One of the anxiety symptoms that is closely related to panic attacks and that over time ceases to be a symptom to become an anxiety disorder as such is anticipatory anxiety. A curious mix of predicting the future, excessive worry and catastrophic prophecies that can end up dominating the life of the person who suffers from it. We better known anticipatory anxiety well.
The anticipatory anxiety paradox
You have always been a perfectionist as well as a cautious person who likes to have everything under control. But at some point, your anxiety levels have skyrocketed and you have become a person afraid of what is to come, who always puts himself in the worst and who is terrified of the word future. You anticipate any situation to keep it under control and, paradoxically, the situation ends up controlling you.
The anticipatory anxiety paradox does not end here. It is also observed in that relationship that it establishes with the feared panic attacks. If you have ever suffered a panic attack, you will have seen the terror that the experience leaves you, but also the fear that it causes you to think that you may have another panic attack again. For this reason, in moments of greatest anxiety or when you begin to notice symptoms such as palpitations or tingling, that anticipatory anxiety occurs that finally ends up causing what you feared the most: the panic attack.
It is still dangerous to anticipate events when reality is perceived to be distorted, as in the case of anxiety. In the same way, it is quite dangerous that these catastrophic predictions end up coming true. If, just before presenting a project to an audience, anticipatory anxiety causes you to sweat , palpitations and nervousness and you convince yourself that you will not be able to do it, it is most likely that the exhibition will indeed go wrong for you.
Anxious future predictions
Anticipatory anxiety makes you the perfect fortune teller. All your predictions end up coming true, like the exam that you have failed, like the bad impression you have made on your boyfriend’s parents, like the stutter when you have presented the new project, like that first date that has turned out so badly that the phone has gone silent…
Do not underestimate the risks of this anticipatory anxiety with dire prophecies and superstitions that end up controlling your life and that prevent you from relating to others normally or doing your job competently. Like any other emotional disorder, anticipatory anxiety needs treatment, preferably psychotherapy that works on negative and irrational automatic thoughts and retrains behavior.
For all those skeptical people of optimism and positive thinking, we can assure you that it works. Almost all psychological therapies are based on first transforming thought, that thought poisoned by anxiety, to take the mind along more positive paths and, above all, more realistic.