Since time immemorial, human beings use defense mechanisms that help you prepare for potential future threats or dangers. It is something innate and natural, it has helped us to survive as a species and thanks to this we are also prepared to face and act in various adverse or difficult situations (such as, for example, an exam or a job interview).
However, when that fear or excessive worry about what has not yet happened floods us and also paralyzes us on a recurring basis we have to talk about a pathology known as anticipatory anxiety. Unlike in the first case, this type of anxiety seriously harms us, causes us not to enjoy the present, that we stop doing things for fear of adverse situations that we predict may occur since, in many cases, we suffer in advance for free.
The self-fulfilling prophecy
Anticipatory anxiety is also intimately linked with the so-called self-fulfilling prophecy. What does this term mean? It is used in psychology to define the ability of the human being to, so to speak, sabotage yourself. Faced with a situation that stresses us and, above all, that causes us fear, a negative expectation is generated, which ends up blocking us, conditions our thinking and behavior, and causes the bad prediction that we had imagined to come true.
How can we recognize anticipatory anxiety?
As in all anxiety symptoms, the symptoms can manifest both physically and psychologically. The most common are:
– Fatalistic or catastrophic thoughts.
– Feeling of loss of control over the situation or that we see what is happening around us in the third person.
– Overflowing emotions.
– Chest pain and shortness of breath.
– Trembling voice.
– Dizziness and even loss of consciousness.
– Stomach ache.
– Tachycardia and palpitations.
How to get to control it
The path to learning to master anticipatory anxiety goes through analyze the origin of this stress, which can be linked to the lifestyle of the person who suffers it, as well as to phobias and fears that in many cases are due to a childhood trauma that was not treated at the time and that has taken root strongly over the years.
Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be one of the most effective treatments when it comes to treating this type of anxiety and allows you to work on the person’s problems from the root to restructure your own thinking.
Guidelines for treatment to be as effective as possible should start, first of all, from learning to identify one’s own emotions. It is, therefore, normalize that negative emotion and not avoid or fight it.
The next point would go through spot catastrophic thoughts that invade us every time we experience a situation that causes anticipatory anxiety and write them down to start working with them and replace them with more rational thoughts. If there is a possibility that something ends badly there are also many that the result is favorable.
Another fundamental step is to learn to be aware that there are situations whose outcome or outcome can be in our hands and many others that cannot be controlled. This is going to be a perfect escape route to avoid frustration, stop feeding unfounded fears and let things happen without the need to intervene. It could be very helpful, trying as much as possible to expose yourself to those same uncontrollable situations to reinforce self-confidence and work on the resources learned. That is to say, try to train in situations that scare us and face small challenges that little by little we can make it bigger.
And as the last step, exercise the art of living in the present to avoid that uncontrollable urge to anticipate what is to come. In this case, using practices such as sports, mindfulness or meditation can be of great help to control this anticipation and avoid negative thoughts.