Key Takeaways

  • Anxiety is a natural response to stress. People with severe anxiety experience a stress response that is out of proportion with the actual risk at hand.
  • Anxiety disorders are caused by a variety of complex factors. But certain risk factors might make you more likely to develop severe anxiety.
  • Anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health conditions, and are highly treatable with support from a mental health professional.
Have you ever heard someone say that they experience “crippling anxiety?” Or perhaps you’ve even used the term yourself. Most of the time, when people say that they have crippling anxiety, they’re attempting to describe the experience of severe anxiety.  But it’s important to be aware that sometimes language may unintentionally reinforce the stigma around disability. For example, the term “crippling anxiety” likely comes from the profound impact anxiety disorders can have on a person’s ability to live their lives.  But this term is often considered insensitive to people in the disability community. So throughout this article, we’ll be using the term “severe anxiety” instead and we encourage our readers to adopt this more affirming language as well. 

What is severe anxiety?

Anxiety is a natural response to stress. But people with anxiety disorders experience stress responses that are out of proportion with the actual risk at hand. Anxiety disorders can cause severe fear, panic, and worry that lead to painful emotional and physical symptoms. And according to experts, these conditions are on the rise, particularly among young adults. People who live with severe anxiety often do whatever they can to avoid their triggers and this can affect their ability to function at home, work, or school. It can also get in the way of their ability to engage socially, foster healthy relationships, and more. There are several different types of anxiety disorders. According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is one of the most common mental health concerns. While each person with an anxiety disorder will have their own unique experience of the condition, having severe anxiety means a person’s symptoms will significantly impact their ability to live their daily lives. When compared with the occasional anxiety that everyone experiences from time to time, severe anxiety occurs more frequently, causes more acute symptoms, and usually requires professional help to overcome.

Signs and symptoms of severe anxiety

There are many different types of anxiety disorders including panic disorders, phobias, and more. But the most common is something called generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). This form of severe anxiety can cause debilitating worry over every day things. Some of the signs and symptoms of this condition include:
  • Chronic, persistent worry that causes feelings of dread
  • Difficulty controlling worry 
  • Restlessness
  • Feeling frequently irritable or “on edge”
  • Trouble concentrating or focusing on tasks
  • Physical aches and pains
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
In addition to these symptoms, there could be other indicators that you might want to consider seeking professional help for your anxiety. If your anxiety is severe enough to cause any of the following, know that you’re not alone and that help is available.
  • You struggle with basic self-care
  • It’s difficult for you to maintain a job due to constant worry
  • Your anxiety negatively affects your relationships with friends and loved ones
  • You have a hard time engaging socially and you tend to avoid social situations
  • Your anxiety makes you afraid to try new things so you often stay home or keep to yourself 
  • Your fears and phobias cause you to avoid certain situations, people, or places in ways that negatively affect your well-being

Causes and risk factors of severe anxiety

Anxiety disorders can be caused by a variety of complex factors. Circumstances and experiences that might lead one person to experience anxiety might not affect another person in the same way. So while there isn’t a universal set of factors that causes anxiety disorders, there are some general factors that might make you more likely to develop one. 
  • Biological factors: Having certain physical health conditions such as heart or thyroid problems 
  • Psychological factors: Demonstrating extreme shyness or nervousness in new situations as a child
  • Environmental triggers: Experiencing highly stressful or traumatic life events
  • Genetic predisposition: Having a close relative (like a sibling or parent) who also has an anxiety disorder or other mental health condition

The impact of severe anxiety

Left untreated, severe anxiety can take a toll on nearly every aspect of your life. It can affect your health and well-being and inhibit your ability to function in many ways. This can lead to:
  • Cognitive symptoms such as impaired concentration and difficulty with memory
  • An increased risk of physical health problems like heart disease and diabetes
  • Struggles with important relationships, loneliness, and social isolation
  • Difficulty attending to daily responsibilities at home, work, or school 
  • Constant fatigue and irritability due to difficulty getting adequate sleep

Finding help for severe anxiety 

If you or someone you care about is living with severe anxiety, know that you’re not alone and that help is available.  From anxiety therapy to lifestyle changes to medication, at Rula, we know how hard it can be to sift through all the recommendations for managing anxiety when you’re struggling with your mental health. That’s why we built our platform to make it easier than ever to find a therapist who can make an accurate diagnosis and recommend the right course of treatment for you.  Using Rula, you can find a therapist who specializes in treating anxiety and takes your insurance in less than 30 seconds. And our network of over 8,000 therapists means you can be seen this week.  If medication ends up being part of your treatment plan, we can also connect you with the psychiatric support you need to achieve the best outcomes possible. 

Find anxiety therapists near you

New York, NYHouston, TXRancho Cucamonga, CAAustin, TXChicago, ILLos Angeles, CAColumbus, OHPortland, ORDallas, TXJacksonville, FLCharlotte, NCDenver, COHuntsville, ALPhiladelphia, PASeattle, WAFind your city

More From Rula

April 18, 2024
What causes low self-esteem? Six ways to feel better about yourself

If you have low self-esteem, there are things you can do to boost your confidence.

April 17, 2024
Understanding existential anxiety and how to cope

For people with existential anxiety, life’s big questions can cause extreme distress.