Coping with expected anxiety

If you have anticipatory anxiety, you will be afraid of the imaginary future situation for a long time, and you think this is an unpredictable threat.

This mental health condition is usually not regarded as a specific disease, but as a symptom of certain anxiety-related diseases, including panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and social phobia.

Your anxiety may peak in the hours before a scheduled event, or it may last for months before something that may or may not happen.


If you know that you will soon need to face the object of your fear, you may experience physical and emotional symptoms, such as:

  • Hyperventilation
  • Chest pain
  • Muscle cramps
  • Ruminate
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling of panic

When you are looking for ways to avoid fearful experiences, anticipating anxiety can greatly limit your life.

It will put pressure on your relationships because you will be distracted and look selfish. If you have been distracted, you may also find that it damages your ability to do the job at work.

Stage fear and anticipatory anxiety

Staged fear lasts for a short period of time and is a response to predictable threats. In contrast, anticipatory anxiety lasts longer and is a response to unpredictable threats.In a study published in the journal Depression and anxietyNeuroscientists using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning technology found that these two types of fears are not the same because they activate different parts of the brain.

Types of anticipatory anxiety

Of course, we’ve all experienced anticipation anxiety at some point—before an interview, first date, school test, or a major trip—but if you or your loved one is struggling with one of the following anxiety disorders, anticipation anxiety It may disappear beyond the limits that people usually experience before encountering new things or exceeding their comfort zone.

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Panic attack

When you suffer an expected panic attack, you are always worried about your next attack——When will it happen and what will happen? Will it happen when I drive? Will it cause me to have a car accident? Will it happen in a store? Will I embarrass myself? Can i go home?

The fear of panic attacks may be related to any life situation or event (large or small).In severe cases, this type of anticipatory anxiety can prevent you from leaving your safe home. This fear is called agoraphobia.


When you have flight anxiety, you will perceive the present moment and experience fear in real time.You are sitting in the seat of a real airplane, worried about taking off, or if you hear strange noises during the flight, you may feel anxious.

In contrast, if you have anticipatory anxiety about flying, you will be afraid of the imaginary airplane and what might happen if you get on the airplane—imagine one or more possible disasters in flight.

Social phobia

If you have anticipatory social phobia, you may feel anxious about work or social activities that were not even planned to happen.For example, you might imagine yourself meeting someone else judging you during a speech or saying something wrong when meeting a new person.

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preventive solution

In addition to seeking help and seeking appropriate treatment for your specific type of anxiety, you can also adopt some general techniques to stay calm and better deal with anticipated anxiety. Try one or two and see which suits you best.

enough sleep

Neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkeley said that adequate sleep may help relieve anticipatory anxiety, but lack of sleep may exacerbate the situation.This is because lack of sleep activates areas of the brain related to processing emotions, such as the amygdala and insular cortex.

Sleep and anxiety will form a vicious circle, because people with anxiety will have sleep problems. Then, the resulting lack of sleep can make them more anxious.

Develop your relaxation response

Whether it’s deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), guided imagery, or meditation, preparing some relaxation techniques can help you focus on the present and reduce your expected anxiety level.

Talk to yourself like a friend

If your loved one or trusted friend is anxious about what hasn’t happened yet, how would you tell them? You may be kind and supportive-you should also use compassionate words to yourself.

Self-compassion can help you avoid feeling isolated, make you more focused, calm your inner critics, and inspire you to recognize and face your fears.

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For example, you might assure a friend who has anticipation anxiety about flying that it is okay to be afraid and that the probability of taking a flight to a disaster is less than 1%.


Sometimes it helps to focus on things other than anxious thoughts. Healthy distraction activities can include walking, listening to music, doing some quick housework, watching funny videos on YouTube, reading a book, or calling a friend.

Face your fear

Ask yourself: What am I really worried about? How likely is my fear to come true? Once you have determined your anxiety, you can work hard to change your thought process. For example, remind yourself that you think the flight is safe enough to make a reservation. Tell yourself don’t think about it anymore, you will board that flight anyway.

Refactor your thinking

You can use refactoring to overcome wrong thinking patterns and change your perception of terrible situations. For example, if the fear of turbulence keeps you awake at night, remind yourself that the best place in turbulence is to fasten your seat belt.

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If these self-help strategies do not work, please make an appointment with a mental health professional. You can develop a treatment plan together, which may include medication, treatment, and coping skills. With some practice and professional help, you can learn to manage your anticipatory anxiety, gain a more positive perspective, and enjoy many experiences in life.