Apprehension is a state that gradually takes over your life. It comes quietly, suggesting risks, inventing dangers and putting you on alert. And it doesn’t give you a break, you begin to fear the worst, you feel like you are walking on glass, you don’t know when you’ll take the next false step. So you’re always prepared for disaster. Being apprehensive is, in a word, exhausting.
What exactly is apprehension?
The term apprehension refers to a heightened level of fear. The apprehensive person fears the idea that something could be dangerous or harmful, either to himself/herself or others. Generally it is a non-rational fear or one with little foundation in reality.
Being apprehensive often leads to seeing danger everywhere and living as if something terrible is always about to happen. As a result, that apprehension ends up generating a state of anguish and anxiety.
In fact, apprehension is not a simple fear, but rather a state of permanent fear, anxiety and anguish caused by the expectation that some disaster could strike at any moment. It is not triggered by a specific fear or risk, but is a vague state of expectation when looking to the future.
How is an apprehensive person?
The apprehensive person is characterized by:
1. Experiencing a constant fear that something bad might happen
2. Excessive worry caused by worry and fear that a misfortune will occur
3. State of diffuse anguish or anxiety that ends up affecting his/her well-being, quality of life and interpersonal relationships
The apprehensive person tends to amplify problems and difficulties, taking them to extremes. He/she starts a catastrophic thinking that leads him/her to make a storm in a teacup, which ends up plunging him/her into a state of permanent tension and alertness.
In fact, when apprehension exceeds normal worry, it becomes dysfunctional and a clear sign of an anxiety disorder. For example, it is understandable that a mother would be concerned that her toddler son who is learning to ride a bike would fall and injure himself/herself, but it makes no sense for her to try to prevent an adult child from riding a bike.
Apprehension can be the result of multiple factors, from abusive experiences to low self-esteem or personal insecurity. It can also be due to poor emotional management, especially if the person does not have psychological tools to calm down. In other cases, it may be caused by experiences of abandonment, fear of failure or rejection, and even a greater reactivity of the nervous system in the face of danger.
How is the apprehensive person in a relationship?
Being apprehensive implies perceiving the world as a hostile place, which makes the person see risks and dangers everywhere. He/she often ends up transferring that feeling of fear and restlessness to those around him/her.
Apprehensive parents, for example, involuntarily tend to be very demanding and controlling with their children as they try to protect them from danger. They can also express those apprehensive behaviors in the relationship, which is why they can suffocate the other.
Often apprehensive people also need ongoing reassurance. They demand emotional reassurance and validation from others, which can be an exhausting “job.” For that reason, the relationship with an apprehensive person ends up being tense and difficult.
It is difficult to manage distance and autonomy with a person who tries to control everything “for our good” without realizing that he/she is really clipping our wings. For this reason, in order to deal with an apprehensive person, it is important to understand that he/she lives in a state of permanent alertness and tension.
How to stop being apprehensive?
Apprehension is the most direct path to anxiety. Undoubtedly, we need to be aware of the risks in order to minimize them and prepare for adversity, but living on a tightrope thinking that we are going to fall at any moment becomes a lifelessness.
Being apprehensive ends up affecting your quality of life, causes your performance to plummet and damages your interpersonal relationships. In fact, apprehension can even end up taking its toll on your health.
1. Establish a “worry time”
Each day, you can spend 15 minutes in the morning and another 15 at night just addressing your concerns. With this technique, you will prevent worries from constantly haunting your mind. When concerns come up outside of the designated time, ask yourself: Can I do something right now to fix it? For example, if you start to worry because you forgot to pay a bill, just pay it.
Instead, if you start to worry about a disaster of epic proportions, just tell yourself: “Not now. This is not the time to worry.” At first it will be difficult, but little by little you will develop greater self-control over your automatic negative thoughts. The goal of this technique is not to ignore worries but to prevent them from ruining your life by continually occupying your mind and creating a state of apprehension.
2. Think of the worst that could happen
If you want to stop being apprehensive, one of the most effective methods is to ask yourself what is the worst that could happen if your worries materialize. Imagine the worst possible scenario, hold it in your mind for five minutes, and endure the negative emotions it generates. Repeat the same exercise the next day.
This Reverse Psychology technique follows the principle: to be happy, focus on what makes you miserable. Sooner rather than later your brain will run out of those worries and you will realize that the disaster you imagined is not as terrible as you thought, or at least it is no longer generating apprehension because you have faced it and stopped escaping your emotions.
3. Dare to get out of your comfort zone
Apprehension locks you in an ever narrower zone. Fear limits you, so that little by little you restrict yourself from many things. At first, getting out of your comfort zone can be scary, but it will help you gain confidence and self-assurance. Dare to do things that scare you, cause you some anxiety, stress you out or intimidate you is beneficial because it shows you that everything will not turn out as bad as you fear.
Having new experiences, especially those that involve a certain degree of unpredictability and demand improvisation, will also help you feel more comfortable with those situations, so that you will stop reacting with apprehension when the world around you changes too much. Then you can fight the anxious and apprehensive mind, winning the battle using its own weapons.
Huang, Z. (2015) Walking the Straight and Narrow: The Moderating Effect of Evaluation Apprehension on the Relationship between Collectivism and Corruption. PLOS ONE; 10 (3): 10.1371.
Cottrell, N. B. et. Al. (1968) Social facilitation of dominant responses by presence of others. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; 9 (3): 245–250.