Is A Feeling Of Dread A Sign Of Something More Serious?

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated August 2, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Laura Angers, NCC, LPC

Having feelings of dread at times is nothing to be concerned about. However, if you are experiencing them when you are completely safe and going about your day-to-day life, this may be an indication that something else is going on. You need to know how to spot the difference between healthy and concerning amounts of these feelings, and what can be done.

What Is Dread?

A Confidante Can Help You Deal With Unexplained Dread

A feeling of dread happens when you are afraid of something bad happening to you in a certain situation. For example, if you are at a restaurant and remember you left your wallet at home, you will dread getting the bill, since you know you can’t pay for it. This feeling, by itself, is no cause for alarm.

However, it is important to understand why you may be having this feeling. Sometimes feeling dread is a normal part of life, but other times, you may need medical help because something else is going on in your body. There are a number of conditions that can lead to feelings of dread.

Why Am I Feeling It?

Again, there may be a number of reasons you are feeling dread, and some of them are likely completely healthy. However, this could be a symptom of a medical condition, or you may have a psychological disorder. You should note when and how often you are having these feelings, so you can tell if they are appearing frequently or not.


Here is a look at possible causes of dread.

Serious Medical Conditions

Before and after certain medical procedures or events, there may be a sense of dread. This includes after an event, such as a heart attack or stroke, as well as after a seizure. Certain types of tumors may also cause you to feel dread.

Anxiety Disorders

If you have ever been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you may also experience frequent feelings of dread. This is something that should be discussed with your doctor. If you have not been diagnosed, your feelings may be a symptom of a certain anxiety disorder.

Panic Disorder

Panic Disorders are characterized by panic attacks, which may come out of nowhere and make you feel like you are going to die. They are also sometimes accompanied by a sense of doom or despair, which is what dread is.


Depression is another condition that can contribute to feeling dread. You may feel this and have other symptoms relating to being depressed, which would indicate that you might be experiencing depression.


The main symptoms of dread are feelings of impending doom or feeling that you are in danger. If you have other symptoms you notice at the same time, it is important to pay attention to these, so you can tell your doctor when you are seeking treatment.

Here are a few additional symptoms that you may want to look out for.

  • Unshakable feeling something bad is going to happen
  • Becoming very fidgety, where you can’t sit still
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Hot flashes
  • Generally not feeling well
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Heart issues, like palpitations

When you notice that you are feeling one or more of these symptoms, you should visit a doctor as soon as you can. These symptoms may be a sign of a medical condition or a sign you might experience one soon. Symptoms shouldn’t be downplayed, especially if these symptoms came from out of nowhere, where you felt fine shortly before you noticed them.

Most of the time, if you tell your doctor you’re feeling dreadful, they will stop and take note of you. There are certain tests a doctor may want to do to rule out certain physical ailments. Your physician might also need to know about other aspects of your life, in case you are experiencing an anxiety or panic disorder. If you know you are, you should give them all of the information you have available, including details about when you were diagnosed and how you are being treated for your condition.

Treatment Options

The way that dread is treated depends on what is causing it. In many cases, it comes down to seeking a doctor or licensed counselor’s help so they can help you create an effective plan for treatment. For example, people that are experiencing anxiety may be consulted about undergoing cognitive behavior therapy, taking medication (as prescribed by a doctor or psychiatrist), or a handful of other possible medical treatments.

It is recommended to speak to a licensed counselor about any feelings of doom you might have. Whether you seek traditional, in-person counseling or online counseling, a licensed counselor will be able to help you pinpoint the cause behind these feelings of doom. One online counseling platform is BetterHelp, which you may access from the comfort of your own home.

If you are feeling expected thoughts of dread, which correlate to scary or unknown situations, this is something you can still talk with a mental health professional about, if that’s what you want to do. Don’t discredit how you are feeling since your body might be trying to tell you something.

This feeling and the disorders that can stem from it can affect people of all ages. If you have kids, be sure to monitor how the kiddos are acting and feeling as well, so you can get them the help that they need.

Other Things To Try

There are other things you can try as part of your larger treatment strategy, which may be able to help you lessen your unwanted feelings. These options may be able to prevent feeling anxious at times.

A Confidante Can Help You Deal With Unexplained Dread

  • Pay attention to your physical health. If you know or suspect that you have a physical ailment, it is important to get it checked out. Many serious conditions can give you warnings that translate into feelings of dread, so you need to stay on top of your overall health.
  • Pay attention to your mental health. Mental health is just as important as your physical health. When you’re feeling negative things or feeling anxious, it is important to take action, especially if these feelings affect your daily routine. There are resources on the Anxiety and Depression Association of America website to help you get treatment, find support groups, and more.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Keeping your diet balanced is important. Try to fill your plate with healthy foods and make sure that you are eating enough each day. It is important to monitor what you put in your body. A study published in Missouri Medicineexplains that eating healthy foods may be able to improve mental health and can promote healing in regards to mental illness.
  • Find people to talk to. Life can be hard to navigate by yourself. Find someone you can talk to or start to build a support system. These are the people you can talk to when you feel anxious, out of sorts, and need a reset. You are not weak for needing to lean on someone from time to time.
  • Don’t put yourself in dangerous situations. If you find you’re feeling dread in certain situations, try to stay away from these circumstances. Don’t put yourself in stressful or dangerous situations when you can help it.
  • Limit stress when you can. Do your best to limit the stress in your life as well. Take a break for yourself when you need to and pamper yourself a bit when you are having a stressful week or working through a big and complicated project at work.
  • Exercising can help you manage many different types of ailments you may experience. Even a little exercise can help improve your mood so that you can start with just a little bit. Go around the block a couple of times or walk to your mailbox.


While dread by itself is not something to be concerned about, when it is paired with other symptoms, it can be quite serious. Always tell your doctor when you feel unexplained dread, so they can figure out if something else is going on in your body.

You may be experiencing a physical condition or a psychological issue, meaning some symptoms may not be able to be seen. Make sure you have someone to lean on that you can trust and will help you talk about how you’re feeling.

Your confidante can be someone in your family or close circle, but you should also consider getting mental health help as well. When you talk to a counselor, you may be able to figure out why you are plagued with dread and how you can prevent it.

Be aware of the situations that trigger you and avoid them as best you can. Dreadful feelings can happen to anyone at any age, so there’s no reason to be concerned when you feel this way. Just pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you and take note of other symptoms if they show up. By prioritizing your health (including your mental health), you are taking an important step in protecting your wellbeing.

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