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The Highs and Lows of High Achievers: Understanding High Achiever Syndrome

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Although introduced in 1943, Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory still holds to a great extent. It puts forward that people are motivated by five basic categories of needs, which are: physiological, safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization.

Self-actualization, the highest level of human needs, according to the theory, refers to feeling fulfilled or feeling that a person is living to his or her potential. A unique feature of self-actualization is that it looks different for everyone. It is this distinction that separates individuals; high achievers have a higher level of expectations from themselves compared to the regular person. A leading psychologist and Executive coach have coined a term to describe the characteristics of these types of high-achieving leaders – High Achievers Syndrome™.

What is High Achievers Syndrome?

Here are some of the characteristics that can describe high achievers. While these may not be applicable to all top performers and high achievers, many of these characteristics define them.

  1. They value accomplishment. Their accomplishment is of foremost importance to them. They consider their worth tied to their accomplishments.
  2. They feel great when succeeding. Unless a high achiever is achieving, they tend not to feel good.
  3. They are always busy. They always need to be doing something. Sitting still is excruciating for a high achiever.
  4. They’re perfectionists. They expect the highest standard in everything. Nothing is ever good enough.
  5. They have to be the best at everything they do. They can be endlessly competitive and expect the best results even for leisurely activities like their hobbies.
  6. They have high expectations not only of themselves but of others, too. They have a harsh inner critic. They’re less forgiving even of themselves when they make a mistake.
  7. They pursue accomplishments. They go for accomplishments such as promotions, public office, student government, sports, etc. They may be just for the status, prestige, or proving to themselves that they could win.
  8. They’re constantly striving to achieve that next feat. That keeps you from savoring and celebrating their accomplishments before moving on to tackle the next one. Sometimes they even forget past accomplishments because they are so focused on what comes next.
  9. They love the feeling of adrenaline rush. Achieving, succeeding, and hustling make them feel excited and thrilled.


Now, assess whether these characteristics sound like you.If you have seven or more of these qualities, you may have high achievers syndrome, and you may be on the path to burnout, high-functioning anxiety, or high-functioning depression.

How Does High Achievers Syndrome Affect New Yorkers?

New Yorkers are known for their work ethic and drive to succeed, which can lead to overachiever syndrome. The pressure to excel in a competitive work environment and maintain a high standard of living can take a toll on physical and mental health. Symptoms of overachieving syndrome, such as self-criticism, perfectionism, and an intense fear of failure, are amplified in the fast-paced, high-stress environment of New York.

Symptoms of High Achievers Syndrome

If you are a high achiever experiencing high achievement syndrome, you may even be demonstrating some of its symptoms. These symptoms may lead to burnout, anxiety, or depression. These include:

  • Less enjoyment of work as you used to
  • Loss of interest in things and activities you used to enjoy
  • Feeling like you’ve lost your drive
  • Needing more alone time than usual
  • Panic attacks, fatigue
  • Headaches, stomachaches
  • Weight loss or gain


How to Cope with High Achievers Syndrome

If you are struggling with high achievers syndrome, here are some strategies that may help you cope:

  1. Set realistic goals:  High performers need to set realistic and achievable goals to avoid burnout and manage their workload effectively.
  2. Practice self-compassion: A high achiever should practice self-compassion by treating themselves and accepting their imperfections.
  3. Celebrate successes:  High achievers should celebrate their achievements, no matter how small, to boost their self-esteem and avoid negative self-talk.
  4. Prioritize self-care: To reduce stress and promote well-being, high achievers prioritize self-care activities such as exercise, meditation, or spending time with loved ones.
  5. Seek support: High achievers should seek support from colleagues, friends or a mental health professional if they feel overwhelmed or stressed.


Given the city’s high-stress environment, New Yorkers can be affected by high-achieving syndrome. You can call it the high achievers syndrome, overachiever syndrome, high achievement syndrome, and it will still have an impact on your mental health. However,  with self-compassion, prioritizing self-care, setting boundaries, seeking support, and celebrating success, New Yorkers can manage the stress of overachiever syndrome. A high achiever can also  maintain their physical and mental health in the city that never sleeps. If you’re still struggling, set up a consultation call at Uncover Mental Health Counseling with one of the best therapists in New York City to discuss how you can sustain your high performance without burning out.

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