“What If” thinking is how I would refer to anticipatory anxiety. An anxiety which is experienced with an initial thought of doing something.
Assume that you have an important meeting arranged for next week, and you also know that you have no option, but to attend this meeting. During the lead up to this important meeting, you will no doubt experience anxiety. You will often find yourself asking yourself the “What If” questions.
What if I have a panic attack?
What if I have to leave the room?
What if I pass out?
Sometimes I’d wake up in the morning, wondering how the bed could hold the weight of it all. I felt stuck and stupid for not knowing how not to be afraid. There were days that I’d struggle with simple things, even just going to the store, because they seemed like asking for trouble.
I’d fret and fidget, and do just about anything to avoid thinking about next time. That’s anticipatory anxiety, and it’s common to most every single person with an anxiety disorder.
The funny thing? Anticipatory anxiety can mean you’re trying too hard. Yes, you heard that right. It’s counter-intuitive, but sometimes the best thing to do about anxiety is to stop fighting it.