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Fear Of Impending Doom – Anxiety Symptom

Jim Folk author
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: February 9, 2021

What does the “feelings of impending doom” anxiety symptom feel like:

Many people experience strong feelings and sensations associated with fear and anxiety. They are especially powerful when they occur for seemingly no reason. Consequently, many people react to these "out of the blue" feelings with fear, which only serves to inflame them. To better understand these strong impending doom feelings, the anxiety symptom “fear of impending doom” is often described as one or many of the following:

  • Feeling like something awful is about to occur
  • A sense that something very dangerous is about to happen
  • An overwhelming feeling you are about to die
  • A strong feeling that something terrible is about to happen and there isn’t anything you can do about it
  • A strong feeling of death and destruction that suddenly comes over you
  • An overwhelming fear of impending doom, destruction, despair, and gloom
  • A horrible feeling of doom and gloom that washes over you
  • Fear of impending doom that begins or accompanies a panic attack or anxiety attack
  • Such a strong feeling of impending doom that you feel you have to escape immediately or something terrible will happen

This strong feeling of impending doom can occur suddenly and wash over you at any time and anywhere.

This strong feeling of impending doom can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you may feel a strong fear of impending doom once in a while and not that often, feel it off and on, or feel it all the time.

This strong feeling of impending doom may precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself.

This strong feeling of impending doom can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and elevated stress, panic attack or anxiety attack, or occur “out of the blue” and “for no apparent reason.”

This strong feeling of impending doom can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves, where it’s strong one moment and eases off the next.

This strong feeling of impending doom can change from day to day, and/or from moment to moment.

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

This strong feeling can be more disconcerting when undistracted, when trying to rest or go to sleep, or when woken up with it during the night, or when waking up first thing in the morning.

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Why does anxiety cause the fear of impending doom symptom?

Medical Advisory

Being stressed and/or anxious (worried, apprehensive, fretful, fearful) causes the body to produce the stress response. The stress response secretes stress hormones into the bloodstream where they travel to targeted spots in the body to bring about specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes that enhance the body’s ability to deal with a threat—to either fight with or flee from it—which is the reason the stress response is often referred to as the fight or flight response.

Stress hormones stimulate the fear center of the brain (amygdala). This stimulation effect is an important part of the body’s survival mechanism. When the amygdala is stimulated by stress hormones, it goes on hyper alert looking for danger and signals the body that danger is present. High degree stress alarms produce high degree fears. High degree fears can cause an overwhelming sense of impending doom and gloom.

Voluntary panic/anxiety attacks – caused by overly anxious behavior - can cause an overwhelming sense of impending doom if the fear reaction is in the high degree range. Involuntary panic/anxiety attacks – caused by persistently elevated stress - can also cause a strong sense of impending doom, especially if the persistently elevated stress is in the high degree ranges. Involuntary panic/anxiety attacks are most often responsible for causing the overwhelming sense of impending doom feelings to occur “out of the blue” and for "no apparent reason."

The sense of impending doom can last as long as the body is experiencing a high degree stress response from overly apprehensive behavior and/or from involuntary actions caused by persistently elevated stress (which we call stress-response hyperstimulation).

How to get rid of the feeling of impending doom anxiety symptom?

When this feeling is caused by apprehensive behavior and the accompanying stress response changes, calming yourself down will bring an end to the stress response and its changes. As your body recovers from the active stress response, this impending doom feeling should subside. Keep in mind that it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. But this is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

When this feeling is caused by hyperstimulation, it should subside as the involuntary spike in stress hormones diminish. Keep in mind, however, it may take time for the body to gear down to the point where the strong feeling of impending doom dissipates.

Nevertheless, when the body’s level of stimulation diminishes, this strong feeling should subside. Therefore, this stress and anxiety-related feeling needn’t be a cause for concern. It’s a common reaction to believing you are in grave danger and/or persistently elevated stress.

If you are having difficulty containing your worry about this feeling, you may want to connect with one of our recommended anxiety disorder therapists. Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to overcome problematic anxiety, and especially, what seems like unmanageable worry.

For a more detailed explanation about anxiety symptoms, why symptoms can persist long after the stress response has ended, common barriers to recovery and symptom elimination, and more recovery strategies and tips, we have many chapters that address this information in the Recovery Support area of our website.

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources:

Return to Anxiety Disorders Signs and Symptoms section.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including the anxiety symptom feelings and fear of impending doom.