Both examples represent expecting something stressful and your mind playing a discomforting game.
Sometimes, you might be overly concerned about extraordinary events such as natural disasters, pandemics, or even losing loved ones. These are some examples of having anxiety over future events, and a significant number of people experience it.
Thus, we’ve provided some insights into this and how online therapy can introduce you to coping mechanisms.
Anticipatory Anxiety: Definition in Simple Terms
The future is unpredictable, and because of that, our minds can play some discomforting games. It is quite normal to sometimes feel anxious about future events, but it is a problem when the anxiety is at excessive levels.
So, anticipatory anxiety is when a person experiences high levels of fear and worry about an imagined future situation they perceive as an unpredictable threat.
A person can become focused on what they imagine will happen, which often involves negative predictions. These predictions can range from merely uncomfortable to incapacitating, and they dictate a person’s anxiety level.
How Is It Different from Phasic Fear?
Phasic fear is the short-time fear we experience as a reaction to a predictable threat. On the other hand, anticipatory fear involves having reactions to unpredictable threats.
Furthermore, it is long-term and lasts days, weeks, or even months.
The Underlying Causes of Anticipatory Anxiety
Since it is not medically recognized as a mental disorder, it is viewed as a symptom of other mental health conditions like:
One might experience anticipatory anxiety about a panic attack if they have had it before. The person fixates the idea that another anxiety attack might occur at any time, which becomes mentally draining.
Social Anxiety Disorder
People also experience uncertainty anxiety when preparing or planning to attend a high-pressure social event. A person with social anxiety often dreads the idea of being embarrassed while they imagine their interactions at such an event.
When facing situations where a person might encounter their fears, some people will experience this form of anxiety. For example, people who have glossophobia will fear an event where they have to engage in public speaking.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety makes a person experience fear of the future about any situation, especially one they’re not familiar with. One might feel it but not be able to trace what they are afraid of.
When a person goes through something traumatizing, they might have fear about such events reoccurring. It occurs even when there is no chance of that experience happening again.
In PTSD, stimuli like people, objects, smells, and places can trigger anticipatory anxiety.
Symptoms and Self-Diagnosis
Like other mental health issues, anxiety about the future has some tell signs and symptoms. Furthermore, there are some DIY questions you can ask yourself to confirm whether you are experiencing anticipatory anxiety.
The symptoms of this condition range from mild to severe, depending on the person. Some of the common ones include:
- Muscle spasms
- Chest pains
- Sleep difficulty
- Issues with concentration
- Feeling numb emotionally
- Restlessness and jumpiness
- Nausea or loss of appetite
- Problems managing moods and emotions
- Excessive worry about unimportant things
Fear of uncertainty affects a person’s day-to-day life, making them less productive. It even affects their relationships with others.
Some of the signs to watch out for include:
- Fidgeting and restlessness
- Rapid speech and movement
- Tendency to cancel or change plans
- Impulsive decisions
- Isolation and shutting down
- Being demanding
- Lashing out at other people
- Impaired performance
- Excessive research
How to Cope with Anticipatory Fear
Coping with uncertainty anxiety depends on how advanced it is, and sometimes it might require more intense care.
However, there are some general techniques to keep yourself calm. You can try a few of them to see what works.
Getting Enough Sleep
Lack of sleep is common among people with anxiety. When a person is sleep-deprived, they are more likely to be anxious, thus forming a vicious cycle. So, try to get enough sleep and even establish a healthy sleeping pattern for your mind to adapt.
Take Care of Your Body
Physical wellness plays an important part in managing the symptoms of anxiety. Aside from getting enough sleep, practice healthy eating habits, and exercise regularly.
One of the symptoms of anxiety one might experience is a nervous stomach, making it hard to eat. However, it’s important not to skip meals because you might feel worse.
Be Aware of Your Emotions and Thoughts
The fear of uncertainty sometimes has some warning symptoms that you can feel coming. Before the feelings fully set in, try taking deep breaths and exhaling to try and relax.
Then, start examining your thoughts to identify the dialogue or mental images that occurred when your anxiety came creeping in.
Check Your Self-Talk
Worrying about bad things happening is natural. But when it occurs, you should try and remind yourself that there are also good things in life, and thinking about the negatives will keep you from enjoying them.
Your self-talk should be positive and compassionate, just like you would talk to another person in your situation. Use compassionate words to reassure yourself.
Additionally, you should try to counter unrealistic thoughts with realistic thoughts that are based on evidence.
Challenge Your Thoughts with Evidence
Let’s say you have a dentist appointment that is causing a feeling of uncertainty, and you have imagined that it will be painful or something will go wrong. This is anticipatory anxiety.
Counter these thoughts by reminding yourself that there are pain inhibitors the dentist will use. Then, remind yourself that the dentist is a trained professional who has performed the procedure dozens of times.
Talk to Someone
Disclose what is bothering you to someone you trust. If you are in a relationship, talk to your partner about your uncertainty about the future. Voicing these fears helps make them less frightening.
Furthermore, people with anxiety become isolated by their symptoms. Hence, revealing this challenge to your loved ones helps them provide the support you need.
Seek Professional Treatment
If the above coping mechanisms are not offering the relief you seek, your next best bet will be exploring professional assistance. Sometimes people need extra support to deal with anxiety, and it is okay.
A professional therapist on Calmerry will help you identify the stressors in your life and provide some best coping methods.
They’ll also uncover the root of your issues and recommend various types of therapy depending on what you’re going through.
Uncertainty about the future can be terrifying, especially when trying to protect yourself and others from harm. However, it’s still impossible to predict the future, and sometimes it’s easy to confuse anticipatory anxiety with the “gut feeling.”
So, it’s essential to find ways to cope with this fear to prevent it from causing trouble in your life. The above coping techniques can help, but it’s better to seek counseling and from a compassionate professional for the advanced cases.