A sense of dread before speaking in front of a crowd.
A feeling of fear before going on a job interview.
Unrelenting worry that something bad will happen ahead of an important event.
This is anticipatory anxiety — a feeling of fear, worry, or unease in the days, weeks, and hours leading up to a stressful situation.
Everyone experiences anticipatory anxiety to varying degrees. But for some, it can become so acute that it affects everyday life. This kind of intense anxiety can cause physical symptoms like headaches, nausea, and insomnia, as well as cognitive symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating and negative thoughts. However, coping with anticipatory anxiety is possible, and an anxiety treatment program for teens can help. Read on here to learn about anxiety and figure out if you need a higher level of care.
Understanding Different Types of Anxiety
Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health conditions characterized by excessive fear and worry. They’re incredibly common, affecting approximately 40 million adults in the United States alone. Anxiety can present differently from person to person, but it often manifests as a physical symptom, like a racing heart, tight chest, or an emotional state like dread or panic. Anticipatory anxiety is just one way that this mental health concern can manifest.
Different types of anxiety include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Characterized by persistent and excessive worry, often in response to everyday events and experiences
- Panic Disorder – Characterized by recurring episodes of intense fear or distress that are not linked to any particular situation
- Phobias – Intense fears in response to a specific object or situation, such as heights or water
- Social Anxiety Disorder – Characterized by intense fear of being judged or embarrassed in social situations
What Causes Anticipatory Anxiety?
Anticipatory anxiety is an intense state of fear and worry that can manifest in response to the anticipation of a stressful event or situation. This type of anxiety usually begins when one imagines the potential outcome of the event or situation, often resulting in feelings of dread and apprehension. It’s unique from other forms of anxiety in that it’s not the actual event or situation causing fear and worry but rather the expectation of it.
Common sources of anticipatory anxiety can include:
- Taking tests
- Public speaking
- Job interviews
- Medical tests and procedures
- Social gatherings
- Major life changes, such as moving to a new city
- Travel and vacations
Not everyone who experiences anticipatory anxiety will react the same way. Some individuals may feel overwhelmed and unable to focus on anything else until the event or situation has passed, while others may be able to manage their anxiety through positive self-talk and other coping strategies.
Coping with Anticipatory Anxiety
One of the most effective ways to cope with anticipatory anxiety is to practice mindfulness. This involves focusing on the present moment and accepting your thoughts without judgment. Mindfulness can help you become more aware of your anxious thoughts and feelings, allowing you to distance yourself from them. Additionally, practicing mindfulness helps reduce intrusive worries and improve mood.
Other coping strategies for anticipatory anxiety include:
- Engaging in regular physical activity – Regular exercise can help reduce stress and improve your overall mental health. Exercise also produces endorphins, which are hormones that can naturally boost your mood and reduce negative thoughts.
- Eating a balanced diet and staying hydrated – A healthy diet can help ensure that your body has the nutrients it needs to stay strong while staying hydrated helps keep you alert and energized during stressful times.
- Practicing relaxation techniques – Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation can help reduce stress levels and boost overall well-being.
- Talking to a professional – If your anticipatory anxiety is severe or interfering with daily life, talking to a mental health professional can be helpful. A therapist will be able to provide personalized strategies for managing anxiety and working through difficult emotions.
Learn More from Ascend
Ascend’s residential treatment program for anxiety can help teens develop healthy coping skills and strategies for lasting recovery. Our admission counselors can tell you more about anticipatory anxiety and what to expect in our treatment program. Call 310.388.3713 today to get started.