What is Crippling Anxiety And How to Get Help

What is Crippling Anxiety And How to Get Help

Everyone feels anxiety from time to time, but what is crippling anxiety? There can come a point when the anxiety is this crushing, all-encompassing monster. It can be incredibly debilitating when it begins to interfere with normal, daily life. You may not be able to even go to work, the grocery store, or run your kids to soccer practice because the anxiety is making you believe something terrible will happen if you do. You may be able to continue to make things work, but the physical symptoms of your anxiety keep you from being comfortable for any length of time. If this is the case for you, this is how to recognize when crippling anxiety is starting to take over your life.

What is Crippling Anxiety?

Anxiety can come at different levels. Some simply experience nervousness when doing something unfamiliar, like public speaking or going to a new gym. At the other end of the spectrum, however, there is debilitating, or crippling anxiety. What is crippling anxiety? It’s an anxiety so intense and extreme that it causes you to confine yourself to a very narrow life. 

It is also known as apprehensive expectation, and it is just one symptom of Generalized Anxiety Disorder as a whole. It is usually future-oriented, meaning you fear things that haven’t happened yet and may not happen at all. You may be a pessimist, or you may just put a negative spin on things that are coming up in the future for you, to the point that you can’t bear to see those things come to fruition, so you avoid them at all costs.

Crippling anxiety can feel so debilitating because you simply stay away from anything that might seem threatening in any way. You might stop going out with friends or even avoid public places altogether. At my worst, my anxiety required me to have my partner with me in all situations outside the home. It was absolutely debilitating anxiety in that case, too.

When you’re not able to take care of your daily needs, you’ll likely have an incredibly difficult time managing your life. You may miss out on things you would really like to do, as well as the things you need to do. Fortunately, you can get treatment for crippling anxiety.

What are Some Crippling Anxiety Symptoms?

The first step is to know thy enemy, and that means understanding the symptoms you’re experiencing. The most common crippling anxiety symptoms that people with this condition experience include the following:

Physical symptoms:

  • Pounding or racing heart
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Muscle tension, twitching, or tremors
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness

Mental or Emotional Symptoms:

  • Constant worrying
  • Feeling apprehensive
  • A sense of dread
  • Expecting the worst
  • Being hypervigilant
  • Staying away from a place or situation that might cause you to feel fear
  • Irritability and frustration when you might face a fearful situation
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Asking for reassurance often
  • Second-guessing yourself
  • Engaging in compulsive behaviors like excessive hand-washing

Remember that some of these symptoms are similar to other anxiety disorders. The main difference is that in crippling anxiety, these symptoms are much more extreme. If they are sounding all too familiar to you, then you may have crippling anxiety. That is nothing to fear. In fact, many people who seek treatment for crippling anxiety see success to the point that they are able to function to their fullest extent once more, myself included.

What Causes Crippling Anxiety?

This is an excellent question. If you identify with many of the symptoms above, but can’t figure out why it could have happened in the first place, you may still doubt that your anxiety is as bad as it really is. Your disbelief may even cause you to avoid seeking help. This kind of anxiety can be caused by many different factors. 

An Example

Let’s first look at how anxiety starts in the first place. Take Timmy, who is a young boy who lives with his mom. Timmy’s mom often comes home after school irritated and upset from work. Timmy hates it when his mother is like this because she takes her irritation out on him. 

As a child, he doesn’t have the reasoning yet to understand that it’s not his fault his mother is mean to him, so he begins looking for ways to solve the problem. He notices that when he stays silent in his room, his mother doesn’t berate him. So he begins avoiding his mother, and his mother continues to ignore him. This reinforces the avoidance behavior. 

Now, as an adult, when his roommate comes home, he has a compulsion to go to his room and stay quiet. When he does this automatically, it reinforces that his roommate won’t yell at him. He may begin to form anxious thoughts that his roommate hates him, when he is the one engaging in avoidance behavior in the first place.

To summarize, anxiety usually stems from adverse childhood experiences, where we learn to avoid scary situations. As adults, we take that lesson and apply it to everything in life, and that is where crippling anxiety can start to worm its way in. Also keep in mind that any anxiety can become debilitating, even if it doesn’t stem from an adverse childhood experience. You can experience anxiety after bereavement, a high workload at work or school, or having a chronic illness, among other things. You may not ever know why you have anxiety in the first place, but you can still get treated to improve your condition.

Crippling Anxiety Treatment

Treatment for crippling anxiety can be very successful, helping people to overcome their debilitating feelings and face fears head-on. With the right treatment, you can work toward doing all the things you want and need to do. You can even begin to enjoy life more.

Types of Treatment


Many types of therapy can help with crippling anxiety. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one type of treatment that has proven quite successful in treating anxiety. In CBT, your therapist will help you learn how to examine your own thoughts and choose to think more helpful things instead. Over time, you begin to think the helpful thoughts and question the hurtful ones by default. You may also learn different coping skills for facing your anxiety, such as grounding techniques or breathing patterns.

Exposure therapy can also be helpful if you are avoiding specific things like plane rides or going to the grocery store. Exposure therapy is not as extreme as it sounds, either. You’re exposed to your fear just a little bit at a time, and eventually, you are able to handle complete and lengthy exposure.

Finally, EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing can help a lot of your anxiety stems from a traumatic past. Your therapist guides you through scary or painful memories gently, while guiding you to move your eyes in certain ways. This helps your brain reprocess what happened to you so that it feels less scary and overwhelming.

Medication for Anxiety

Several medications can be helpful in crippling anxiety treatment. Be sure to talk to your doctor or psychiatrist if you are experiencing extreme anxiety, because medication does work. Keep in mind that some medications work better for some people than others, so you may need to work with your care team to find one that’s right for you. These medications can include:

  • SSRIs such as Citalopram, Fluoxetine, Paroxetine, and Sertraline
  • SNRIs such as Venlafaxine, desvenlafaxine, and duloxetine
  • Benzodiazepines such as alprazolam, diazepam, and clonazepam

Lifestyle Changes

If you have crippling anxiety, you will likely need medication, therapy, or a combination of both to get completely better. But lifestyle changes can help a lot if therapy and medication are not available to you right now. Simple steps like exercising more, eating healthier foods, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol can help you feel a little calmer and in control. I realize that this advice gets passed around like candy, but believe me, it really does work.

How to Seek Treatment for Severe Anxiety

Now that you understand how extreme your anxiety may be, and you know that in order to overcome it, you need to seek professional help, you may be wondering what the next steps are. I would highly recommend talking to your doctor about options, and in the meantime, seek help from a trained and licensed therapist. If you live in North Carolina and need help, our team at Modern Era Counseling is here for you. Our team of therapists is specially trained and experienced in dealing with all kinds of anxiety, and we are ready to help you take back control of your life. Simply give us a call at (704) 800-4436 or shoot us an email to get matched with a therapist and get started

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