Reviewed by Dawn Brown, LPC, NCC
If you have ever struggled with extreme anxiety, or if you are currently struggling with extreme anxiety, you have likely either thought or uttered the words, "Is this going to last forever?" When anxiety is severe or extreme, the pervasive worry and impending feelings of doom can impact your life, relationships, outlook, and ability to function or complete daily tasks.
The Function Of Anxiety
There are several ways to define anxiety, including the definition of the term anxiety on its own and the definition of anxiety as it relates to anxiety disorders. Anxiety, or being anxious, isn't inherently bad, nor does being anxious in appropriate scenarios mean that you have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety does have a purpose or function, and that function is to alert us when we are in danger. For example, if a pack of wild animals is chasing you, you will want to feel a certain level of anxiety so that you will be able to react appropriately and, hopefully, escape. Anxiety becomes a problem and is able to be diagnosed as an anxiety disorder when it begins to impact one's life, and when the worry and other anxiety symptoms are disproportionate to an individual's current circumstances. That's how anxiety and anxiety disorders are differentiated.
What Is Extreme Anxiety?
If someone tells you that they have extreme anxiety, likely, what they're saying is that they have a severe anxiety disorder. Extreme anxiety can impact a person's life in various ways, including hindering their ability to engage in life activities or obligations such as social obligations, work, or school. When anxiety is severe, it can be so pervasive that it prevents people from holding a job, attending school, or completing other tasks. Anxiety is known and recognized as a disability. If you have a severe anxiety disorder, you may be able to claim disability benefits in the United States if it impacts your ability to work.
Additionally, if you're in school, you may be able to receive accommodations for an anxiety disorder if you have a documented diagnosis. Major anxiety or severe anxiety is not fun to live with, but anxiety disorders are treatable conditions, and things can get better with treatment and time. Although extreme anxiety is not a direct diagnosis, anxiety disorders do range in severity, and any of them can be pervasive.
Types Of Anxiety Disorders
Here are the anxiety disorders that are currently listed in the DSM-5 under the category of anxiety disorders:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is an anxiety disorder that's characterized by severe and disproportionate worry. Some of the potential symptoms of GAD include excessive worry, trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, fatigue, hypervigilance, heart palpitations, a rapid heartbeat, irritability, tension, body aches or muscle aches, GI distress, rumination, and restlessness. You don't have to have every potential sign of GAD to be diagnosed, but GAD symptoms must impact your life to receive a diagnosis. To be diagnosed with GAD, you must experience symptoms for six months or more, and another mental health condition must not better explain them.
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
Social anxiety disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by severe anxiety surrounding social interactions and social settings. Social anxiety disorder signs include withdrawal from others, social isolation, anxiety symptoms surrounding social situations or events, fear of embarrassment or humiliation, heart palpitations, a racing heart, or a rapid heartbeat, blushing, trembling, shaking, or panic attacks.
Agoraphobia is anxiety characterized by the fear and avoidance of places and situations that may cause anxiety, fear, panic, helplessness, embarrassment, or judgment. The symptoms of agoraphobia can be very debilitating.
Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurring panic attacks and the fear of future panic attacks. A panic attack is when someone experiences sudden, extreme fear alongside symptoms that can be so frightening and severe that someone may experience derealization, fear that they are having a heart attack, or feel as though they're dying. Some of the symptoms that can occur during a panic attack include rapid heartbeat, a pounding heart, heart palpitations, trouble breathing or breathing heavily, shaking or trembling, feeling disconnected or out of it, weakness, and dizziness, chest pain, and nausea.
Specific phobias are characterized under the class of anxiety disorders and are marked by an excessive, persistent fear of an item or situation. If a specific phobia causes significant distress and impacts a person's life, it can be diagnosed as an anxiety disorder.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Separation anxiety is characterized by severe anxiety and fear of separation from a person or multiple people. Often, this is a disorder diagnosed in children, but it can also show up in adults.
Mind Diagnostics Anxiety Tests
The Mind Diagnostics website has various free and confidential tests regarding or related to anxiety and other mental health conditions. These tests are not a replacement for individual medical or mental health advice, and they are not to be used in place of a professional diagnosis. Here the Anxiety Test that Mind Diagnostics has to offer:
The Anxiety Test: https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/anxiety-test
The anxiety test is a general anxiety test that can help you determine if anxiety symptoms could impact your life.
Help For Extreme Anxiety
Although there is no cure for anxiety disorders, anxiety management is possible, and you can live a full, healthy life with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety management or treatment may include the following:
Therapy Or Counseling
Cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT as the first line of treatment for anxiety disorders, therapy, or counseling for anxiety is the best route to take if you have an anxiety disorder impacting your life. Exposure therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy or DBT, acceptance and commitment therapy or ACT, and other forms of therapy, such as art therapy or music therapy, can help those with anxiety disorders. Sometimes, different therapy modalities will be combined for the best treatment. For all guidance regarding treatment, please consult a licensed medical professional. The goal of therapy for anxiety is to give you coping skills that will help you manage your symptoms long-term, even after you leave counseling or therapy. You can see a therapist or counselor in your local area, or you can find one to work with online.
Changes to one's lifestyle that can help improve anxiety symptoms, typically in conjunction with other forms of anxiety support such as therapy, include cutting out caffeine or other substances, such as alcohol, that impact you negatively, prioritizing sleep and sleep hygiene, and stress management. Other at-home practices, such as meditation and mindfulness activities, can help people cope with anxiety symptoms.
Get Anxiety Support
Reaching out for support can be hard when you have anxiety, but it is also often life-changing. To find a counselor or therapist near you, you can search for "anxiety counselors near me" or "anxiety therapists near me," or you can ask your doctor for a referral. Additionally, a search tool like the one on the Mind Diagnostics website can help you find a provider. Another route to go is to contact your insurance company or visit their website to see who and what they cover in terms of anxiety treatments. Suppose you would like to work with a therapist remotely. In that case, you can find a provider in your geographical location who uses remote sessions, or you can try an online therapy company like BetterHelp. The mental health professionals at BetterHelp are all licensed, and when you sign up for BetterHelp, you can take a questionnaire that helps match you with a therapist or counselor that will suit your needs the most. Online counseling is often more affordable than traditional in-person counseling, and it is convenient. It's also helpful for those who struggle to commute, whether due to anxiety or something else. No matter how you choose to get help, be proud of yourself for doing so, and know that it is possible to manage or improve extreme anxiety symptoms.