Crippling Anxiety: Signs, Causes, & How to Deal

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Anxiety Disorder
Read Time: 5 Minutes
Written by:Jill E. Daino, LCSW-R

Published On: December 13, 2022

Medically reviewed by: Ashley Ertel, LCSW, BCD

Reviewed On: December 13, 2022

Updated On: November 2, 2023


Updated 2/1/2023

It’s estimated that over 30% of the population in the United States will be affected by an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Crippling anxiety is a debilitating condition that can make everyday activities seem impossible. If you’re struggling with crippling anxiety, you may feel like you’re constantly on edge and unable to relax or focus, which can lead to intense fear, chronic pain, and ultimately increased anxiety levels.

Severe symptoms can include racing thoughts, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and dizziness. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for dealing with any type of anxiety, there are some steps and medical advice you can take to ease your symptoms. Read on to learn more about crippling anxiety, including signs, triggers, and how to deal with this challenging mental health condition using resources like online therapy.

What is Crippling Anxiety?

Crippling anxiety is a severe form of anxiety that can significantly interfere with the ability to function in day-to-day life. It’s characterized by persistent excessive worry, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, sleep anxiety, or sleep disturbances.

While the exact cause of crippling anxiety is unknown, it’s believed to be a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors. For many people who suffer from crippling anxiety, the condition interferes in virtually all areas of their life – including their work life, social life, and relationships.

The constant worry and fear can be overwhelming, making it difficult to focus on anything else. In some cases, similar to social anxiety disorder, people may avoid certain activities or places out of fear that they will have an anxious episode.

Signs of Crippling Anxiety

Although there are several specific kinds of anxiety, many share the same emotional and physical symptoms. Speaking to a therapist or online psychiatrist will allow you to get the most accurate formal diagnosis.

Recognizing the signs of crippling anxiety can help determine if your anxiety has gotten to where intervention may be required.

Crippling anxiety symptoms may include:

  • Feelings of fear, panic, or a general unsettled feeling
  • Feeling “on edge”
  • Feeling irritable and even angry
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Nausea, stomachaches, and digestive upset
  • Dizziness, feeling unsteady
  • Headaches, neck pain, muscle tension
  • Racing thoughts
  • Nightmares
  • Withdrawing from social situations or isolating yourself
  • Excessive sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Inability to sit still
  • Tight breathing

What Triggers Crippling Anxiety?

What causes anxiety that’s crippling? A variety of things can trigger this type of severe anxiety. For some people, it may be a specific event or situation that causes anxiety and stress. Others may have more generalized anxiety, which means they always feel anxious without any particular trigger. There are also medical conditions that can cause anxiety.

iconExpert Insight

“While everyone experiences anxiety, crippling anxiety can be debilitating. Symptoms can be experienced physically, behaviorally, or in mood changes. While each person is unique, life stressors, such as relationship and family difficulties, work/school struggles, or social interactions, can be some common triggers for anxiety.”
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW-R), BC-TMH Jill Daino

Some common triggers for crippling anxiety might include:

  • Stressful life events
  • A death in the family
  • Divorce
  • Job loss
  • A traumatic experience like being involved in a car accident or witnessing violence
  • Substance abuse
  • Family history

How to Deal with Crippling Anxiety

Learning to manage crippling and debilitating anxiety can be challenging, but it is possible. It’ll take work and a commitment to the process, but you can control your anxiety levels to get back to living.

If you’re struggling with severe anxiety, there are steps you can take to learn how to deal with anxiety and find relief. From understanding what triggers your attacks, to learning relaxation techniques, to talking to someone who understands, to seeking professional help — there are many ways you can start managing your crippling anxiety today.

Understand what anxiety is and how it affects you

Anxiety is a normal emotion everyone experiences at some point in life. It’s feeling nervous, worried, or fearful about something. However, some people feel anxiety that’s much more intense.

With crippling anxiety, it can feel like the whole world is collapsing. It can make you sweat and your heart race, or feel like you’re having a heart attack. It’s an incredibly overwhelming feeling that makes it almost impossible to function in day-to-day life.

Identify your triggers

One of the first steps to dealing with debilitating anxiety is identifying what triggers your attacks. What are the things that set off your fear response? Once you know what these triggers are, you can start to work on avoiding them or preparing for them ahead of time so that an attack does not catch you off guard.

Learn relaxation techniques

Relaxation techniques are a great way to help calm down when you’re feeling anxious or stressed out. You can try different methods, such as deep breathing exercises for anxiety, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation to help relieve those anxious feelings.

Find one (or several) techniques that work for you and practice regularly, so you’re ready to go when the next attack hits.

Talk to a friend or someone who understands

It can be helpful to talk to somebody who’s been through similar experiences and knows exactly what you’re going through. Sometimes just knowing somebody else out there gets it can make all the difference.

If possible, find a therapist or counselor who specializes in treating anxiety disorders. They might be able to provide professional guidance and support.

Get professional help

When it comes to how to treat anxiety, there’s only so much you can do on your own. If your anxiety is starting to affect your quality of life, it might be time to think about seeking professional help and medical advice. A therapist can work with you to develop a treatment plan that may include anxiety medication, types of therapy for anxiety like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), or other forms of treatment.

iconExpert Insight

“There are many effective strategies to help with anxiety. Having a variety of tools in your toolbox is key. Breathing exercises, talk and behavioral therapy, medication, exercise, meditation, and journaling, can all be helpful. Using a mix of strategies and practicing them when you’re not anxious helps you build these muscles so you can easily use them when anxiety symptoms arise. Remember, you do not have to suffer alone. Support is available.”
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW-R), BC-TMH Jill Daino

Crippling anxiety can be an intensely challenging condition that makes it hard to function in day-to-day life. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it; your path to a more serene life is just a few clicks away.

See References

Jill Daino

Jill E. Daino, LCSW-R, BC-TMH, is a clinical social worker with over 25 years of experience as a therapist, clinical supervisor, and program director. She works to support quality clinical care at Talkspace. Her work as a clinician and trainer focuses on the mental health impact of body image concerns and eating disorders across the lifespan.

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