Your Guide to Crippling Anxiety

Medically Reviewed By Bethany Juby, PsyD
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“Crippling anxiety” is a phrase people use to refer to severe anxiety disorders. Severe anxiety can affect your daily life and cause you to avoid situations that may trigger your symptoms.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) does not recognize crippling anxiety as a diagnosable disorder. However, it does define anxiety as a symptom of many other psychological disorders and defines anxiety disorders as diagnosable conditions.

This article will discuss the symptoms of crippling anxiety. It will also define anxiety disorders and discuss their causes and treatments. Finally, it will give you tips for living with crippling anxiety.

What are the symptoms of crippling anxiety?

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Symptoms of anxiety can range from mild to severe. When you experience severe symptoms, they can feel debilitating or “crippling.” It can seem as though they are affecting every aspect of your life. Severe anxiety symptoms can make even the simplest daily task feel daunting.

Each type of anxiety disorder has unique symptoms. However, they typically share one or more emotional and physical symptoms.

Physical symptoms

The physical symptoms of anxiety include:

Emotional symptoms

The emotional symptoms of anxiety include:

  • feelings of apprehension or dread
  • feeling jumpy or tense
  • feeling restless or irritable
  • anticipating the worst outcome
  • watching out for signs of danger

Contact your doctor or mental health professional if you experience any of these symptoms, especially if they affect your daily life.

Learn about the signs of severe anxiety.

What are anxiety disorders?

It is common to experience anxiety in certain situations. Everyone will experience anxiety at some point in their life. However, anxiety disorders involve more than just your typical, temporary worries or fears.

People with anxiety disorders experience worry, fear, and anxiety that does not go away. It affects their daily lives, including:

  • activities
  • work
  • school
  • relationships

There are several types of anxiety disorders. These include:

Generalized anxiety disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder involves persistent feelings of dread and anxiety that affect your day-to-day life. People with this type of anxiety disorder typically experience these symptoms for months or even years.

Panic disorder

Panic disorder involves frequent and sudden panic attacks. These are periods of unexpected and intense fear, discomfort, and a sense of losing control. Panic attacks occur even when there is no danger or clear trigger. Not everyone who experiences a panic attack will develop panic disorder, however.

Social anxiety disorder

Social anxiety disorder involves a fear of being watched or judged by others. Some people with social anxiety disorder experience such an intense fear of social situations that they do not feel in control. This causes them to avoid these situations, including work or school.

Phobia-related disorders

A phobia is an intense fear or aversion to a specific object or situation. Phobia-related disorders include:

  • specific phobias, such as flying, heights, and specific animals
  • agoraphobia
  • separation anxiety disorder

Other disorders that people often confuse with anxiety disorders are obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Learn more about the types of anxiety disorders.

What causes crippling anxiety?

Experts do not know what causes anxiety or why some people experience crippling symptoms. However, many believe certain factors may increase your risk of developing an anxiety disorder. These factors include:

  • genetics
  • exposure to stressful or negative environmental factors, such as:
    • abuse
    • death of a loved one
    • violence
    • prolonged illness
  • shyness in childhood

Certain factors can aggravate the symptoms of anxiety, including:

How do you treat crippling anxiety?

Treatment for anxiety typically depends on the type of disorder, no matter how severe or crippling it may be. However, certain treatments are common among most anxiety disorders.

These treatments include:

  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy can target specific anxieties and address specific needs. Common psychotherapy approaches for treating anxiety disorders include acceptance and commitment therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • Medication: Medications can help manage your anxiety symptoms. Common mediations for anxiety disorders include anti-anxiety medication, antidepressants, and beta-blockers.

It is common for a mental health professional to recommend a combination of treatments to help manage your anxiety disorder. Work closely with them to find the most effective treatment for your circumstances.

Read more about psychotherapy here.

Tips for living with crippling anxiety

There are ways to live with and manage your anxiety. Even if your symptoms are severe enough to feel crippling, these tips may help.

  • Take time to step back and clear your head.
  • Try yoga or relaxation techniques.
  • Regularly eat well-balanced meals.
  • Limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine.
  • Try to get enough sleep.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Take deep breaths and count slowly to 10.
  • Try to maintain a positive attitude and outlook.
  • Learn to identify the triggers for your anxiety.
  • Talk with someone about your anxiety.
  • Accept that you cannot control everything and that you are doing your best.


“Crippling anxiety” is a phrase many people use to refer to severe anxiety disorders. It is not a diagnosable condition.

Symptoms of anxiety disorders can range from mild to severe. The most severe symptoms can feel debilitating and crippling. Someone with an anxiety disorder may feel as though their symptoms affect and control every aspect of their life.

Contact your doctor or mental health professional if you experience persistent anxiety, fear, or worry that affects your daily life and causes you to avoid certain situations. Anxiety disorders are treatable, and your mental health professional can help you learn to manage your specific anxieties.

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Medical Reviewer: Bethany Juby, PsyD
Last Review Date: 2022 Jul 28
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