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Relation between Anticipatory Anxiety and Panic Attack and how to Deal with them

October 25, 2022

6 min read

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Author : United We Care
Relation between Anticipatory Anxiety and Panic Attack and how to Deal with them

Introduction

Anticipatory anxiety is a panic disorder found in many people. In the modern world, the challenges thrown at us from various angles often lead to this state. If you happen to have a panic attack out of anticipatory anxiety, you are likely to feel chest pains, nervous sensations, breathing difficulties, and a feeling of terror.

What are anticipatory anxiety and panic attacks?

Anticipatory anxiety maybe when you are highly anxious about a situation or event ahead of you. A person with anticipatory anxiety worries excessively about the next event and always thinks negatively about the same.
Some everyday situations or events where you may feel anticipatory anxiety include:

  • Job interview
  • Relationship breakdown
  • Meetings at workplace 
  • Presentations
  • A personal social event
  • Death of a near one
  • Natural disaster

A panic attack involves a severe fear, leading to sudden and intense physical ramifications without an apparent cause. Panic attacks are harrowing, as you tend to lose self-control, do unpredictable things, and have a real danger of a cardiac arrest leading to fatality.

What are the symptoms of anticipatory anxiety and panic attacks?

An all-pervasive symptom of anticipatory anxiety and panic attacks is feeling nervous about the future. People start thinking of the adverse outcomes of subsequent events. This anxiety disorder varies from person to person. Each person has different symptoms and degrees of anticipatory anxiety and panic attacks.
Some common manifestations of anticipatory anxiety and panic attacks are:

  • Feelings of apprehension, dread, restlessness, extreme irritability, and overt tension
  • Thoughts of negative outcomes
  • Watching out for danger signals
  • Breathing trouble
  • Chest pain
  • Severe headaches and insomnia
  • Excessive sweating, tremors, and cramps
  • Frequent urination or diarrhoea

What are the causes of anticipatory anxiety and panic attacks?

Anticipatory anxiety and panic attacks are a part of the normal human reaction to stress, which sometimes seems unbearable. The rationality of a person’s thought process gets disturbed due to overthinking and excessive fears of the possible negative outcome of a situation.
Anticipatory Anxiety and panic attacks
Some causes that result in anticipatory anxiety and panic attacks are:

  • G.A.D.: Generalised Anxiety Disorder, or G.A.D., is a situation arising from persistent apprehension and excessive negative thinking.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder: This is a syndrome where you start shaming yourself and avoiding social gatherings.
  • Specific Phobia: There can be a situation where you may be scared and get paranoid when facing particular objects, locations, or surroundings. Almost 9.1% of the people in the U.S. suffer from this type of anticipatory anxiety and panic attack.

All the possible situations mentioned above trigger panic reactions in persons suffering from such attacks. Experts are yet to zero down on the specific reasons for this behaviour. 

However, the following are some theories about why anticipatory anxiety and panic attacks happen in a person:

  • Anxiety disorders can be genetic.
  • Past traumatic experiences may also trigger the symptoms of anticipatory anxiety and panic attacks in a person.
  • Specific ailments like thyroid (for instance, hyperthyroidism, where the thyroid gland is overactive) or cardiac complications can cause anticipatory anxiety.
  • Another common reason a condition of anticipatory anxiety may flare up in a person is the use of medicinal drugs for some other treatment. One may notice this anxiety disorder during medicine withdrawal after prolonged treatment for a disease.
  • Consumption of excessive alcohol is another possible cause of such attacks.

How do you overcome anticipatory anxiety and panic attacks?

A psychiatrist is a suitable person who can address the issue of anticipatory anxiety and panic attacks and offer treatment for the same. Usually, there are some psychometric tests to identify the problem and the symptoms.
Some ways to reduce anticipatory anxiety and panic attacks so that the syndrome does not overpower you are as follows:

  • Avoid the sources that give you anxiety disorder to the maximum extent possible.
  • Try to avoid tea, coffee, and sugar in your diet.
  • Catch up with your sleep; poor sleep and insomnia are inadequate for anxiety disorders.
  • Visit a therapist to learn the art of relaxing. They will guide you through deep breathing and muscle relaxation to soothe your nerves.
  • One of the ways to cope with t is to master the art of self-compassion. It would be best to treat yourself like you were looking after another person with this syndrome.
  • Whenever you feel anticipatory anxiety and panic attacks are overwhelming you, you should try to take charge of your emotions before they start to run wild. Use natural ways to reduce your stress, e.g. if you are worried about a job interview, engage yourself in a mock discussion with friends or relatives, which may help you relax.

Can anticipatory anxiety and panic attacks be treated?

Yes, they are treatable like all other ailments like back pain, osteoporosis, vertigo, etc. One of the significant ways to treat anticipatory anxiety and panic attacks is to undergo therapy.
Treatment of anxiety disorder by therapy takes the person suffering to the root cause of the problem. Therapists may carry out cognitive behaviour therapy (C.B.T.) on a person. C.B.T. is one of the most popular ways to treat a person with anxiety disorder and is quite successful in addressing the issue and helping the person experiencing panic attacks.
Apart from therapy, some medicines may help treat anxiety disorders. There are some standard antidepressant drugs which may allow for treating people facing panic attacks, like fluoxetine, paroxetine, and sertraline. Doctors may opt for beta-blockers as a short-term treatment plan for anxiety disorders.

Conclusion

It would be best to remember that such attacks are not incurable; they are common occurrences in many people. You need timely expert advice followed by therapy and, if required, medication to care for the problem. 
If you want help for yourself or your loved ones, reach out to our team of expert counsellors at United We Care today.

References
[1]“Panic attacks and panic disorder,” Mayo Clinic, 04-May-2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/panic-attacks/symptoms-causes/syc-20376021. [Accessed: 24-Jan-2023].
[2]Panic attack symptoms. 2017.
[3]C. Raypole, “Anticipatory anxiety: How to handle worries about the future,” Healthline, 17-Mar-2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.healthline.com/health/anticipatory-anxiety. [Accessed: 24-Jan-2023].

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Author : United We Care

Founded in 2020, United We Care (UWC) is providing mental health and wellness services at a global level, UWC utilizes its team of dedicated and focused professionals with expertise in mental healthcare, to solve 2 essential missing components in the market, sustained user engagement and program efficacy/outcomes.

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