Crippling anxiety: At some point in your life, you will feel some sort of anxiety about a situation, problem or fear. It’s a stronger emotional feeling and brings with it physical symptoms too. Your heart starts to race, your palms get sweaty, your stomach may start to churn, and you may even begin to shake.
It can be your body's response to a trauma or life changing decision. You may also find situations in everyday life can stimulate anxiety, such as feeling overwhelmed with worry and fear about speaking in public, when your children may be in danger, financial problems, or stressful situations at work, for example.
This can be an unpleasant sensation. But imagine that you have that same set of emotional and physical symptoms every day, for prolonged periods of time.
For some, anxiety is not just a passing phase, or something they can easily control. It is the most common mental health illness in the US. Just over 40 million US adults (18% of the population) have some form of anxiety disorder. Though treatment exists, it is believed that around 33% of people with anxiety problems don’t seek help.
Which means that some people live e
very day with crippling anxiety. This is when the disorder reaches a level that incapacitates the individual, making it hard or impossible for them to carry out the tasks of daily living.
There are different types of anxiety disorder, and how they affect people is a very individual thing.
Any category has the potential to be so severe that it “cripples” their ability to hold down a job, build meaningful relationships or enjoy hobbies and pastimes. In other words, they are disabled, even if they have no outward sign of their disability.
Social anxiety – this is particularly common, and makes it challenging for individuals to have even the simplest of interactions with strangers or even people they know. They can become very isolated and insular.
Generalized anxiety disorder – involves constant and often irrational fears and concerns. The person may even know that their worries have no basis in reality, but they find it impossible to control their feelings.
Phobias – these can take different forms, and the triggers can vary, from being in confined spaces, to being in open spaces, and from spiders to water.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – often associated with veterans, it can affect anyone who has suffered abuse or trauma, or who has witnessed violence or tragedy. Women are more likely to suffer from PTSD than men, with anxiety attacks as the primary symptom.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – affects around 2.2m in the US and for some people leads to crippling anxiety if their compulsions are blocked or hindered.
Depression – this is the leading cause of disability in the US. It can affect over 15 million adults (around 6.7% of the population) aged 18 and above in any given year. Depression and anxiety are often intrinsically linked. Which can make the situation even more debilitating.
If someone’s anxiety disorder is seriously impacting on their ability to carry out the tasks of everyday life – then it is vital that they receive treatment as soon as possible.
In many cases, this can alleviate the symptoms over time, or even bring about a full recovery.
Treatment programs usually start with tackling the immediate, physical symptoms. Anti-anxiety medications can be dispensed to deal with such things as muscle tension and stomach problems. These medications have serious side-effects though, and prolonged use is inadvisable.
For longer term treatment, antidepressants are usually prescribed (whether depression is a symptom or not). The variations of this type of drug can help balance brain chemistry over time, to support therapeutic intervention.
Therapies to treat anxiety disorders include one-to-one talking sessions and group work.
Treatment regimes can take a long time to work with people who have severe anxiety disorders, and for some may even prove ineffectual.
For anyone living with the prospect of disability from the effects of anxiety, various aids and support systems are available. Your rights are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 1990. This regulates things such as the way employers need to accommodate your disability. With medical support to verify that your anxiety is profound and disabling, you may also be eligible for a Psychological Service Dog.
These animals are individually trained to meet the needs of people with disabilities, including long-standing anxiety disorders. They can help by being attuned to when an anxiety attack starts, and can bring medication and help when needed, as well as protecting their owner from harm.
It is also possible to get medical help in acquiring an emotional support animal too (this doesn’t have to be a dog). This pet would not be a trained service dog, but could provide comfort and companionship for the individual with crippling anxiety.