Anticipatory Anxiety (A Complete Guide)

Anxiety is generally known as fear of the future. When the body naturally responds to stress it is denoted as anxiety.

Feeling afraid or apprehensive about the future happening.

A person may feel anxious about going for a job interview, first day at a new school or going on stage and delivering a speech to a gathering are the most common causes of instigating anxiety.

If this anxiety prolongs and remains for a longer period of time, i.e., six months and it starts disturbing the life patterns then it becomes anxiety disorder.

In this article we will discuss anticipatory anxiety. 

Anticipatory Anxiety

Anticipatory anxiety arises while thinking about events which are likely to take place in near future.

An individual starts experiencing stress and increased anxiety while thinking about that event.

The occurrence of anticipatory anxiety may be due to an event. For example, thinking about presentations to be given at workplaces.

It can also take place at minor levels such as, going for work, attending meetings, talking to colleagues at the workplace and while parking the car.

Anticipatory anxiety isn’t considered as an understandable mental condition but it is regarded as a symptom of other types of disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.

If a person is suffering from panic disorder he will be anticipating his life events such as going to a social gathering, driving to work, going for grocery and many other daily life activities.

These activities might be part of his anticipation. Before experiencing the panic attacks a person might not have given any attention to the above mentioned daily life activities.

But after suffering panic attacks a person may anticipate and this anticipation can trigger feelings of anxiety and can also interfere with daily life functioning. 

Here are the top books for people with high functioning anxiety.

Normal vs Anticipatory Anxiety

A large number of people on this planet face anticipatory anxiety due to their various experiences in their lives.

Anxiety is experienced more often while anticipating performing a new task, thinking about the upcoming major event of life.

A person may also feel anticipatory anxiety as he is about to go for his first date, before taking exams, appearing for a job interview, shifting to a new place or even before going for an adventurous tour. 

If someone has experienced panic disorder the chances of anticipatory anxiety are likely to increase and can cross the limits of what normally people tend to experience about their major life events.

This can eventually lead to anticipatory anxiety. This anxiety occurs due to an anticipation or how a person imagines the upcoming events.

All these imaginations are mainly focused on facing panic attacks in specific circumstances.

A person afraid of suffering from panic attack can associate this fear with his life circumstances or events.

These events may be minor or major.

Few people might develop anticipatory anxiety due to activities related to moving to a new place and leaving the safety of home.

Symptoms of Anticipatory Anxiety

An individual suffering from anticipatory anxiety might demonstrate physical symptoms as well as emotional and mental symptoms as well.

Major symptoms which are related to anticipatory anxiety are given below:

  • Chest pain
  • Hyperventilation
  • Muscle spasms
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Rumination
  • Extreme feelings of apprehension
  • Dizziness
  • Upset stomach
  • Numbness or a tingling sensation
  • Cold chills or hot flashes.

Emotional Symptoms of Anticipatory Anxiety consist of, hopelessness, ambiguity, confusion, feeling angry, lack of control, irritations and feelings of guilt.

Anticipatory anxiety can also negatively impact mood. 

Anticipatory anxiety can also negatively impact the state of mind and can impose different thoughts of perceived threat which becomes an hindrance in the way of performing a task.

Causes of Anticipatory Anxiety

Anticipatory anxiety is triggered from fear. Fear is regarded as a natural emotion.

But it can be worse and can have negative consequences from thinking about previous situations.

Take it as a domino effect. A situation caused a person to develop a panic attack or face anxiety.

It occured due to a single event which occurred again and again. It will lead you to be afraid of panic attacks.

Research conducted in 2008 has revealed that intensity of anticipatory anxiety tends to increase when a person is exposed to the subjects he hates the most and tries to avoid usually and those situations he generally avoids to be exposed to.

Basically, anticipatory anxiety triggers due to something which is happening but in many cases that thing is present just in the head. 

A therapist Ken Fields stated that, when a person tries to think about his future he makes guesses, fabricates events or information and tries to imagine and despite all of these he doesn’t know what is actually going to happen which usually leads to face anxiety.

However, as the person tries to fabricate events which are yet to happen the person becomes anxious.

Studies have revealed that anticipatory anxiety can take place due to the unpredictable and uncertain events likely to take place.

As life events are unpredictable and uncertain it makes management of anticipatory anxiety even difficult.

Other anxieties, such as texting anxiety or abandonment anxiety can also lead to anticipatory anxiety.

How thoughts contribute to anticipatory anxiety?

How a person thinks is closely related to inciting anticipatory anxiety.

A person suffering from panic disorder will be more conscious and worried about arousal of panic attack in those situations and circumstances which can lead him to feel embarrassed, make him uncomfortable, cardiac arrest or it can make the situation even more difficult and worse.

If a person faces panic disorder he must be known to be afraid of worrying. His worries might be similar to the following;

What if my car fell into a ditch if I had a panic attack? 

What if i went to the store and started to panic and get embarrassed due to an unusual and unwanted behaviour.

What if while having dinner with other people outside and i couldn’t chew or swallow the food? 

What if while taking a round in the colony I start to get panic and wouldn’t be able to go home?

Somebody who is suffering from anxiety nursing diagnosis also experiences feelings of apprehension, thinking something bad might happen in the future.

The above mentioned questions and the thoughts of such kind are main factors which trigger anticipatory anxiety which will eventually make a person avoid different situations and activities. If the intensity of this anxiety will get increased it may cause agoraphobia.

Coping methods for Anticipatory Anxiety

A person might not be able to completely get rid of anticipatory anxiety but by applying different techniques and adopting different methods he can somehow lessen it.

Below are given some useful steps which are considered effective while coping with anticipatory anxiety.

Try to get enough sleep

Lack of sleep can have adverse effects on our not only physical health but also can negatively impact mental health and make a person emotionally weak.

When a person gets a comfortable sleep and a good bed rest it can be helpful in lessening his anticipatory anxiety.

But lack of sleep can make the symptoms worse.

Sleeplessness assists trigger regions such as, amygdala and insular cortex, in the brain which usually help in emotion processing.

It’s an unfortunate fact that anxiety does not let a person sleep at night.

So, how does a person manage to get a good sleep while he is confronting anticipatory anxiety physically and emotionally? 

A few helpful tips were published in Harvard Health Publishing to get a better sleep, these are as follow; Maintaining a pattern of sleep or making a routine based time table to follow.

To improve your sleep, Light Therapy has proven to be helpful in getting a good quality of sleep. Use night lamps to help you regulate your sleep. If you have simple tastes, you can check the Best Light Bulb for Anxiety, if you are a mystic, you can also find the Best Salt Lamp for Anxiety.

Which means sleeping at the set time and also awakening at the time set on a daily basis.

Going for exercise regularly can also help get a good sleep.

Avoiding substances which contain caffeine such as, smoking, tea and also alcohol, having hafty meals, drinking fluids and using medicines which helps not getting asleep, eight hours before a person goes to bed for sleep.

Practicing Relaxation Techniques

Another useful technique to decrease the intensity of anticipatory anxiety is to learn and practice different techniques of relaxation.

These techniques can significantly reduce the chances of getting a panic attack and any other anxiety disorder. 

Meditation and yoga are considered to be extremely beneficial.

As a matter of fact, many studies have shown that mindfulness can positively influence the treatment process of depression and anxiety. 

There are several other simple methods which a person can practice such as, medication, deep breathing and writing a piece of work.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation is another useful relaxation exercise. Progressive muscle relaxation is helpful in alleviating the anticipatory anxiety symptoms.

This technique is a blend of different other techniques which are considered a reverse version of flight or flight response.

This is a relaxation response which eventually decreases heart beats to a normal relaxing body and provides calmness to mind.

Interrupting Negative Thoughts

When the feelings of being anxious start to rise it may get out of control then try to counter the thoughts involved in the arousal of anxiety and then replace them with more realistic and positive thoughts. 

The person going through the anxiety should be focused on only one thing which can be easily turned into right apart from focusing on everything that can be wrong.

Try finding positivity in the realm of negativity. Try not to focus on everything which you don’t like.

Srini Pillay, called it as emotion interruption. He further stated that instead of focus on the fear one-time events try thinking them repetitive.

When you start doing this just intrude the fear with other positive thinking.

If a person is unable to do this and not able to think positively at that time try to keep a few positive images around so that you can have a look at them or start listening to good and positive music you like to hear.

This  every time provides positive results. You don’t have to wait for the end of the “anticipation”.

End it with interrupting.

Some professionals use hypnosis as a way to treat people with anxiety.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

What we recommend for curbing Anxiety

Below are some of the services and products we recommend for anxiety

Online Therapy

  • Online therapy is another thing we should all try. We highly recommend Online therapy with a provider who not only provides therapy but a complete mental health toolbox to help your wellness.

Anxiety Weighted Blankets

  • Anxiety Weighted Blankets are by far the number 1 thing every person who suffers from anxiety should at least try. Anxiety Blankets may improve your sleep, allow you to fall asleep faster and you can even carry them around when chilling at home.

Light Therapy

  • Amber light therapy from Amber lights could increase the melatonin production in your body and help you sleep better at night.  An Amber light lamp helps reduce the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep and increases overall sleep quality.

FAQs about Anticipatory Anxiety

Q1. What is anxiety?

Anxiety is generally known as fear of the future. When the body naturally responds to stress it is denoted as anxiety.

Feeling afraid or apprehensive about the future happening.

Q2. What is anticipatory anxiety?

Anticipatory anxiety arises while thinking about events which are likely to take place in near future.

An individual starts experiencing stress and increased anxiety while thinking about that event.

Q3. What causes anticipatory anxiety?

There are a lot of factors which can contribute to develop anticipatory anxiety.

Anticipatory anxiety usually triggers when an individual faces extreme stress and anxiety when they think about any event which might take place in future.

As anticipatory anxiety isn’t considered as a definite mental problem this anxiety is part of other mental conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.

Q4. What are physical symptoms of anticipatory anxiety?

An individual suffering from anticipatory anxiety might demonstrate physical symptoms such as, fast heartbeats, shivering, sweating, muscle strain and restlessness etc.

Q5. What are common treatment methods for Anticipatory Anxiety?

There are different kinds of treatment methods which can be adopted to help an individual with anticipatory anxiety.

These methods include, interrupting negative thoughts, relaxation techniques and getting enough sleep.