While some people think of anxiety as an uneasy feeling in the pit of their stomach or the fear they feel when standing atop a high building, severe anxiety symptoms can be much worse and downright terrifying. Symptoms of severe anxiety can create the feeling of a heart attack or even make you feel like you're dying.
Perhaps the anxiety disorder best known for severe effects is panic disorder. A panic attack can create severe anxiety symptoms in a matter of minutes and patients are often rushed to the Emergency Room because they feel they are dying. It's important to remember though, panic attack symptoms typically peak within ten minutes and then begin to fade.
Physical Symptoms of Severe Anxiety
Anxiety is not just about feeling anxious – it is also about the real, physical symptoms caused by an anxiety disorder. The deep fear and anxiety of a person is reinforced by severe, physical symptoms of anxiety.
Physical symptoms of severe anxiety are common in panic attacks and include:1
- Palpitations, pounding heart or accelerated heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Shortness of breath; feeling of being smothered or choked
- Chest pain
- Nausea or abdominal distress
- Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
- Becoming detached from oneself and the environment
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Chills or hot flashes
Psychological Symptoms of Severe Anxiety
Intense fears of losing control, going crazy or dying are common psychological symptoms of severe anxiety. There are additional symptoms, though, depending on the type of anxiety disorder.
Post-traumatic stress disorder can produce symptoms of severe anxiety including:
- Psychologically reliving the traumatic event
- Overreacting with intense fear to anything reminiscent of the traumatic event
- Feelings of a shortened life
- Looking for and seeing danger everywhere
- Overreacting with fear when startled
Behavioral Symptoms of Severe Anxiety
Behavioral symptoms of severe anxiety often take the form of avoidance. Because severe anxiety symptoms are so terrifying, people will do almost anything to avoid feeling them. This might include:
- Not going to specific places
- Not seeing certain people
- Not having specific experiences
These severe symptoms of anxiety can even escalate until the person refuses to leave the house or talk to most people.
Other severe behavioral symptoms of anxiety include those seen in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). People with OCD become obsessed with ideas such as:2
Once an obsession takes hold, the person feels an overwhelming urge to perform an action, a compulsion, also known as a ritual. Examples of severe compulsions include:
- Washing of hands until the skin is raw
- Picking of skin and hair around the face until there are open wounds
- Being unable to leave the house due to repeated checking of things related to safety such as turning off the stove