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Monday, February 8, 2016

Psychotherapy Blog: Overcoming Anticipatory Anxiety

In a prior article, How to Stop Worrying, I addressed a concern that many chronic worriers have.  In this article, I'm addressing a specific type of worrying, which is called anticipatory anxiety.

Overcoming Anticipatory Anxiety

Many people struggle with anticipatory anxiety, which is worrying about something in advance of it occurring.

The thing that you're worried about is something that may or may not occur at some point in the future.

Anticipatory anxiety isn't an anxiety disorder.  It's part of different types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety, panic attacks, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other forms of anxiety.

What Are the Symptoms of Anticipatory Anxiety?
Symptoms can include:
  • excessive worrying
  • insomnia
  • muscle aches
  • nausea
  • headaches
  • hyperventilation
  • feelings of dread
  • overeating
  • gastrointestinal problems
  • panic attacks
When, Why and How Does Anticipatory Anxiety Occur?
Anticipatory anxiety can occur at any time and for many people it's a chronic condition.

Anticipatory anxiety can include worrying in advance of anything being wrong about money, job loss, problems in a relationship or any other event or situation that hasn't occurred yet.

The fact that it hasn't occurred yet is key--it is the anticipation that something bad will happen.  It's not necessarily based on anything objective that is going on now.

Anticipatory anxiety can occur based on your past, including early childhood experiences.

For instance, if you grew up in a home that was chaotic where your parents were constantly worried about real and imagined problems, you can grow up feeling that the world isn't a safe place and, generally, anything that can go wrong will go wrong in your life as an adult.  This can develop into generalized anxiety disorder.

Many people who suffer with anticipatory anxiety are unaware that they have become accustomed to this habitual way of worrying.  Their habit of worrying has become automatic.

If you had significant trauma that has resulted in your developing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you might respond to many events or situations in your life as if they will result in catastrophe (see my article:  Are You Catastrophizing?)

There is no differentiation between traumatic events and normal non-traumatic life events.

How to Overcome Anticipatory Anxiety?
Here are some tips that might be helpful to you:
  • Rather than allowing your thoughts to run away with you, make a conscious effort to step back from worrying and question whether the things you're worrying about are likely to happen.
  • Ask yourself if you're okay now (as opposed to your worries about the future).
  • Think about all the other times when you worried about something and things turned out well.
  • Distract yourself from your worries by focusing on something else.
  • Talk to a friend or loved one to get a better perspective.
Getting Help in Therapy
The tips outlined above work for some people.

Many other people, who try to deal with their anticipatory anxiety on their own find that they need the help of a professional mental health professional, especially if their problems are longstanding and ingrained.

A licensed psychotherapist can help you to get to the root of the problem that causes you to have anticipatory anxiety.

Rather than suffering on your own, with the help of a licensed therapist, you can overcome this problem so you can lead a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me.

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