Signs of Severe Anxiety

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A little bit of anxiety is a good thing. It can inspire you to prepare thoroughly for a trip or practice a speech a few extra times. Severe anxiety, though, can fill you with worry and dread.

If these feelings interfere with your work, relationships or well-being, you may have an anxiety disorder. Other health problems can also cause anxiety.

Anxiety disorders are treatable. However, many people never seek treatment. They may not realize the severity of their symptoms. See a doctor if you recognize some of the following feelings and behaviors in yourself.

Anxious Thoughts: When to Be Concerned

Everyone worries. But severe anxiety occurs when you worry more than a situation warrants. Many people with anxiety disorders realize they are worrying more than they should, but they cannot shake their anxiety.

Overly anxious thoughts may make you:

  • Feel irritable or tired
  • Have a hard time relaxing
  • Sleep poorly or have trouble falling asleep
  • Startle easily

Symptoms of Severe Anxiety

Anxious thoughts can affect your body and your life. Anxiety can cause physical symptoms including:

People with severe anxiety can have a hard time doing basic daily tasks. They may feel paralyzed by fear or worry. They may avoid situations that trigger anxiety. Or they may have trouble working, going to school, or socializing.
See your doctor if you have any of these symptoms. Treatment can help relieve anxious thoughts. It can also teach you how to cope with anxiety.

Signs of Specific Anxiety Disorders

There are many types of anxiety disorders. Each one has its own telltale symptoms and behaviors. Here are a few signs of severe anxiety that are related to specific anxiety disorders:

  • Compulsions: Doing something over and over again is called a compulsion. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder use compulsions to control anxious thoughts.

  • Flashbacks: Reliving a traumatic experience in thoughts is called a flashback. People with post-traumatic stress disorder have flashbacks of traumatic events.

  • Panic attacks: A panic attack is a sudden feeling of terror. It is often accompanied by physical symptoms, such as a rapid heartbeat and light-headedness. Panic attacks are the main sign of panic disorder.

When to Talk With Your Doctor

Do not hesitate to call a doctor right away if you suddenly have severe anxiety symptoms. You might need an exam to check for physical conditions.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jul 30

  1. Anxiety disorders. National Alliance on Mental Illness.

  2. Anxiety disorders. National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health.

  3. Anxiety disorders fact sheet. Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, July 16, 2012.

  4. Panic disorder. American Psychiatric Association.

  5. Panic disorder and agoraphobia: Symptoms. Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

  6. Understanding the facts. Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

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