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Anticipatory Anxiety Explained

Gloria Goodwin's picture
Anticipatory Anxiety Explained

Every human being is engineered to feel anxiety and fear when he or she is about to face a situation that has scared him or her in the past and has caused a feeling of vulnerability. It could be flying on an aircraft, addressing a crowd or a group of people, or going out with someone on a first date. Most people have experienced fear in such situations, and this fear is regarded as anticipatory anxiety by the experts. Our body prepares for the event in a number of ways. Sweaty palms, upset stomach and racing heart are three of the most common symptoms experienced by people having anxiety. Our body is programmed to anticipate and expect the worst. Therefore, it prepares itself to get out of dangerous situations. Anticipatory anxiety is part of that preparation process. The major problem is that we feel anxious even if we are not in a dangerous situation at all. Feeling anticipatory anxiety in such cases is no doubt undesirable, and with better understanding of anxiety problems, we can easily limit their harmful effects on our life.

Anticipatory Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Every person on this earth has anticipatory anxiety at some point in his or her life. An individual doesn't have to have anxiety problems or psychiatric anxiety disorders to experience it. Nevertheless, anticipatory anxiety is reportedly a major component of panic disorders. According to the definition, people with panic disorder experience panic attacks that consist of the classic anticipatory anxiety symptoms and side effects. Some of the most common signs include:

  1. Shortness of breath
  2. Rapid heartbeat
  3. Upset stomach
  4. Dizziness
  5. Cold chills or Hot flashes
  6. Tingling or Numbness

Sometimes the physical symptoms related to panic attack are so intense that the person experiencing them feels like having a heart attack. The first panic attack for people with panic disorder is totally unexpected. However, after the first panic attack the individual feels constant anticipatory anxiety because of the fear of having a second attack. The same is true for people having different phobias. They experience anticipatory anxiety about the thing they fear the most and do everything to keep away from it, even if it requires them to drive across the country to pass up travelling on an airplane.

Anticipatory Anxiety Symptoms

Anticipatory anxiety might be persistent if you find yourself thinking and worrying about something for days or months, such as losing a career in a declining economy, losing a loved one, etc.

Symptoms associated with mind: Besides feeling fearful and anxious, you might also experience the following:

  1. Anger
  2. Hopelessness
  3. Confusion
  4. Numbness
  5. Loss of control
  6. Sadness
  7. Irritability
  8. Moodiness
  9. Guilt
  10. Preoccupation with the fear

Sometimes the person is so preoccupied by the anticipated threat that he or she cannot concentrate or make rational decision despite of trying very hard. If you are experiencing persistent or chronic anticipatory anxiety, you are most likely to discover that you are retreating from people in your life and things that you used to enjoy. You can also have problems regarding your memory.

Physical symptoms: Some of the physical symptoms related to anticipatory anxiety include:

  1. Tense muscles
  2. Stomach problems
  3. Headaches
  4. Changes in appetite
  5. Alteration in sleep patterns
  6. Fatigue

Managing Anticipatory Anxiety

There are various ways to cope with anticipatory anxiety. Some of these methods include:

1. Imagination

Mostly, anticipatory anxiety is a result of fear of future. Therefore, the best way to get rid of it is by admitting that we are unable to predict the future. Any situation we imagine is nothing but a fabrication and speculation. Picturing positive outcomes and being optimistic about your future can significantly reduce anxiety.

2. Dialogue with yourself

Mostly, people with anticipatory anxiety tend to ask themselves questions, like "what if I get fired?"" what if I get lost?", and if you find yourself wondering the same things, stop thinking at that moment and take a deep breath. Consider the possible positive outcomes. This technique will help you immensely in controlling your anxiety. If you are still unable to relax, distract yourself with things like movies, music, exercise and puzzles.

3. Mental Health

If you have chronic anticipatory anxiety, it is better for you to seek professional help. There are countless treatment options offered by mental health care providers. 

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