Anxiety disorders affect millions of people - some estimates put the number as high as 18% of the US population alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 25% of all of those individuals have anxiety that can best be classified as severe.
Severe anxiety disorders do not have a technical definition, but generally, they are thought of as anxiety that is extremely difficult for sufferers to manage relationships, work, or simply enjoy their lives.
Suffering From Severe Anxiety
Anxiety is an incredibly stressful, but arguably manageable disorder. Many people still work, spend time with friends, and hold onto relationships while living with anxiety. But others are more affected by it, and some even struggle to complete the tasks of everyday life.
The best way to characterize a severe anxiety disorder is one that is disabling or significantly impairs someone from managing their activities or responsibilities. For example:
- Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia - Agoraphobia is a fear of being outdoors or in unfamiliar places. Panic disorder is generally characterized as with or without agoraphobia. Panic attacks can be disabling on their own, and so severe that hospitalization is required. However, the addition of agoraphobia worsens their symptoms and experiences, because it makes it difficult to go outside or enjoy any type of social life - and the anxiety a person does experience while outdoors is significant.
- Severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) - Some individuals suffer from severe OCD, which consists of being so engrossed in repetitive thoughts and the need to perform acts/compulsions (usually several times) in order to ease the anxiety caused by the thoughts. The degree of compulsions can make people unable to actually live their lives because they are forced to spend so much time acting out their compulsions.
All anxiety disorders may be characterized as more severe than others. From severe generalized anxiety disorders, severe social phobia, severe PTSD, and more, there are plenty of people suffering from very profound levels of anxiety.
All Anxiety is Serious Anxiety
Although it is possible for some anxiety to be more severe for some than for others, in many ways all anxiety is considered severe because of its impact on various aspects of your life now and later on:
- Quality of Life - Your quality of life is always important. Going through life with anxiety may mean experiencing less happiness because of its ability to interfere with your focus, sense of adventure, peace of mind, self-esteem, your projection of yourself in the world, etc.
- Stress - Stress is different from anxiety in that it does not cause impairment of your ability to function in life. Nevertheless, long term stress can still result in deleterious effects on your organs, weakening your immune system, impairing memory, accelerating aging, etc.
Also, if left untreated, anxiety may only worsen. Whether you already suffer from severe anxiety or you experience daily anxiety that simply makes it more difficult to manage life, all anxiety is relevant and damaging.
How to Stop Severe Anxiety Disorders
If you feel your anxiety is out of your control and significantly impacting your ability to function in life, go see your primary care provider immediately. Each additional day you go without treatment reinforces the anxiety, making it stronger. Because anxiety affects so many individuals, there are several options available.
- Medications - Several medications have been found to be beneficial for treating anxiety. Stigma has been associated with the use of medications, but the side effects tend to be minimal and vary based on their user. This is something you would need to discuss with your primary care provider in order to find what works best for you.
- Herbs - Herbal solutions like Kava and Passionflower may also be useful. Both have shown success in relieving anxiety, especially in moderate cases. They are a little less beneficial for severe anxiety, but they may be useful as a supplementary treatment. Just because they are herbs does not mean they are 100% safe. They may interact with other herbs or drugs you are consuming. Keep in mind that these herbs are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration for the use of treating anxiety; so their use and/or possible side effects are not monitored or reviewed when taken by people for uses such as anxiety. The decision to use herbs should be discussed with your primary care provider before starting.
- Exercise - Exercise is also very beneficial in combating the effects of severe anxiety. It serves as a natural stress reliever, and is highly recommended for better management of symptoms. If you have not started yet, today would be a great day to do so.
Other anxiety reduction strategies like relaxation exercises (deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation) and meditation may be less effective for severe anxiety, because the severity often makes spending time on those activities harder to accomplish. They may be useful in combination with other techniques, but should not be used alone.
It is highly recommended to seek therapy to better tackle long term management of severe anxiety.