Anxiety and Future Threats

When threatened, we naturally feel anxious. But anxiety can make us see threats that aren’t really there. 

Anxiety is an anticipatory response to perceived, future threats (Glasgow et al., 2022). Individuals may experience threats in familiar environments where they have gained prior knowledge of concerning, relevant, and likely stimuli. We frequently use this learning to recognize threats. For instance, a cue such as a park sign might let us know to look out for deer, and a road sign can provide a warning to look out for black ice. Similarly, a socially anxious individual who has been told to anticipate an overcritical audience upon giving a presentation might use such top-down information to distinguish between critical and neutral audience members’ facial expressions We use these cues to help us in recognizing upcoming threatening stimuli.

Adaptive and healthy interactions with our environment are dependent upon our effective use of information, concerning not only impending threats but also possible safety (Glasgow et al., 2022). Those with greater anxiety might differ in how they use their prior knowledge with safe or neutral stimuli and when making similar perceptual decisions. Anxiety is associated with a reduction in the ability to use safety versus threat cues during fear learning, and those with greater anxiety are likely to treat signals of safety as indicative of threats. Anxiety is recognized by an overdeveloped estimation of threats in conditions of uncertainty and, even worse, the utilization of safety cues.

Exposure therapy is my method of choice to help clients resolve these concerns. I will have my clients gradually and safely approach situations that cause significant anxiety. If you’d like to challenge your fears and anxiety, email me now at for your free consultation session.


Glasgow, S., Imbriano, G., Jin, J., Zhang, X., & Mohanty, A. (2022). Threat and uncertainty in the face of perceptual decision-making in anxiety. Journal of Psychopathology and Clinical Science, 131(3), 265–277.