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Feelings of impending doom: Why do I dread everything?

Feelings of impending doom: Why do I dread everything?

Reviewed by:
Brenda Camacho, MD
|
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June 27, 2024
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Key takeaways

  • A sense of doom can be a symptom of an anxiety disorder or something else.
  • If it’s is accompanied by intense pressure or squeezing feelings on your chest, then seek medical help immediately.

In this article

Dread is an uncomfortable feeling for anyone, but especially for those who feel it often or at a high intensity. If you experience dread, you may feel apprehension, intense worry, and fear of the future. Although dread is a normal human emotion, it has a variety of causes for different people. It affects everyone differently and may require various approaches to overcome it.

If you experience a sense of impending doom, don’t worry. You’ve already taken the right first step by doing some research. In certain circumstances, like when dread affects your daily life, if may be the sign of something else, like a mental health condition.  

In this article, we’ll cover the most common causes of dread and tips for handling it the next time it comes up.


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What causes feelings of dread?

Dread has a variety of causes and may show up differently for everyone depending on mental health conditions and past life experiences. Here are a few of the most common triggers of this unpleasant feeling.  

Anxiety disorders

Those with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or other anxiety disorders often experience intense worry and catastrophic thinking. These symptoms mean people with anxiety may fear new experiences, worry about the future, and regularly imagine worst-case scenarios.  

Past trauma

Negative life experiences and traumatic events may leave you feeling fearful of the future. Some people experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which leads to flashbacks and severe anxiety related to a traumatic experience. People with PTSD often avoid certain situations and feel distressed when reminded of the event.  

Chronic stress

When you feel scared or overly stressed, your body goes into a state of “fight-or-flight.” When this happens, your body releases hormones from your adrenal gland. Cortisol—the body’s stress hormone—causes physical symptoms like an increased heart rate, heart palpitations, hot flashes, and shortness of breath.

Chronic stress causes your fight-or-flight response to stay turned on, which can affect how you experience fear, and might make you dread things you wouldn’t otherwise. It also suppresses your immune system, causes headaches, and affects your sleep.

Medical conditions

A medical condition may also be the underlying cause of dread. Life-threatening medical events and emergencies like heart attacks and seizures can also cause a sense of impending doom. If you believe you’re experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, seek medical care immediately.

Find tips on how to relieve chest pain from anxiety here

How does dread affect your life?

Feelings of impending doom are distressing, to say the least. Feeling this way disrupts your day-to-day functioning and overall well-being in more ways than one. You may avoid certain situations, withdraw from relationships, or feel too anxious to complete regular tasks.

What dread feels like

  • A sinking feeling
  • Avoidance
  • Decreased productivity
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Low motivation
  • Resistant to new experiences
  • Social isolation
  • Strained relationships

Importance of treatment

The first step in relieving your sense of dread is recognizing them. When you address your feelings and recognize what triggers them, you start to gain a sense of acceptance over your emotions and their temporary nature.

If your feelings of dread are overwhelming, consider seeking help. A mental health professional can help you create healthier thought processes and coping mechanisms, which in turn help you live a more fulfilling, present life. They can also confirm diagnosis of anxiety disorder or other mental health issues and prescribe you medication as one of your treatment options.

Ready to get started? Talkiatry can help. We’re a national psychiatry practice that provides in-network, virtual care—and you can schedule a first visit within days. Get started with a short online assessment.

5 Tips to overcome feelings of dread

Dread is an uncomfortable feeling. The good news is that there are ways to relieve it. Whether you work with a professional, make lifestyle changes, or both, there are ways to start feeling like yourself again.  

1. Start cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Therapy is a great way to explore your feelings and learn healthy coping mechanisms. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common type of therapy that helps you accept your feelings and learn to move through them in a positive way.  

2. Practice mindfulness and relaxation

Dread is often caused by a fixation and fear of the future. Practicing being present is a great way to combat these fears and bring your attention to the current moment.  

Mindfulness is a type of meditation that helps reduce stress and relax the body. Here’s how to practice it:

  • Sit in a comfortable position and bring your attention to the present moment. Focus on your breath. Slowly inhale and exhale. Notice what you’re feeling, emotionally and physically.  
  • If thoughts or distractions come up, simply allow those thoughts to come to you and then bring your attention back to your breath. No need to judge your thoughts or get frustrated. Simply bring your attention to the present moment.

Over time, this practice will help you remain present and move past the sense of dread and other cognitive distortions.

3. Try gradual exposure therapy

Exposure therapy is another effective therapy technique you may want to try. This type of therapy exposes you to your fears gradually so that you learn you are capable of facing the things that scare you. This is a particularly helpful type of therapy if you experience PTSD or panic disorder.  

4. Talk to loved ones

Talking to friends and family is a great way to relieve stress and feel reconnected to loved ones. Dread often causes people to isolate and avoid certain situations, including social ones, so talking to the people you care about is a great way to combat isolation tendencies.

5. Adopt a healthy lifestyle

Regular exercise reduces your fight or flight response and increases endorphins—the body’s feel good hormone. It also improves your mood and ability to relax in addition to helping you stay in tip top shape. Many also find that exercise helps them be present and focus on the current moment.  

The information in this article is for education and informational purposes only and should never be substituted for medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.

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How does Talkiatry compare to face-to-face treatment?

For most patients, Talkiatry treatment is just as effective as in-person psychiatry (American Psychiatric Association, 2021), and much more convenient. That said, we don’t currently provide treatment for schizophrenia, primary eating disorder treatment, or Medication Assisted Treatment for substance use disorders.

What kind of treatment does Talkiatry provide?

At Talkiatry, we specialize in psychiatry, meaning the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. Your psychiatrist will meet with you virtually on a schedule you set together, devise a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and preferences, and work with you to adjust your plan as you meet your goals.

If your treatment plan includes medication, your psychiatrist will prescribe and manage it. If needed, your psychiatrist can also refer you to a Talkiatry therapist.

What's the difference between a therapist and psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are doctors who have specialized training in diagnosing and treating complex mental health conditions through medication management. If you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or similar, a psychiatrist may be a good place to start.  

Other signs that you should see a psychiatrist include:  

  • Your primary care doctor or another doctor thinks you may benefit from the services of a psychiatrist and provides a referral    
  • You are interested in taking medication to treat a mental health condition  
  • Your symptoms are severe enough to regularly interfere with your everyday life

The term “therapist” can apply to a range of professionals including social workers, mental health counselors, psychologists, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, and psychoanalysts. Working with a therapist generally involves regular talk therapy sessions where you discuss your feelings, problem-solving strategies, and coping mechanisms to help with your condition.

Who can prescribe medication?

All our psychiatrists (and all psychiatrists in general) are medical doctors with additional training in mental health. They can prescribe any medication they think can help their patients. In order to find out which medications might be appropriate, they need to conduct a full evaluation. At Talkiatry, first visits are generally scheduled for 60 minutes or more to give your psychiatrist time to learn about you, work on a treatment plan, and discuss any medications that might be included.

About
Brenda Camacho, MD

Dr. Brenda Y. Camacho holds the position of Staff Psychiatrist at Talkiatry. She is board-certified in Adult Psychiatry. She has been practicing for over 25 years.

While having treated a wide range of adult patients, Dr. Camacho’s primary focus is treating adult outpatients with mood or psychotic disorders. Her practice focuses on medication management. Typically, she offers this in conjunction with supportive or insight-oriented therapy in 30-minute follow-up visits. On occasion, Dr. Camacho will believe additional therapy is also needed and asks that you bring a therapist into your care team to provide the best outcome.

Dr. Camacho completed her undergraduate studies at Tufts University. She received her medical degree from Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, PA and then continued with Temple for her residency in adult psychiatry. After completing training, Dr. Camacho worked at Cooper Hospital in Camden NJ as Associate Director of Consultation/Liaison Service and Psychiatry Residency Training and Co-Director of the Neuropsychiatry Clinic. She then began working exclusively in outpatient settings, joined NewPoint Behavioral Health Care, and served as Medical Director before and after their merge with Acenda Integrated Health.

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