Can Anxiety Really Kill You? (2023)

While everyone experiences anxiety, if it gets to the point where you're crippled by its side effects, it may be time to get some help.

If you or someone you know is dealing with severe anxiety, it can feel like it's going to absolutely kill you. This is especially true for people who experience panic attacks.

That said, while anxiety itself will not kill you, it has been linked to heart disease, as well as a number of other symptoms that can pose serious threats to your health.

Below, we've outlined exactly what anxiety is, as well as its physical symptoms and long-term impacts. We also go over panic attacks and anxiety disorders so that you can better understand what causes them. Finally, we talk about how to support someone in your life who has severe anxiety, and how to get help if you're living with anxiety.

What Is Anxiety?

The American Psychiatric Association defines anxiety as "an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure."

That said, anxiety can manifest itself differently for everyone, but it often feels like a constant, nagging worry that just won't go away.

While sometimes worrying can be warranted (in some cases it may be your brain's way of protecting you from real danger), anxiety leans more to unfounded worries that won't go away.

Things to pay attention to if you think you're experiencing an abnormal amount of anxiety are the length of time that your feelings persist, the intensity of the feelings of nerves, and the inability to focus on an exact cause.

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety may be taking place in your mind, but the side effects can certainly manifest in a physical way. While there are lots of physical side effects that can pop up, these are the most common.

General anxiety may include one or more of these symptoms,however, panic attacks often include many of them at once:

  • Restlessness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shortness of breath or the feeling of your throat closing in
  • Dry mouth
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Trembling or shakiness
  • Sudden sweating or chills

Long-Term Affects of Anxiety

Researchers at theAnxiety Disorders Programat Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center believe that there are ties between long-term anxiety and the development of heart disease.

Perhaps what's most interesting about this research is that it determined that anxiety can not only lead to a higher risk of developing heart disease, but it can also act as an obstacle for those recovering from heart disease.

One of the reasons why this is thought to impact the heart is that it interferes with lots of things, like regular exercise and eating well, that can stave off the occurrence of heart disease.

In addition to making it hard to stick to schedules or do daily tasks, anxiety can lead to rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, and decreased heart rate variability—all of which put you at a higher risk for developing heart disease.

(Video) Can Anxiety Kill you?

Research has also shown that anxiety can actually damage the brain and increase the risk of developing dementia later in life. It can also put people at a higher risk of developing depression. This is because it was found to lead to structural degeneration of the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus.

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

What Is a Panic Attack?

Panic attacks can definitely make people think that they're dying, and this is primarily because they share so many symptoms in common with heart attacks.

Panic attack and heart attack victims both typically experience sudden chest pains, heavy heart palpitations, sweating, shortness of breath, and a number of other symptoms.

The"Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" defines panic attacks as "a sudden sense of fear and dread."

That said, in order to be classified as a panic attack, this sudden sense of fear and dread must be accompanied by at least four other mental, emotional, and physical symptoms. These symptoms can include any of the general symptoms of anxiety listed earlier if they occur in a sudden manner.

It's also important to note that there are two main types of panic attacks:

  1. Expected
  2. Unexpected

An example of an expected panic attack would be if a person with a known phobia (think small spaces or spiders) knows that they're going to be exposed to that fear. Unexpected panic attacks come out of nowhere and aren't a result of any mental or external triggers.

Anxiety Disorder Treatment

There are plenty of mental health professionals who specialize in the treatment of anxiety disorders. If you're experiencing anxiety that just won't go away, you need to talk with your doctor or with a cognitive-behavioral therapist to determine if you have one of the following anxiety disorders:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Separation anxiety disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
  • Phobia-related disorders (such asagoraphobiaandspecific phobias)

After providing you with a diagnosis, your therapist will have an idea of how to treat your specific anxiety disorder.

Coping With an Anxiety Disorder

While considering therapy is a great option if you're not already going, here are some in-the-moment tips for managing your anxiety:

  • Clear your mind: Whether you like to meditate, practice yoga or simply take a walk, taking a moment to remove the focus from the subject that you're anxious about is beneficial.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine: These substances can make you more anxious, especially when consumed in excess.
  • Exercise daily: You will feel much better once you get the endorphins pumping. This doesn't have to be extensive, but enough to get your heart rate up.
  • Get enough rest: When you're experiencing higher levels of stress, your body needs more rest. Listen to it.
  • Take deep breaths: This is especially relevant to the exact moments when you're experiencing a spike in your anxiety levels. Breathe, count to ten, or meditate.
  • Learn your triggers: Pay attention to the moments when your anxiety really kicks in and make note of what's happening leading up to those moments.

9 Breathing Exercises to Relieve Anxiety

How to Help Someone With Anxiety

If you're watching a loved one struggle with severe anxiety, it can take a serious toll on your own mental health. That said, there are some things you can do to offer them effective support.

Here are some ways you can help someone who is experiencing anxiety:

  • Don't enable: If you're continually making concessions for someone because of their anxiety, it can have the adverse effect of helping them avoid things that they should learn to face head-on. This could end up leaving them more limited in the long run.
  • Don't force confrontation: Leave confrontation to the person's therapist. Trying to push someone when they aren't ready can lead to them resenting you.
  • Express validation: Don't minimize their fears or nerves in any way. Instead, let them know that you understand that different people are triggered by different things, largely as a result of their past experiences.
  • Express concern: If you notice that your loved one is avoiding things that they used to love or just generally withdrawing more and more from social situations, it's OK to point that out to them using specific examples.

If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

(Video) Can Symptoms Of Anxiety Kill You?

A Word From Verywell

If you are experiencing anxiety or know someone who is, it's can be understandably scary. Make sure that you seek help or encourage your loved one to seek help. Also, make sure you start to pay attention to any triggers that lead to more severe episodes, this way you can help your therapist reach a more conclusive diagnosis.

How to Help Someone With Anxiety

8 Sources

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. American Psychological Association. Anxiety. 2021.

  2. Terlizzi EP, Villarroel MA. Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder Among Adults: United States, 2019.2020.

    (Video) Anxiety Is Killing Me!

  3. Norton GR, Harrison B, Hauch J, Rhodes L. Characteristics of people with infrequent panic attacks.Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 1985;94(2), 216–221.

  4. McCann UD. Anxiety and Heart Disease. Johns Hopkins Medicine.

  5. Mah L, Szabuniewicz C, Fiocco AJ. Can anxiety damage the brain?.Current Opinion in Psychiatry. 2016;29(1), 56–63.

  6. American Psychiatric Association.Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.5th edition. 2013.

  7. Anxiety & Depression Association of America. Tips to Manage Anxiety and Stress.

  8. McGuire J. How to Help Someone with Anxiety. Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Can Anxiety Really Kill You? (1)

By Brittany Loggins
Brittany is a health and lifestyle writer and former staffer at TODAY on NBC and CBS News. She's also contributed to dozens of magazines.

See Our Editorial Process

Meet Our Review Board

Share Feedback

(Video) How to Heal Anxiety, Fear, & Panic Attacks! Dr. Mandell

Was this page helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!

What is your feedback?

Speak to a Therapist for GAD


The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.

(Video) Anxiety Getting Worse and Ruining Your Life? This is why!


How bad can anxiety really be? ›

Some studies suggest that experiencing anxiety could increase the risk of developing certain long-term physical health problems, including diabetes, stomach ulcers and heart problems. But there's not enough evidence to say for sure exactly what the risks are, or what groups of people are most likely to be affected.

Is it impossible to get over anxiety? ›

There's no way to completely cure any anxiety disorder, but the right combination of solutions can provide much-needed relief. In fact, treatment helps most people with anxiety reduce their symptoms enough to regain full control over their daily lives.

Can anxiety ruin your life? ›

An anxiety disorder can damage your health, relationships and quality of life, but anxiety disorders can usually be effectively treated. Treatment typically includes some form of cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, and may also include medication such as an SSRI.

Has anyone ever beat anxiety? ›

Fortunately, anxiety is highly treatable. Self-help strategies to overcome anxiety can be helpful, but it is also important to talk to your doctor about your treatment options. By taking steps to get better, you can help ensure that your anxiety isn't keeping you from achieving the things you want to do.

Why is anxiety not taken seriously? ›

People with anxiety disorders often feel that their concerns are not taken seriously or that "it's all in their heads." This minimizes their pain and discomfort, and leaves psychiatric and associated medical conditions unaddressed. It should be noted that the statement "it's all in your head" is not entirely wrong.

What to do when anxiety is ruining your life? ›

What to do when you feel anxious
  1. Think of yourself as a firefighter. Put out the flames of anxiety with some cool breaths. ...
  2. Cool down anxious thoughts. “Thoughts like, 'I can't stand this; this is awful! ...
  3. Get some perspective. ...
  4. Soothe your system. ...
  5. Talk it out. ...
  6. Don't ignore. ...
  7. Rule out other causes. ...
  8. Wait it out.
Mar 24, 2022

How many years can you live with anxiety? ›

From the time of diagnosis, an anxiety disorder can last from a few months to many years. Most people will have symptoms of an anxiety disorder for a long time before seeking professional help, sometimes up to 15 years³.

How hard is it to live with anxiety? ›

Anxiety can be debilitating, especially when it triggers panic attacks. Individuals dealing with anxiety may live in fear of daily activities and feel as if their anxiety dominates their lives. In some cases, people may use substances such as drugs or alcohol to self-medicate their anxiety symptoms.

Do people live normal lives with anxiety? ›

People with anxiety disorders feel worry and fear constantly, and these feelings of distress can severely impact their daily lives. Living with an anxiety disorder can feel crippling, but with time and proper treatment, many people can manage their anxiety and live a fulfilling life.

Who suffers from anxiety the most? ›

Anxiety disorders affect nearly 1 in 5 adults in the United States. Women are more than twice as likely as men to get an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Anxiety disorders are often treated with counseling, medicine, or a combination of both.

How long does it take the brain to heal from anxiety? ›

Creating new neural pathways may take time — several weeks to months — but it can help your brain address triggers with more confidence, so you feel less anxious overall. Consistency is the key.

Can a brain scan show anxiety? ›

Brain imaging can reveal unsuspected causes of your anxiety. Anxiety can be caused by many things, such as neurohormonal imbalances, post-traumatic stress syndrome, or head injuries. Brain scans can offer clues to potential root causes of your anxiety, which can help find the most effective treatment plan.

What can uncontrolled anxiety lead to? ›

For the majority of people with undiagnosed or untreated anxiety disorder, there are many negative consequences, for both the individual and society. These include disability, reduced ability to work leading to loss of productivity, and a high risk of suicide.

How do people with anxiety think? ›

People with anxiety often have thought patterns such as: Believing the worst will happen. Persistent worry. All-or-nothing thinking.

How I healed my anxiety without drugs? ›

Anxiety Treatment Without Medication: 7 Holistic Ways to Cope
  1. Keep Your Blood Sugar in Check. ...
  2. Avoid Stimulants. ...
  3. Get Enough Sleep. ...
  4. Just Breathe. ...
  5. Practice Mindfulness. ...
  6. Exercise. ...
  7. Do What You Enjoy. ...
  8. Where to Get Help.
Dec 6, 2017

Does anxiety get worse with age? ›

Does anxiety get worse with age? Anxiety disorders don't necessarily get worse with age, but the number of people suffering from anxiety changes across the lifespan. Anxiety becomes more common with older age and is most common among middle-aged adults.

How do you live with constant anxiety? ›

How can I help myself?
  1. Talk to someone you trust add. Talking to someone you trust about what's making you anxious could be a relief. ...
  2. Try to manage your worries add. ...
  3. Look after your physical health add. ...
  4. Try breathing exercises add. ...
  5. Keep a diary add. ...
  6. Complementary and alternative therapies add.

What is the most common late in life mental health condition is anxiety? ›

The onset of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) specifically can occur at any point in the life cycle, though the average age of onset is 31 years old. Of all anxiety disorders, however, GAD stands as the most common in late-life with estimates in the older adult age group ranging from 1% to 7%.

Is there hope for anxiety sufferers? ›

Yes, you can fully recover from anxiety recovery just as thousands of patients have done. For years, little was known about the factors responsible for recovery from anxiety.

Can anxiety brain damage reversed? ›

Pharmacological (e.g., antidepressant medications) and nonpharmacological interventions (cognitive-behavioral therapy, exercise) may reverse stress-induced damage in the brain.

What is the number one cause of anxiety? ›

Difficult experiences in childhood, adolescence or adulthood are a common trigger for anxiety problems. Going through stress and trauma when you're very young is likely to have a particularly big impact. Experiences which can trigger anxiety problems include things like: physical or emotional abuse.

What type of person is prone to anxiety? ›

Research has indicated that individuals with high emotional reactivity (high neuroticism) and introverted tendencies (low extroversion) are more likely to experience anxiety than other personality types [101].

When does anxiety become a disorder? ›

Anxiety becomes a disorder when it's irrational, excessive and when it interferes with a person's ability to function in daily life. Anxiety disorders include: Generalised anxiety disorder. Social phobias – fear of social situations.

Is anxiety a chemical imbalance? ›

But researchers don't know exactly what causes anxiety disorders. They suspect a combination of factors plays a role: Chemical imbalance: Severe or long-lasting stress can change the chemical balance that controls your mood. Experiencing a lot of stress over a long period can lead to an anxiety disorder.

Can you rewire your brain to not be anxious? ›

Anxiety Therapy is one way to rewire the brain. It helps you build new neural pathways that are healthy and help control anxiety symptoms. Mindfulness is another way to rewire the anxious brain. Mindfulness helps retrain the brain through mindfulness meditation, which will effectively help with anxiety.

How do I reset my brain from anxiety? ›

Your Brain Fog May Be an Anxiety Symptom — Here's How to Deal with It
  1. Find the source.
  2. Prioritize sleep.
  3. Make time to relax.
  4. Meditate.
  5. Feed yourself.
  6. Move your body.
  7. Take a break.
  8. Make a plan.
Mar 27, 2020

Is it true that everyone has anxiety? ›

Everyone experiences anxiety and fear at times – these are normal and helpful human emotions that help us deal with danger. However, some people experience excessive and irrational anxiety and worries that become ongoing and distressing, and that interfere with their daily lives. This may indicate an anxiety disorder.

Why is anxiety increasing? ›

Why Is Anxiety So Common in America? What Changed? Unfortunately, no one seems to have an exact answer as to why anxiety is so common, but many attribute this presumed increase in anxiety disorders to factors such as social media, poor sleep habits, lowered stigma, and underreporting in the past.

How do I train my brain to stop anxiety? ›

Get up and get moving — exercise is a natural way to break the cycle because it releases endorphins which relieve tension and stress, boost energy, and enhance your sense of well-being. You can also distract yourself by doing something completely unrelated and different that forces you to focus on something else.

What vitamins help with anxiety? ›

Supplements for anxiety
  • Vitamin D3: Vitamin D3 can improve mood and energy, and it has been a must for many of my patients throughout the pandemic, says Dr. ...
  • Magnesium: ...
  • Melatonin: ...
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: ...
  • Chamomile: ...
  • Valerian root: ...
  • Ashwagandha: ...
  • Kava:
May 1, 2023

Is anxiety a form of mental illness? ›

Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives. But anxiety disorders are treatable and a number of effective treatments are available. Treatment helps most people lead normal productive lives.

What is a drug that calms you down? ›

Benzodiazepines (also known as tranquilizers) are the most widely prescribed type of medication for anxiety. Drugs such as Xanax (alprazolam), Klonopin (clonazepam), Valium (diazepam), and Ativan (lorazepam) work quickly, typically bringing relief within 30 minutes to an hour.

What can anxiety do to your head? ›

Anxiety causes a heavy head feeling because of tension headaches common in people living with the disorder. Most people describe these headaches as feeling like a tight band wrapped around their heads. A tightening of the scalp and neck muscles also causes an anxiety headache.

Can anxiety damage the heart? ›

The Effect of Anxiety on the Heart

Rapid heart rate (tachycardia) – In serious cases, can interfere with normal heart function and increase the risk of sudden cardiac arrest. Increased blood pressure – If chronic, can lead to coronary disease, weakening of the heart muscle, and heart failure.


(Cherellethinks - Dip. Couns, Dip, ACT)
2. Stress is KILLING You | This is WHY and What You Can Do | Dr. Joe Dispenza (Eye Opening Speech)
3. If You Struggle with Anxiety, These Tricks Could Save Your Life
(Tom Bilyeu)
4. What The REAL Cause Of Your Anxiety Is - With Dr Gabor Maté
5. Can anxiety kill you?
(Ask About MOVIES)
6. Can You Really Beat Panic & Anxiety Attacks?
(Stress Free Minds)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Clemencia Bogisich Ret

Last Updated: 06/04/2023

Views: 6450

Rating: 5 / 5 (60 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Clemencia Bogisich Ret

Birthday: 2001-07-17

Address: Suite 794 53887 Geri Spring, West Cristentown, KY 54855

Phone: +5934435460663

Job: Central Hospitality Director

Hobby: Yoga, Electronics, Rafting, Lockpicking, Inline skating, Puzzles, scrapbook

Introduction: My name is Clemencia Bogisich Ret, I am a super, outstanding, graceful, friendly, vast, comfortable, agreeable person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.