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How intolerance of uncertainty makes you anxious

One of the main constructs linked with anxiety is intolerance of uncertainty. Uncertainty is a peculiar companion of our life, not particularly loved by most of us but surely always present. Daily life situations, economical and political unstable scenarios doubtlessly intertwine to trigger issues related to our threshold of tolerance of uncertainty. 

But why is uncertainty such a scary monster for some of us? 

If we look at our daily life through a magnifying glass, we will notice that it is permeated by little daily elements of uncertainty. All things considered, no one has a crystal ball to make well thought out decisions and to know for sure what the future will bring. Therefore a dose of uncertainty is normal to experience in life. 

We are all different in how we react to uncertainty, but for some of us it can be a cause of intense unease and distress. 

If you have trouble dealing with uncertainty, you may find yourself trapped by worry and negative thoughts. The main feature of worry is that it hinges on a chain of negative possibilities, one followed by another, that brings forth a catastrophic and doomed scenario, in our mind much more likely to happen and scarier than it actually is.

Most of the time habitual worriers believe that thinking and anticipating all the possible negative outcomes helps them feel safer and more prepared if the depicted scenarios become real. Conversely, relying on worry is usually far from being a constructive strategy, as one may easily get lost among negative scenarios and feel confused and scared. Among worriers’ preferred coping mechanisms, they also avoid uncertain situations and keep things under control as much as possible. The reason this happens is that we often associate uncertainty with a potential danger and a negative outcome, despite the fact that such outcome might not even occur in the first place. 

How to deal with uncertainty? 

Accepting that uncertainty is unavoidable and constitutes an inevitable part of our life is helpful and a good starting point. Focus on what you can actually change and improve (and therefore on what you have control of), such as your reactions to uncertainty: decrease your anxiety level through relaxation techniques, do not avoid situations with potentially unknown outcomes by default and challenge your negative thinking. Talking about it with a therapist may definitely help.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Ilaria Tedeschi

Ilaria Tedeschi is a cognitive behavioural psychotherapist, BACP and HCPC registered, working in Marylebone and Chelsea both in English and Italian, with adult and adolescent clients experiencing depressive, anxiety, sleep and relational issues.… Read more

Written by Ilaria Tedeschi

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