All About Anticipatory Anxiety and How to Overcome it with Psychological Therapy & Counselling


What is Anticipatory Anxiety?

Anticipatory anxiety is the anxious response you experience when you worry about something that might happen in the future, whether the future is in the next few minutes or weeks away.

In contrast to this, real-time anxiety refers to the response that we have when faced with something ‘dangerous’ right now.

Unlike anticipatory anxiety, real-time anxiety is a hard-wired automatic response desoigned to prepare you to deal with an immediate threat, for example, a tiger about to pounce on you from behind a tree in the jungle.

When you experience this automatic reaction your ‘limbic system’ sends adrenaline into your bloodstream to prepare your body to either:

  • Stand very still and hope the Tiger doesn’t see you – Freeze.
  • Run Away as fast as possible – Flight.
  • Fight the tiger as the other two options were not available – Fight.

Once the danger is over your blood adrenaline is ‘used-up’ (catalysed) and your blood chemistry returns to normal and the feelings of anxiety dissipate.

Anticipatory anxiety is this same response, however in these cases, the threat is the imagined problem that you are anticipating at some future point and NOT something that is happening right now.


Anticipatory Anxiety Symptoms

If you suffer from Anticipatory Anxiety then you may experience the following symptoms which are identical to those associated with ‘normal’ anxiety:

  • Increased heart rate.
  • An impending sense of fear or dread.
  • Feeling like you’re going to faint or pass out.
  • Feelings of dizziness.
  • Palpitations.
  • Fatigued Muscles.
  • Dry and Sticky mouth.
  • Sweating excessively.
  • Breathlessness.
  • Cramps in the Stomach.

You may have only a few or even all of these symptoms and to some extent they are all normal responses to threats.

However, as mentioned above, with anticipatory anxiety the threat is not actually present in your immediate surroundings.

Scientist examining the possible causes of anticipatory anxiety

Causes of Anticipatory Anxiety

There are a number of reasons why you may worry about the future (and create anticipatory anxiety) including:

  • Trying to maintain a high degree of control over your life.
  • Trying to minimise the unpredictability of life.
  • Having a jaundice view of your own coping skills.
  • Being fearful of making mistakes.
  • Being worried about negative judgement in your performance.
  • and so on….

Overall, it is therefore reasonable to argue that worrying about the future is a form of safety behaviour.

anticipatory anxiety sufferer in therapy session

Therapy & Counselling for Anticipatory Anxiety

We offer a number of different types of therapy and counselling for Anticipatory Anxiety and anxiety-related problems.

Choosing the most suitable therapy depends on a number of different considerations including factors such as:

  • How long you have had the problem.
  • Your personal preferences.
  • How your problem is affecting you today.

You can read more about the different types of therapy for Anticipatory Anxiety on the following links:

Although all therapies use slightly different approaches, the one thing they all have in common is the relationship that is formed between the client and therapist.

Research suggests that this therapy relationship may be the most important factor in achieving a good therapy outcome.

The behaviour change framework

The Behaviour Change Framework

All of our anticipatory anxiety counselling sessions and programmes use the Behaviour Change Framework (BCF).

This scientifically proven protocol defines the stages of behaviour change that you need to go through in order to achieve long lasting and sustainable change.

The framework provides a roadmap that indicates if more change is required before entering the next phase of mental health therapy.

In this way, we are able to ensure that you get the best possible level of support in overcoming your mental health problems as well preventing early termination of therapy.

You can read more about the Science of Change here.

Free initial consultations for anticipatory anxiety

Arrange your FREE initial consultation here.

If you’d like to find out more about overcoming anticipatory anxiety or recovering from any of your mental health problems then why not arrange a free initial consultation with us.

During this consultation we will discuss your particular issues and the different types of mental health counselling we offer without you having to commit to any counselling going forward.

The consultation lasts around 50 minutes and is a great opportunity to meet with either Paul or Joan and decide if you would like to proceed with any support.


Applied Psychology Solutions

If you’d like to learn how to overcome anticipatory anxiety but dislike the idea of having “therapy”, then why not learn how to change the way you make sense of your experiences and the World around you with the CORE Programme.

If you believe that your problems are the result of what has happened to you and not because there is something wrong with you, then this is the solution you’ve been looking for.

Not Ready to Commit to Therapy Quite Yet?

Then why not see if you can solve your anticipatory anxiety problems using our comprehensive, Online Self-Help CBT course.


Written especially for people who prefer not to engage with a therapist before doing everything they can to overcome their problems.

Mirroring our in-house course of CBT, it contains everything that you need to know to tackle mental health challenges for only £149.

Counselling Locations

We offer counselling for anticipatory anxiety problems for people living in:

  • Wombourne
  • Wolverhampton
  • West Midlands
  • Shropshire
  • South Staffordshire
  • Telford
  • Shrewsbury

You can also access our services around the World using online therapy with Paul.