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Anticipatory Anxiety

Anticipatory anxiety is the anxious response we experience when we 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 us to deal with an immediate threat, for example, a tiger about to pounce on us from behind a tree in the jungle.

When we experience this automatic reaction our ‘limbic system’ sends adrenaline into our bloodstream to prepare our bodies to either:

  • Stand very still and hope the Tiger doesn’t see us – 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 our blood adrenaline is ‘used-up’ (catalysed) and our 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 banner - comet bound for impact with Earth

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.

Therapist and Anticipatory Anxiety sufferer in counselling session

Therapy & Counselling for

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.

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What to have a chat about your problem?

We offer a FREE 50 minute initial consultation to all prospective clients.

Call Paul on 07434 776125 - paul@leepsychology.com

Call Joan on 07434 776504 - joan@leepsychology.com

Contact Paul

Wolverhampton Psychologist Paul Lee MSc.

You can contact Paul on:

07434 776125

or by e-mail at:


Contact Joan

Pluralistic Therapist Joan Lee in Wolverhampton

You can contact Joan on:

07434 776504

or by e-mail at:


Paul Lee MSc.

Psychologist Paul Lee BSc MSc

About Paul

TEL: 07434 776125

Joan Lee D. Hyp.

Hypnotherapist Joan Lee D. Hyp. MIAEBP

About Joan

TEL: 07434 776504

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Lee Psychology, Maypole House, Yew Tree Court, Wombourne, South Staffordshire, WV5 9JB.

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