As a high-achiever, who works with other high-achieving leaders, I have come to recognize a collection of characteristics that when left unchecked can lead to burn out, high-functioning anxiety and high-functioning depression. As a psychologist and Executive Coach, I have coined the term High Achievers Syndrome (TM) to describe this collection of characteristics.

Here are just some of the characteristics that I have identified:

✅ Your worth is tied to your accomplishments.

✅ Unless you are achieving, you tend not to feel good.

✅ You always need to be doing something. Sitting still is excruciating.

✅ You’re a perfectionist (nothing is every good enough).

✅ You have to be the best at everything you do, even your hobbies.

✅ You can be endlessly competitive (even when playing board games with your kids).

✅ You not only have high expectations of yourself, but of others too.

✅ You have a harsh inner critic (what’s wrong with me, why’d I make that mistake, you’re an idiot).

✅ You’ve gone after accomplishments (promotions, public office, student government, sports, etc…).you may not have even have wanted just for the status, prestige, or proving to yourself that you could win.

✅ You’re constantly striving, or have what I call “what’s next” syndrome, that keeps you from savoring and celebrating your accomplishments before moving on to tackle the next one. Sometimes you even forget past accomplishments because you are so focused on what comes next.

✅You may even be addicted to the adrenaline rush of achieving, succeeding, and hustling.

Does this sound like you? If you were nodding your head to 3 or more of these, you may have High-Achievers Syndrome and you may be on the path to burn out, high-functioning anxiety or high-functioning depression.

In fact, you may already be experiencing some of the symptoms of these, such as:

✅Not enjoying your work as much as you used to.

✅Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy.

✅Feeling like you’ve lost your mojo or drive.

✅Needing more alone time than usual.

✅Panic Attacks




✅Weight loss or gain

✅Brain Fog or Difficulty Focusing


✅Ruminating on your work (just can’t stop thinking about….)

✅Disrupted sleep patterns

✅Drop in confidence levels (although you will never admit it)

✅Decline in decision making skills

✅Increased fear or self-doubt

The good news is there are solutions. I’m thinking of putting together a webinar to help you identify if you have High-Achievers Syndrome and share my TOP 5 tips for managing it. This is information I only share with my clients, but I want to make it more available to help more people. If you are interested or know someone who could benefit, please send me a confidential message or make a comment on this article and I will send it to you. And if your organization could use more information on this important topic so that your employees are more motivated, inspired and creative (which leads to more productivity, innovation, and loyalty), please let me know so I can help.

As someone who graduated with a 4.0 from their doctoral program in their 20s, who danced with the Joffrey ballet in their teens and who has run two successful businesses transforming others lives, I understand both the pitfalls of the high-achiever, as well as the joys and how to stay successful for the long run without burning out. My clients have multiplied their businesses and clientele in short periods of time, have recovered from burn out to be even more successful than before, have gotten promoted or left unhappy jobs to start their own businesses, and have gotten their “mojo” back, all while enjoying the process.

Being a high achiever is a gift, unless you let your ambition run you over. If you allow that to happen, then it’s not just you that loses, but it’s everyone whose life you were meant to touch with your brilliance.

If you are ready for a paradigm shift on what success truly means and how to get there AND stay there without sacrificing your health, happiness, or relationships, then message me and I will send you an application to explore working together.

But remember this, what got you here is not the same thing that will get you there. If you have a big vision, you are going to need big support. And frankly, the world needs big vision right now, so I hope you do whatever it takes to find the Sustainable Path of Peak Performance.


Dr. Donna


  • Dr. Donna Marino (PsyD)

    Psychologist & Executive Coach

    Donna Marino, PsyD, Ltd

    Dr. Donna Marino is a Psychologist and Executive Coach. She is an expert in helping high-achieving leaders move from burnout to SUSTAINABLE peak performance, so that they can fulfill their mission while also experiencing greater health, happiness, and relationships. Dr. Marino has over 20 years of experience in human potential and transformational change.

    As a high-achiever, who works with high-achievers, she discovered a collection of characteristics that when left unchecked lead to burn out, high-functioning anxiety and high-functioning depression. She coined the term for this condition, High-Achievers Syndrome (TM) and developed a protocol for dealing with it, recovering and creating SUSTAINABLE peak performance.

      Dr. Donna is also a sought after speaker and author on leadership, peak performance, and burnout recovery.