According to, researchers from the University of Illinois in Chicago have discovered a foundational fear underlying many of the common anxiety disorders. At the root of social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and certain phobias, there is the fear of the unknown. Thanks to this discovery, psychiatrists and psychologists in Singapore may be able to refocus their treatments plans to address the underlying issue, rather than basing their therapy on the diagnosis.

The Power of Uncertainty

The fear of the unknown is sometimes referred to in psychiatric circles as “anticipatory anxiety,” according to Stephanie Gorka, a psychologist involved in the study. “It could be something like not knowing exactly when your doctor will call with test results,” she says. The uncertainty is unusually painful to someone who is extra sensitive to the fear of the unknown. Such a person might worry about the doctor’s call and the test results for the whole days, or for multiple days, until the call finally arrives.

For example, patients with panic disorder often suffer from a cyclical pattern. They have a panic attack because of a negative circumstance, and then they spend the next hours or days worrying about having another panic attack. They deeply fear the possible onset of an attack, and that building anxiety only makes the problem worse. Eventually, another panic attack does occur, and the cycle begins again.

The Scope and Method of the Study

The study, conducted by Gorka and her colleagues at the University of Illinois in Chicago, put a set of participants through a startle task. The study involved the following breakdown of participants:
• 41 people with social anxiety disorder
• 25 people with major depressive disorder
• 24 people with specific phobias
• 29 people with generalised anxiety disorder

The participants were given a predictable series of mild electric shocks to the wrist, and they were also subjected to an unpredictable set of shocks as well. Coinciding with the shocks, tones were emitted through headphones. The participants’ responses were carefully measured, and researchers discovered that those with phobias and social anxiety disorder reacted far more strongly to the stimulus when the shocks were unpredictable. This confirmed the researchers suspicions about the power of an uncertain threat for people with anxiety disorders.

The Importance of the Results

According to professor of psychiatry Dr. K. Luan Phan, understanding this sensitivity to the unknown is key to effective treatment. “We classify so many different mood and anxiety disorders, and each has its own set of guidelines for treatment, but if we spend time treating their shared characteristics, we might make better progress,” he says.

Treatment and Therapy Options

Do you feel anxious about things that could happen to you? Do you frequently worry about your lack of control over certain outcomes? Maybe it’s time to visit Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic for counselling with a top psychologist in Singapore, before your fear of the unknown turns into a serious disorder or phobia. We maintain our patients’ confidentiality and offer treatment in a secure, caring environment. It’s time to address your fears and anxiety before they take over your thoughts and interfere with your quality of life.

News Feed from Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic

Source:, November 18, 2016