest in daily life. High-functioning depression or PDD (persistent depressive disorder) is similar to major depression but not as severe. 

Like depression, you may experience changes in sleep and appetite, low energy, sadness and difficulty concentrating. However, to be classed as PDD, your symptoms need to be present most days for at least two years.

High achievers are more prone to high-functioning depression. They can perform and function normally most of the time. Others may see them as gloomy and cynical.

Anxiety Disorders

Another type of high functioning disorder that high performers may experience is an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are characterised by symptoms of nervousness, fear, panic, chest discomfort, obsessive thoughts, muscle tension and more. Persons with high functioning anxiety appear calm, successful and organised to everyone else, but on the inside, they feel different. They are likely to be people-pleasers because they fear letting others down and have nervous habits. They may be plagued by overthinking, rumination and racing minds, and procrastinate then overwork to make up for the lost time.

Being a high achiever is admirable, but it can create a lot of challenges in your life. The pressure to succeed can lead to mental health issues.

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The Link Between Success and Mental Disorders

If you look at some of the stories of successful people, you will see examples of success and mental illness. If you Google the terms success and mental disorders, you will see studies, articles and blog posts talking about the link between success and mental health issues.

A quick search says that CEOs are twice as likely to suffer from depression compared to the general population.

Another article says that some of the traits needed to succeed are present in mental health conditions. These similar characteristics may make you prone to developing mental health issues. Of course, this does not mean because you seek novelty and risk, you will develop bipolar disorder. Nor does it mean if you are obsessive with your start-up, you have an obsessive-compulsive disorder. But, it is good to be aware of any potential link that can help you guard against any mental health problems.

The pressure to succeed can breed a host of problems. High achievers can become so caught up in success that they neglect self-care, relationships and physical health. Overworking is a common trait that leads to stress and burnout. Many other health problems such as heart disease, eating disorders and substance abuse can develop from unhealthy coping mechanisms.

The stress of trying live up to sometimes unrealistic goals and the constant fear of failure can be debilitating. Unfortunately, many college students and high schools enrolled in prestigious institutions face this problem. Our young people are at risk of developing psychiatric disorders because of this persistent pressure to be the best. The primary care of adults and guardians should be to teach children to create a well-balanced life.

How To Mitigate the Negative Effects of High Achievement and Mental Health Issues

Nothing is wrong with being a high achiever and going after the life you envision for yourself. The problem arises when we try to meet society’s definition of success. One way to promote good mental health is to challenge success. We need to redefine how we view success. True success should incorporate the 12 dimensions of life

  • Health and Fitness
  • Intellectual Life
  • Emotional Life
  • Character
  • Spirituality
  • Love and relationships
  • Parenting
  • Social Life
  • Financial Life
  • Career
  • Quality of Life
  • Life Vision

Creating a holistic definition of success allows us to embrace the high achiever mentality with less risk. 


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Thank you for reading.

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Remember to love generously, inspire daily and learn constantly.
Life is too short and precious for anything else.


Ms. Phillip is a customer support service operator, a hobby blogger and a content creator. This is a space for curious minds, self-exploration and creative expression. Read more of her journey to finding clarity and freedom. Feel free to contact her here.


  • Loren

    This is a very profound post on an important topic, oftentimes imposter syndrome can end up affecting how people respond to situations and lead to further mental health issues. While I’m not a high achiever, I do like to plan big for the future and when things go wrong my perfectionism makes me feel horrible and it overtakes all of my accomplishments which then makes me depressed or anxious.

    Thank you for sharing this post and for emphasizing the 12 dimensions of life!

    Loren | plaidandsugar.com

    • amethystap

      Hi Loren. Thank you for reading and commenting. I see and feel you. Perfectionism can really lead us down the path to anxiety and depression if we’re not careful.

      I think imposter syndrome and perfectionism are two issues that a lot of people can relate to these days. So many of us are in the public view as content creators and business owners, and this media centred life we live in can make us second guess our abilities and overcompensate by trying to be “perfect”.
      It’s a situation that can take away so much of our joy from our achievements and the effort we put in.
      I really think that redefining success in our life by creating a more holistic view is the way to go.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  • pinecanvasblog

    This is a connection I haven’t thought of before, certainly gives me a lot to think about and understand some people better. Love your blog been reading it for several days now,

    • amethystap

      I think it’s common to think that because you are a high achiever, you have your life in order and are not prone to mental health problems. But sadly high achievers feel pressured by society and desire to succeed which makes them more susceptible to stress, anxiety and self-doubt. Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m so glad you are enjoying my blog. Thank you. ☺

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