How Do I Know If I Have Anticipatory Anxiety?

Written by: Ankita Kathad – MA (Clinical Psychology)
Last updated date : February 16, 2023
This is a condition where you are fearful or worried about an upcoming event. This includes high levels of fear about a future event. It is not a single disorder but rather occurs as one of the many symptoms of anxiety or panic disorder. In this article, we answer questions such as, ‘How do I know if I have anticipatory anxiety? What are anticipatory anxiety symptoms?

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Chapter 1:

What Is Anticipatory Anxiety?

All of us feel worried about the future to some extent. Since we have no knowledge of the future, we worry about it. While some amount of worry is natural, in anxiety, the worry becomes unhealthy. Here the worry goes on for hours without any good reason. Most people with this kind of worry focus on negative results. Some examples of this excess worry can be:

  • People can worry before an exam. They may think that the results will be negative.
  • People can worry before a meeting. They feel that they will do badly in a presentation.
  • People can worry before taking a flight. They will fear the worst possible outcome.
  • For some, an unnecessary worry will creep in before a date. They fear that they will embarrass themselves.
  • People can worry before an event.
  • Some people will start worrying when a natural disaster occurs. They will think of the worst future outcome. For example, they will think that their house will be wiped out in a flood.

There are many other examples of this anxiety. However as discussed earlier, It is not a disorder but a symptom of several anxiety disorders. For example, in test anxiety, a person will think that they will certainly fail the exam. Their future will be doomed if they fail. To know if you have anticipatory anxiety, the following are some symptoms.

Chapter 2:

What Are the Symptoms of Anticipatory Anxiety?

People with this condition will have unnecessary worry about the future. This can make them tensed and sad. They will spend most of their time thinking of a worst-case scenario. People with this condition can have different sets of symptoms. This depends on the intensity of the anxiety disorder that they have. Some common symptoms are as follows. This helps to answer the question of how to know if I have anticipatory anxiety or not:

  1. Feeling dread about any future event. For instance, if a person is scared of social situations, then they will fear the office party that’s there on weekend.
  2. Feeling on the edge or tensed always. Even a thought of a future event can scare them The persons always thinking of the worst outcomes.
  3. The person is mostly irritated or frustrated.
  4. Always be alert to danger signs.
  5. Racing heart or breathlessness.
  6. The person can have sweating or tremors.
  7. The person can have a headache, nausea or stomach ache.

Chapter 3:

What Are the Causes of Anticipatory Anxiety?

Worrying about the future is a natural response to any stressful stimuli. Worrying about the future is very natural. It helps us prepare for the worst case. However, the problem is when their worry is in excess. This condition is a symptom or sign of the following disorders:

  1. Social anxiety disorders: Here people try to avoid social situations. People fear that they will embarrass themselves in front of others.
  2. Moreover. people imagine the worst possible outcomes such as others making fun of them.
  3. General anxiety disorder: Here people have a worry about future events in general. They have a fear of multiple events and situations. Panic disorder: People in this condition imagine the absolute worst outcome. For instance, they feel that they will die of a heart attack.

In order to know if you have anticipatory anxiety, you can also look at some other factors such as:

  1. Family history: If you have a family history of anxiety disorders
  2. Trauma: Past history of trauma can lead to worry about the future. The person will fear about trauma repeating.
  3. Physical illness: Some conditions like heart disease or high blood pressure can lead to such kind of a worry about the future.
  4. Medicines: Some medications can have side effects such as anxiety.
Solution and Coping

It is very difficult to constantly live in fear. It is also difficult to live in constant worry. People going through this condition have it very hard. Here are some tips to cope with anticipatory anxiety.

Create a Relaxation Plan and Routine

In this fast-paced life, worry has become calm. Jobs these days add a lot of stress to life. Our lifestyles have become very hectic. Therefore, it is important to find some time in a day for peace. To do this, create a relaxation routine. Spend at least some time in the day for self-care. For example, if you constantly worry, assign some hours in a day as worry time. You can train your mind to not worry while working. During the worry hour, you can think about all the thoughts.

Once you start a relaxation routine, your body can use those responses when you have anxiety. You can practice setting intentions such as ‘I will not react impulsively’, and ‘I will not engage in excess worry’. You can carry these reminders in your phone or purse.

Deep breathing, guided meditation, or yoga are some good ways of relaxation.

Thought Journaling

Keep a track of your thoughts. When you have thoughts of the future, note them down. Question the rationale behind such thoughts. You can write at least three such thoughts every day and introspect. A thought diary is an easy way to track one’s thoughts. You can note down your feelings following those thoughts. This can help you to understand how each thought makes you feel. This also helps to record the progress, if at all your thoughts are changing.

A common CBT practice involves, writing down the thought, noting down the feelings, and observing how you behave after that. For example, the thought can be that if you give a stage performance, you will trip down and fall. Feelings would be sadness, worry, tension, and embarrassment. The action that will follow is that you will overthink the performance. You can avoid the event altogether.

Limiting Exposure to Social Media News or Negative News

Social media is sometimes filled with unchecked news. Some of these articles can cause panic. For instance, some statistics can alarm you. However, it must be noted that these articles are not always fact-checked. Therefore it is best to limit exposure to social media. Not everything up there is true. You can also fact-check the information. Instead of searching for everything online, you can wait and ask for an expert’s help.

Try to Take On Challenges The best way to beat

worry is by challenging it. Try to take charge of a situation. If you feel scared of the future, try to talk to someone you trust. Talking reduces anxiety to some extent. You can face the challenge head-on. For example, if the worry of a dance event is killing you, you should go ahead and face it.

When you face the situation, it acts like exposure. Once you are exposed to situations you fear, you will see that your old beliefs are proven wrong. Often, facing the problem is the best solution. This technique is used in the treatment of phobias.

Chapter 4:


There are many ways to learn if you have anticipatory anxiety. You can consult a mental health practitioner. There are many tests that can be conducted to know the symptoms of anticipatory anxiety. In order to treat symptoms of anticipatory anxiety, Epsychonline offers self-help courses curated by experts. If you are facing social anxiety, there are courses that focus on social anxiety such DBT for social anxiety. These courses are self-help and very useful if you are having symptoms of anxiety. There are many articles that focus on other types of anxieties such as health anxiety. Do check them out.

"Learnt a lot from this course" Sally

51 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount