Anxiety is a normal part of life and everyone experiences it to some degree from time to time. It can be challenging to deal with and can seem overwhelming when it reaches the point where you feel like it is extreme or out of control.
When anxiety is severe or out of proportion with the actual threat, it may be a sign of a mental health problem. Extreme anxiety can be a sign of a number of different anxiety disorders.
This article discusses what you can do if you feel like your anxiety is excessive and disruptive to your life. It also covers some steps you can take to find relief.
What Is Extreme Anxiety?
It is important to understand that extreme anxiety is not a clinical term or a diagnosis. Instead, it is a way that people can describe the subjective experience of severe anxiety or an anxiety disorder.
How people experience anxiety can differ from one person to the next. One person may feel symptoms like butterflies in their stomach, while another person might have a full-blown panic attack.
Suppose you are experiencing life-limiting anxiety and makes it difficult to function in different areas of life including work, school, and relationships. In that case, there is a chance that you might have an anxiety disorder.
Normal Anxiety vs. Anxiety Disorders
Not all anxiety is a bad thing. Normal levels of anxiety can be adaptive because it helps prepare you for situations where you need to respond to stresses in the environment.
The difference between normal anxiety and what would be characterized as extreme anxiety is how it affects your ability to function and the level of distress that it creates.
When anxiety is extreme or severe, it makes it difficult or impossible for you to function normally in different situations. It may make it so you cannot work or socialize like you normally would.
It can create such severe distress that you actually begin to avoid situations that are likely to trigger feelings of anxiety.
Recognize the Signs
If your feelings of anxiety are severe in their duration, intensity, and impact on your life, there is a strong likelihood that you have some type of anxiety disorder. Only a doctor or mental health professional can diagnose an anxiety disorder, but some of the symptoms that may indicate a problem include:
- Physical symptoms of anxiety such as rapid heart rate, increased breathing rate, sweating, trembling, and shortness of breath
- Extreme feelings of fear or anxiety that are out of proportion to the actual threat
- Irrational fear or worry about different objects or situations
- Avoiding the source of your fear or only enduring it with great anxiety
- Withdrawing from social situations or isolating yourself from friends and family
- Feelings of irritability and agitation
- Sleep difficulties such as trouble falling or staying asleep
- Gastrointestinal issues such as stomach aches or digestive problems
- Feeling uneasy and worried
- Difficulty concentrating
- Problems with doing your typical everyday tasks
- Interpersonal and relationship issues
- Thoughts of suicide
Extreme anxiety can also manifest as a panic attack. Panic attacks are characterized by an abrupt surge of intense fear or discomfort accompanied by a variety of physical sensations including rapid heart rate, choking sensations, nausea, trembling, chills, a sense of unreality, impending doom and a feeling of losing control, “going crazy” or dying.
Types of Extreme Anxiety
It is also essential to understand that there are many different types of anxiety disorders. Your doctor or therapist can evaluate your symptoms and determine what kind of condition you might have.
- Generalized anxiety disorder: This condition is characterized by feelings of excessive worry about a number of events, activities, and situations accompanied by a variety of other symptoms including restlessness, fatigue, trouble concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder: This condition is characterized by unwanted recurrent thoughts and compulsive, repetitive behaviors. People with this condition may engage in repetitive behaviors that help temporarily ease the feelings of anxiety caused by obsessive thoughts.
- Panic disorder: This anxiety disorder is marked by intense and recurrent panic attacks that occur unexpectedly. During a panic attack, people who have this condition experience extreme anxiety that causes feelings of terror and physical symptoms of fear. During a panic attack, people often feel that they are losing control or dying.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder: People with PTSD experience extreme anxiety and distress symptoms due to being exposed to a traumatic event. Symptoms can include hypervigilance, flashbacks, and intrusive memories of the trauma.
- Social anxiety disorder: This condition is characterized by feelings of extreme anxiety in social situations. People who have this condition often try to limit or avoid social settings, which can negatively affect their ability to function in relationships, work, and school.