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Fear of the future: How to overcome your fear of the unknown

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Fear of the future: How to overcome your fear of the unknown

No one knows what the future holds. This fear of the future unsettles many people. However, the so-called fear of the future is quite different from the uncertainties and fears that are normally part of life.

Unrealistic assessments often lead to situations being judged as dangerous. When we jump to conclusions, we do not act rationally. Fear of the future is one of the strongest fears of all, it can affect many areas of life and limit you considerably in your life.

There are close links between fear of the future and other psychological problems such as depression or generalized anxiety disorder. Dealing with anxiety is not easy. It can therefore be a great challenge to overcome fear of the future. Nevertheless, it is worth fighting to lead one's own, self-determined life and to look optimistically into the future.

What is fear of the future?

The term fear of the future describes a phenomenon that originates in our thoughts. When fears dominate our everyday life and exaggerated fears about what might happen in the near future no longer allow for a rational view, we are dealing with fear of the future. The fear of future events or difficult situations can manifest itself as fear of:

  • Uncertainty
  • changes
  • wrong decisions
  • the worst-case scenario

become noticeable. Often it doesn't even take a particular trigger or a concrete reason for feelings of anxiety to rise up in us, take away our breath or make us fall silent.

Most of the time, it is our own imagination that is responsible for us developing fear of the future. Are you afraid of losing your job, even though you are actually successful professionally? Are you afraid of poverty, even though your bank account is in the black? When you read the newspaper, do you focus exclusively on negative news, environmental disasters and wars?

Own negative attitude

Fear of the future is often the result of our own negative attitude, which does not allow positive thoughts and makes us believe that everything could go wrong. Do you paint the future in the darkest colors? Are you afraid of getting seriously ill soon, even though you exercise regularly and are actually healthy and fit? You are not alone with this problem.

In a study carried out by the Cologne Rheingold Institute representative and depth psychological investigation came to the conclusion that around two thirds of adults in Germany are anxious about the future. Accordingly, most people in this country can hardly imagine a future worth living.

However, fear of the future is not a modern form of anxiety, but belongs to the types of anxiety referred to in psychology as irrational fears.

The differences between anxiety and fear

The terms anxiety and fear are often used synchronously in everyday speech. This leads to an intermingling of two different synonyms, which differ from each other by some specific characteristics.

While fear is a tangible and describable threat, anxiety is more of a worry about something undefined. If you encounter a barking dog and fear being bitten, it is fear. If you brood over whether your partner still finds you attractive or whether he or she might have lost the End relationship you are afraid of the future. Fears can relate to a wide variety of areas, such as:

  • Diseases, accidents, disasters
  • Unemployment, loss of livelihood
  • Violence, war, terror
  • Loss of affection, separation, divorce

All fears have in common that they are triggered or intensified by negative feelings and thoughts. Can fear of the future trigger depression or depression trigger fear of the future? Basically, both are possible.

fear of the future depression

Recognize symptoms of fear of the future

Anxiety about the future is not tied to a certain age. This form of anxiety can occur as early as childhood or during puberty. Fear of the future is particularly common in special phases of life, when moving out of the parental home, when getting married and setting up one's own household, or when having a child. A difficult financial situation, job loss, separation or divorce from a beloved partner can also trigger anxiety about the future symptoms. Older people and pensioners are also often worried about their future.

Anxiety about the future can manifest itself through physical and psychological symptoms. If you often feel nervous, lightheaded, or dizzy without a health reason, your body may be signaling anxiety about the future. If your heart is racing and you are short of breath, it may be a physical reaction to anxiety. Other symptoms that may indicate hidden anxiety include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Muscle tension
  • Exhaustion states
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia
  • Panic attacks

There is a close connection between fear of the future and depression. Depressive moods do not allow for positive feelings. It usually starts with a few negative thoughts, the mood is depressed and there is a lack of motivation to do anything. Increasing anxiety triggers a downward spiral that only allows pessimistic future perspectives to apply and fosters fear of the future.

Causes of fear of the future

What are the causes behind fear of the future? Why are some people very afraid of the uncertain, while others make plans and look optimistically into the future? Fear of the future is said to have an evolutionary background. Basically, the unknown can be a potential threat to each of us. The body's task is thus to prepare us for the potential dangers by focusing energies. We feel this reaction as fear.

Negative thoughts about the future can have a wide variety of reasons. The most important
Fear of the future causes are:

  • low self-confidence,
  • excessive stress,
  • Traumas,
  • untreated depression.

If you have too little self-confidence, it will be difficult for you to accept life's challenges and cope with them on your own. Lack of Self-esteem favors negative thought patterns, so that fear of the future can arise. People with low self-confidence are often convinced that the future holds only negative, but nothing positive for them. The tunnel vision typical of depression causes only negative aspects to be focused on, while positive events, on the other hand, are not noticed.

Fear of the future can be intensified by various influences. For example, the one-sidedness of media reporting can cause us to focus exclusively on stressful issues such as unemployment, financial crises, illnesses and wars, and no longer perceive anything else. If we focus our attention exclusively on negative things, fear of the future becomes a reality for us. We get carried away with our fears without realizing that this puts us in a dangerous cycle.

Do fears about the future determine your life?

Fear of the future can basically occur at any time. Fear of the future is particularly common after a Separation. Worry and anxiety can make you not know how to go on living without your partner.

Graduation from school and the end of studies are decisive phases in life. However, if it is not clear how the professional future will develop, this creates an uncertain and very stressful situation that fosters fears about the future. The situation is similar in the case of job loss and unemployment. The fear of never finding a job again and the loss of social status can trigger anxiety about the future.

Basically, fear has two important functions. It is supposed to warn us in case of danger and at the same time activate our powers so that we can protect ourselves from a real danger. However, fear of the future is an unspecific fear of the unknown that goes beyond a helpful level and can impair our quality of life.

Signs of pathological fear of the future

You can recognize pathological fear of the future by the following signs:

  • For more than three quarters of the day, you think about your fears about the future.
  • You suffer from sleep problems because you brood too much.
  • Your fears prevent you from enjoying the present.
  • You feel depressed.

How do I deal with fears about the future?

To overcome fear of the future, it is important to deal with the causes of fear. Therefore, fear of the future should always be taken seriously and not denied. Only when the reasons that have triggered excessive fear of the future are known can work be done to overcome it. However, fear of the future should not be underestimated, because strong fears can significantly limit your life. If you want to conquer fear of the future, you must learn to free yourself from the negative spiral.

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How do I overcome fear of the future?

Similar to other anxiety disorders, there are effective ways to overcome fear of the future. A phobia of the future is a burden on daily life and can lead to other problems. If your fear of the future is due to Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAS), your family doctor, a psychiatrist, or a psychologist are the first people to contact. Generalized anxiety is easily treatable, and behavioral therapy can usually help you deal with your anxiety and enjoy life again without fear.

Anxiety manifested by physical symptoms such as palpitations can also be triggered by taking certain medications or by hyperthyroidism. In order to find the possible reasons underlying a fear of the future, organic causes must be ruled out.

5 tips that help against fear of the future

Are you afraid of the future? Are you preoccupied with fears about the future, so that you can't fall asleep because you're worried around the clock? These five tips should help you overcome fears about the future.

1. create clarity

Take some time for an inner inventory and think about what scares you. Write down the individual points on a piece of paper. Create a checklist and determine how you will overcome your fear step by step. You can also keep a diary in which you record your progress in overcoming your fear of the future. Document your successes and it will be easier for you to deal with diffuse anxiety in the future.

2. become active

Get active as soon as you feel anxiety. Sports, exercise or another hobby distract you from negative thoughts and prevent brooding. If you don't give your anxiety an opportunity to demotivate you, feelings of anxiety will disappear on their own after a while.

3. strengthen your self-confidence

A strong self-confidence is the best protection against irrational fears. Reflect on your own strengths. Think about what you have achieved so far and which problems you have already successfully mastered in your life. Trust your inner strength and realize that the future holds beautiful things for you.

4. look at your fear of the future from a different perspective

People with fear of the future see everything in black. Look at your worries from a different perspective. How realistic is the worst-case scenario? In fact, most problems can be solved and negative events rarely occur.

5. meditate and focus on positive thoughts

Relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation can help you avoid negative thoughts about the future and focus on positive perceptions. Fears about the future start in the mind. Stop brooding all the time and trust your abilities. Positive thinking helps to overcome your fear of the future. This can protect you from depression and increase your life expectancy.

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Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

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