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Crippling Anxiety: Symptoms and Treatment

Katelyn Hagerty

Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 4/27/2022

Unfortunately, anxiety is something that many people deal with. It’s so common, in fact, that approximately 40 million adults in the United States have an anxiety disorder. For some folks, anxiety is so bad that it feels like it affects their daily life and makes them feel like they can’t live a normal life. This is often referred to as crippling anxiety — and it sucks.

Making things even worse, of the millions of people who have an anxiety disorder, less than 37 percent of those people seek treatment. If your anxiety is so bad that it feels crippling, not getting help is simply not an option. 

Keep reading for more information on signs you may be dealing with crippling anxiety and how to treat it. 

Understanding Crippling Anxiety

The first thing you should know is that crippling anxiety isn’t a formal diagnosis or a clinical term. Rather, it’s something that can be used to describe severe anxiety or the way various anxiety disorders can make you feel. Wondering what qualifies as an anxiety disorder? There are actually a number of types.

One of the most common anxiety disorders is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which is diagnosed if someone has trouble controlling their anxiety more often than not over a six month span. GAD can range from what some would call mild anxiety to severe or crippling.

In addition to GAD, there are four other types of anxiety disorders often referred to or diagnosed:

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): People with OCD experience difficulty escaping recurrent thoughts and compulsive behaviors (like washing their hands over and over or checking to make sure they turned off their flat iron). These thoughts can be so pervasive it can feel crippling and like it interrupts all areas of life.

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD most often occurs in people who have suffered a traumatic event — like being violated, living through a natural disaster or serving in the military. 

  • Social Anxiety Disorder: Also known as social phobia, this disorder is characterized by feelings of being overwhelmed in social situations. It can be general anxiety about socializing with groups of people or specific to things like public speaking.

  • Panic Disorder: Signs of panic disorder include feelings of paralyzing fear, heart palpitations and shortness of breath. People with this disorder also often experience panic attacks, which can range in severity but are sometimes described as “crippling.”

The truth is, any of these disorders can range from mild to crippling or paralyzing, and it’s important to keep tabs on how an anxiety disorder is affecting your life so that you can find the treatment that will best help you and your symptoms. Speaking of which…

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Symptoms of Crippling Anxiety

Anxiety disorders can induce both psychological and physical symptoms. Like with any disorder, symptoms vary from person to person. If you have crippling anxiety, it’s possible you may be experiencing more symptoms, or the symptoms you have may feel more intense or severe. 

Different anxiety disorders may have different side effects. Symptoms connected to GAD include:

  • Increased heart rate

  • Hyperventilation

  • Fatigue

  • Irritability

  • Nervousness

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Stomach Issues

As discussed above, panic disorder can also have an extreme effect on your life — especially if you experience panic attacks. Some of the symptoms of panic attacks include

  • Sweating

  • Chills

  • Dizziness

  • Tingly hands

  • Chest pain

Get a Handle on Crippling Anxiety

Fact: living with crippling anxiety is no way to live. Heck, living with any type of anxiety isn’t okay. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to treat anxiety — and all the different severities of it, at that. A healthcare provider will be your best bet in the journey to figuring out your anxiety.

Talk Therapy

Therapy can be an incredibly helpful tool in dealing with anxiety. There are numerous types of therapy available, so you’ll want to talk to a professional about what type may be best for you. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is very common. This type of therapy involves speaking with a mental health professional to recognize behaviors that enhance your anxiety and lead to that crippling feeling. Then, you’ll work with them to come up with ways to change behavioral patterns.

Another form of therapy you may want to consider is called exposure therapy, which has been found to help with GAD. When you participate in exposure therapy, you’ll work with a professional to confront the things that give you paralyzing anxiety in a safe way that doesn’t overwhelm you.

Medication 

Anti-anxiety medication can be hugely helpful for people unable to get a handle on their anxiety through therapy alone — especially if your anxiety noticeably impacts your life.

Medications often prescribed for anxiety include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), beta-blockers and benzodiazepines. While medication doesn’t necessarily cure anxiety, it can help manage the symptoms so that anxiety feels a lot less crippling.

In order to start taking medication, you’ll need to see a healthcare professional. Hers offers online consultations so you can see if medication can help you.

Working Out 

Therapy and medication aren’t the only ways to treat anxiety. There are also lifestyle habits you can employ — like getting your sweat on. 

A 2013 review of studies done on animals (yes, keep in mind these studies were done on four-legged critters and not humans) found that working out lowered anxiety and stress and boosted overall mood stability.

Ideally, you should aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise — or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise — every week.

While exercise may or may not be the sole solution to crippling anxiety, it can help when used in conjunction with other treatments. 

Meditation

Just like working out, meditation can be a good thing to add to other treatments of crippling anxiety. 

In a 2014 study, researchers found that 20 minutes of medication assisted in decreasing anxiety. This is likely because meditation temporarily reduces brain activity. 

The focus of mindful meditation is attention and acceptance. You should stay attuned to what’s happening in the moment — like how your body feels or how you’re breathing. And if outside thoughts pop into your brain, accept them and let them go.

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Managing Crippling Anxiety

Living your daily life with any type of anxiety disorder can be upsetting. It can affect all areas of life — including your career and relationships. And if your anxiety feels severe or crippling? Well, that can be even worse. 

While not a formal diagnosis, crippling anxiety is another way to describe severe anxiety or feeling overwhelmed by an anxiety disorder. Examples of different anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

A healthcare professional can assess your symptoms and determine if you have an anxiety disorder. If you do, it may be recommended that you try talk therapy, medication or make lifestyle adjustments. 

To start treating your crippling anxiety, you’ll want to begin by speaking with a healthcare professional

12 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Facts and Statistics. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics
  2. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad
  3. What are the five types of anxiety disorders? U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/answers/mental-health-and-substance-abuse/what-are-the-five-major-types-of-anxiety-disorders/index.html
  4. Symptoms, Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad/symptoms
  5. Panic Disorder: When Fear Overwhelms. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/panic-disorder-when-fear-overwhelms
  6. What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? American Psychological Association. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/cognitive-behavioral
  7. What is exposure behavior? American Psychological Association. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/exposure-therapy
  8. Anxiety Disorders. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/
  9. Anderson, E., Shivakumar, G. (2013). Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Anxiety. Frontiers in Psychiatry. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3632802/
  10. How Much Exercise Do I Need? Medline Plus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/howmuchexercisedoineed.html
  11. Zeidan, F., Martucci, K., Kraft, R., et al. (2013, May 21). Neural correlates of mindfulness meditation-related anxiety relief. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 751-759. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/scan/article/9/6/751/1664700
  12. Mindfulness meditation: A research-proven way to reduce stress (2019). American Psychological Association. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/mindfulness/meditation

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

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