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Anticipatory anxiety: why do some always fear the worst?


DECRYPTION. - David Gourion, psychiatrist, and Eudes Séméria, psychologist, analyze the workings of this central mechanism in anxiety disorders, the origin of which must often be sought in childhood.

"3 missed calls", displays the phone.

"Someone died," the brain instantly thinks.

Here is the disaster scenario that crosses the minds of some people with what is called "anticipatory anxiety".

This is a central mechanism in anxiety disorders, common in people with anxiety, of course, and with low self-esteem.

By listening (too much) to their thoughts, they persuade themselves of the high probability of occurrence of what they imagine, even though the reality is quite different.

To reassure themselves and feel safe at all costs, they develop a whole host of strategies to avoid encountering their fears.

The risk ?

“To worry permanently and miss out on your life,” says Eudes Séméria bluntly,

The four fears that prevent you from living


To break out of this vicious circle, it is essential to understand its origins.

Let's first turn to genetics.

There is indeed an anxiety gene.

“The anxiety gene has been maintained throughout evolution because it has facilitated the survival of the human species, comments David Gourion, psychiatrist and author of the book

Anti stress


Generating pessimistic scenarios and the emotion of fear associated with them was a key factor.”

And who says gene says transmission.

A person whose parents are themselves anxious, will therefore - unsurprisingly - be more likely to be too.

Read alsoHow to manage your anxious brain?

In video, how to evacuate your stress quickly at the office?

remnants of childhood

The environment in which we grow up as a child also has its share of responsibility.

If two parents always imagine the worst about their future or that of the child, the latter will have a good chance of repeating the behavior in adulthood.

Without forgetting that by being subject to anxiety, "parents will tend to overprotect the child by prohibiting him from taking any risk", adds the psychologist Eudes Séméria.

Which does not help to become an actor in his life and to dare anything, in childhood and in adulthood.

"By nature, the child does not control anything, he is afraid of what can happen and this is normal, since he has a reduced space-time and has no visibility on the future, but in the adulthood, the behavior reflects difficulties in being responsible for oneself”, specifies the psychologist.

If our physical or psychological integrity, or that of a loved one, has been endangered, our relationship to death and to the world is modified.

David Gourion, psychiatrist and author of the book Anti stress

It is during the first twenty years of life that anticipatory anxiety feeds, informs Eudes Séméria, and especially in the relationship that one maintains with the parent.

"Parental figures must allow the child to distance themselves from them while offering him a framework of security, but it is also up to the child, as he grows up, to free himself from this security", explains the psychologist. .

The adult who still sees himself as his parents' child - therefore simply as a child - will continue to function through the prism of his fear.

Traumatic experiences in childhood, adolescence or adulthood can also be at the root of this anxiety.

“If our physical or psychological integrity, or that of a loved one, has been endangered, our relationship to death and to the world is modified.

The brain can conclude that this world is dangerous, and begin to overestimate the risks”, specifies the psychiatrist David Gourion.

take a step back

In terms of concrete action to get out of the anxiety-provoking pattern, the doctor suggests asking himself: “what is the worst thing that can happen if this scenario comes true?”.

Then you have to reassess the likelihood of it actually happening,



To take a step back, we can classify the feared events in two distinct columns: what is serious (disease, death) and what is not (everything else).

The most important thing is to force yourself to imagine positive scenarios, even if you don't believe them yet.

Read alsoWhy does time seem to pass faster when you get older?

Finally, to free oneself from anticipatory anxiety, the key lies in the ability to take advantage of the present moment.

The expression is somewhat overused, but the act is essential.

This implies keeping a global vision of your life: remembering your past, of course, but not letting yourself be overwhelmed and biased by our negative experiences, when you imagine your future.

And try to really live the moment.

“That is the definition of responsibility,” concludes Eudes Séméria.


The four fears that prevent you from living,

by Eudes Séméria, Éditions Albin Michel, 320 p., €19.90.


Anti-stress, The simple method for treating anxiety and depression

, by David Gourion, Éditions Marabout, 224 p., €18.90.

Source: lefigaro

All life articles on 2023-01-11

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