Anticipatory anxiety: Maybe and Possibly

Anticipatory anxiety: Maybe and Possibly

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The worst form of anxiety to experience is anticipatory anxiety. Here is an excerpt from my post about what anticipated anxiety is.

When you worry about an experience or situation you will be in, in the future, this is anticipated anxiety. Examples would be worrying about a flight you have to take tomorrow, or worrying about an important meeting you have in a couple days time.

I consider anticipated anxiety the worst form of anxiety, because the more you worry about something, the more your anxiety builds, the more your anxiety builds, the further you will worry. It becomes a vicious circle.

Fears that are associated with ones anticipated anxiety are more often than not perceived. This is where you believe something could happen and you worry about it, regardless of the fact that it is only a possibility, and may not happen at all.

Maybe” and “possibly” are two words you really need to concentrate on in order to lower, if not completely diminish your anticipated anxiety. This is done by being able to think a little more rationally in a given situation, and in this post I will help give you the tools you need to accomplish this.

Before I can give you the “tools”, I need to give you an example.

Anticipatory anxiety example

The best way to explain the brilliance related to understanding these two keywords is by way of example, so here’s a situation someone I helped was going through not too long ago.

This lady, let’s call her Janice for the sake of privacy, needed to visit her doctor in a couple of days time. This is all well and good but Janice suffers terribly with anxiety and so started to get anxious about traveling to her appointment.

The best mode of transport for Janice is a Taxi, but Janice had intrusive, anxiety driven, anticipatory thoughts about getting in a Taxi with a stranger. Janice was worried that she may be attacked (both violently and sexually) or that she could possibly leave her purse at home, resulting in not being able to pay the Taxi driver.

Now, Janice had a couple of days until she needed to make her journey; which is plenty of time for her anxiety levels to spiral out of control. This is what anticipatory anxiety does, and is exactly what was happening to Janice. She became worried about her journey and was very close to canceling her appointment in fear of being attacked or forgetting her purse.

No one should have to cancel appointments, cancel holidays, cancel seeing friends or anything else because of fears that have been “imagined”, fears that are only perceived by the individual experiencing them. So, I stepped in and gave the same information I’m about to present to you: Get perspective on the situation by looking at the complete opposite of what you are imagining happening.

Look at the complete opposite to gain perspective

Anticipatory anxiety is driven by negative thoughts as opposed to positive ones, such as the example above. What tends to happen is people forget that their worries are actually (more often than not) perceived and are unable to draw a logical conclusion.

Janice concentrated only on the potential negative situations she could find her self in, not the positive ones. What Janice wasn’t thinking about was that maybe the Taxi driver would wait around for her when she pops into the doctors, as opposed to possibly attacking her. Or maybe Janice would ask the Taxi man to stop by a shop so that she can get her self a Lottery ticket that she may later win, or, she may not.

Winning the lottery may sound far fetched, but it’s just as far fetched as being attacked by a Taxi driver. Janice may possibly leave her purse at home, but then the Taxi driver may let her off, or could possibly take her home to get it.

Do you follow?

Do you see where I am going with this? Anticipatory anxiety is driven by negative possibilities and maybes, so why not change what is in your mind to be positive possibilities and maybes?

For example, to ease Janice’s perceived fears she could have thought to herself that maybe she will meet the man of her dreams in the Taxi, which is just as much a possibility as it is being attacked, in fact, likely more so.

When you find yourself in a situation where you are being affected by anticipatory anxiety, you need to replace each of the negative thoughts with positive ones. It doesn’t matter how bizarre or far fetched your positive thoughts are, just as long as they are positive.

I hope that this helps some people with their anxieties. If you have any questions please ask below or in the forums (Ask a question).

8 Comments
  1. Cindy Post November 13, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    I need to figure out how to not worry about fillings falling out. I always worry when I eat. I want to think positive and not think like that.

    • Steve Clarke November 13, 2013 at 8:03 pm

      Hi Cindy, thanks for the comment.

      What makes you think your fillings are going to fall out when you eat? And importantly, what do you feel is so terrible should they fall out?

      • Cindy Post November 14, 2013 at 3:59 pm

        I have some old fillings since I was a kid and I’m 53 now. I get my teeth cleaned every 4 months and always good. I brush twice a day, floss twice a day, use stimudents once a day and Act Restoring to strengthen enamel twice a day. I would just be very paranoid over it. I have no idea.

        • Steve Clarke November 14, 2013 at 4:40 pm

          Hi Cindy,

          Do you feel your actions towards your teeth are obsessive? In regards to your fillings falling out, would that be such a big deal, and why?

          Your question may be more suited for the forum, if you wish to post there.

          • Cindy Post November 15, 2013 at 5:03 pm

            I never get notified when you comment back. How do we know when you comment back? Also, I didn’t want to put that in the forum, as I thought you would be able to help me.

          • Steve Clarke November 15, 2013 at 5:36 pm

            When you reply to a comment you can ticket “Notify me of follow-up comments by email” to receive notifications.

            No problem, if you’d prefer to discuss here that is fine.

  2. Cindy Maling November 14, 2013 at 12:11 am

    I understand the concept you are getting at, but I still have irrational thoughts since my partner betrayed my trust. Even though sometimes I can overcome the negative thoughts, it still creeps up on me. I don’t know how I am going to over come this?

    • Steve Clarke November 14, 2013 at 9:40 am

      Hi Cindy,

      I have also been betrayed by an ex-partner and if there is one thing that I know for sure; it’s that it knocks your “want” and ability to trust significantly. Not to mention the fact that your self-esteem is knocked for six.

      Over time you ability to trust improves as your self-esteem increases and your social-anxiety reduces. When it comes to your self-esteem, you can build upon it significantly and relatively quick too. Here are a few posts I highly recommend you read:

      Bare in mind, trust has to be earned. If someone breaks your trust, it is going to take a long time to recover from it. I trust very few people, but this is a self-defense mechanism to prevent myself being hurt again. Having said that, my journey is taking me on a path that is leading to being able to trust again.

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