This particular type of anxiety varies from person to person. Whether you develop anticipatory anxiety depends on how you think about the problems and the stresses of life. What you may look forward to unconcernedly may trigger crippling anticipatory anxiety in someone else, and vice versa.
Anticipatory anxiety is characterized by your anticipation of impending danger or pain, or a feeling of being threatened by a future situation that you will be in. While there are often genuine elements of risk in our lives, you may be feeling far more anticipatory anxiety than the situation truly merits. Luckily, there are a few ways available that you can adapt to become able to manage your concerns without all of the anxiety.
The most common scenario where anticipatory anxiety comes up is in relation to a phobia or intense fear. If you are fearful of going to the dentist, you will likely have anticipatory anxiety as soon as you decide that you will have to go see a dentist – even before you actually schedule it! While fear of the dentist is common, anticipatory anxiety can come up in much more mundane situations; meeting with your boss, socializing with new people, seeing a family member, or even going to the store.
If you experience anticipatory anxiety, several things occur. You will feel a sense of dread for an upcoming event. Your breathing can become shallow and rapid. Your heart may beat faster, and you feel like you might faint. Increased tension from your anticipation can cause upset stomach, muscle ache, and headaches.
Some degree of anticipatory anxiety occurs in everyone’s life. However, if you experience it with any sort of consistency, if it reaches the level of actually being anxious instead of just a bit of nervousness, then you are experiencing a lot of discomfort that you don’t really need to have. You probably get anticipatory anxiety where you could be feeling RELAXED and even a bit EXCITED about, instead.
During the onset of your anticipatory anxiety, you may have feelings of fear, anger, confusion, hopelessness, loss of control, numbness, sadness, moodiness, irritability and guilt. You may experience all of those, some of them in some situations, or even just 1 predominant symptom. In response to those feelings, your behavior will change to reflect it. You may try to avoid the situation you feel anxious about. You may find yourself talking about the upcoming event constantly in an effort to blow off steam. You may cry to relieve some of the stress.
Because of the additional stress, you may have some difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep through the night.
Anticipatory anxiety normally develops in a person over time. You may have only been a bit nervous about a fear when you were younger, but the fear grew worse and worse, and you began anticipating the event further and further out. Eventually, you may become nervous just at the possibility that the event MIGHT happen in the future.
If nothing is done to quickly handle your anticipatory anxiety, it will likely just get more severe over time.