I'm writing about mental health counselling and how centres are often fully booked. I then say: "I'm sure many others have the same story, and crises that deserve immediate attention are left to -- "

What's the word I'm looking for? It's like exacerbate, but reflexive. The problem is being exacerbated, but I don't want to use passive voice. Most words in English that are synonymous with "worsen" imply getting weaker or smaller, but I want to say that the crisis grows stronger (yet worse at the same time).

  • Hi, and welcome to Writers. Requests for single-word definitions are off-topic for us but acceptable on English SE if properly formatted. I've asked the mods to migrate your question there.
    – Lauren Ipsum
    May 17, 2017 at 16:15
  • 4
    Fester (become worse or more intense, especially through long-term neglect or indifference) is used in similar circumstances, but might not be appropriate depending on the context since its strongly associated with infections.
    – Snagulus
    May 17, 2017 at 18:41
  • Is there a particular reason you want the abstract noun crises to be the subject of the desired verb phrase? You could modify your sentence to make people the subject: "and people in crisis who need immediate attention are left to fend for themselves, often with dire consequences".
    – TimR
    May 7 at 22:06
  • 1
    Snowball often means to grow rapidly bigger and worse e.g. "The problems were apparent in April, and the situation seems to have snowballed from there." But it can mean grow bigger without getting worse.
    – Stuart F
    May 8 at 8:51

7 Answers 7


I'm sure many others have the same story, and crises that deserve immediate attention are left to intensify.

intensify (v.)

To become greater, more serious, or more extreme, or to make something do this:

Fighting around the capital has intensified in the last few hours.

To become intense or more intensive : grow stronger or more acute

If you intensify something or if it intensifies, it becomes greater in strength, amount, or degree.

The conflict is almost bound to intensify.

Canada's existing mental health crisis only itensified as a result of the pandemic.
Valerie Thompson; Health and Health Care Delivery in Canada (2023)

Organizational and brand preservation are the focus of an intervention, but as the crisis intensifies, the strength of bonds among members of the network fail and any measure of cohesion or feeling of likeness fade and are damaged.
Dennis Tafoya; Managing Organizational Crisis and Brand Trauma (2017)

And there's the rub. Where radical change is called for, little is accomplished withing the system, and the underlying crisis intensifies over time.
George Gerbner; Invisible Crises (2018)


I think the word you're looking for is deteriorated

  • However, I fear you suffer the narrow view of most novelists obsessed with language.
    – Surtsey
    May 17, 2017 at 16:49
  • 2
    you suffer the narrow view of most novelists obsessed with language sounds opinionated and bordering rude. Care to explain to the poor obsessed novelist what you mean?
    – Lew
    May 17, 2017 at 18:25

atrophy - a wasting away or progressive decline

degenerate - having sunk to a condition below that which is normal to a type

Both taken from merriam-webster.com


Deteriorate would be my first choice - already mentioned - perhaps “seriously deteriorate” or “dramatically deteriorate”

Or just

“Grow worse”

Or more controversially - alluding to a Cancer-like behaviour - metastasise. Though that implies spreading inside.


Perhaps you could refer to the effect of the crisis with the deterioration "plummeting, crashing,

the crisis plummets ... our counselling system into ...
the crisis crashes ... against a strained capacity to respond to a skyrocketing client base / work load.

  • Hello, Mints, and welcome to English Language and Usage. If you are going to be posting here with any regularity, please take a moment to vist our help page on "How to write a good answer" We are looking for answers that provide sources to support explanations, as well as context and links. May 20, 2017 at 16:30

"Endangering" works here. "Jeapordizing" will also communicate that fact.

  • 1
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    – Community Bot
    May 7 at 19:24
  • The OP is looking for a verb and has provided a sample sentence.
    – DjinTonic
    May 7 at 23:02

Surely the word you need is magnify, isn't it? - "...problems are left to magnify".

  • Mental health counselling [and how] centres are often fully booked. I don't know the statistics on how often immediate attention is important in outcomes. In some situations it could well be crucial, in counteracting an overdose or alleviating a epileptic seizure. Whether a time to cool down before being offered or asking for treatment is essential is another matter. A facility ought to try to triage--rank the importance of immediate care given its resources. Some problems may magnify; for others time may begin to alleviate the worse.
    – Xanne
    May 21, 2017 at 9:59
  • "...problems are left to resolve themselves "?
    – WS2
    May 21, 2017 at 10:31
  • Surely I didn't say that.
    – Xanne
    May 21, 2017 at 10:38

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