What Do Feelings of Impending Doom Mean?

Sensing that something bad is about to happen—a feeling of impending doom—is a typical symptom of anxiety. If this feeling is interfering with your daily life and is unrelated to a real potential for danger, it may be a sign of a medical issue.

This article will describe impending doom, symptoms to watch for, and why someone may experience this feeling. You’ll also learn when to call a healthcare provider. 

Person sitting on couch experiencing anxiety

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What Are Feelings of Impending Doom?

People who experience a feeling of impending doom may feel like something tragic or life-threatening is about to happen. It is a heavy, sinking feeling that can be overwhelming.

Impending doom can be a symptom of anxiety and affect your mental health, relationships, and your ability to do normal daily activities. It can also be a warning sign of a more serious medical issue.

Associated Symptoms

Feeling a sense of impending doom is often associated with anxiety and includes symptoms like:

  • Avoidance of certain situations due to worry
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Trembling

What Causes This Feeling?

Impending doom can be caused by mental health or physical health conditions.

Mental Health Conditions

  • Anxiety disorder: A mental health condition associated with repeatedly experiencing a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom.
  • Panic disorder: A condition that leads to panic attacks, which are episodes of intense and overwhelming sensations of fear that trigger physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. They are often associated with feelings of impending doom. 

Physical Conditions

  • Anaphylaxis: A severe allergic reaction with symptoms like anxiety, confusion, and feeling like something bad is going to happen.
  • Blood transfusion reactions: Blood transfusions may trigger anaphylaxis in some people. The anxiety symptoms and sinking feeling is an early warning sign that occurs before other symptoms, including shortness of breath and heart palpitations.
  • Heart attack: Feeling a sense of impending doom can be an early warning sign of an impending heart attack.
  • Toxin exposure and poisonings: For example, a typical first symptom of cyanide poisoning is a feeling of impending doom.
  • Pheochromocytoma: Pheochromocytoma is a type of adrenal gland tumor that presents symptoms similar to anaphylaxis. Mood-modulating chemical messengers such as adrenaline, noradrenaline, and dopamine interact to cause a sudden increase in blood pressure, rapid heart rate, sweating, and a sinking feeling that something bad is about to happen.
  • Seizures: Different types of seizures are preceded by anxiety symptoms and the feeling of impending doom.

How to Manage Feelings of Impending Doom

Managing feelings of impending doom comes down to determining the cause of the feelings. The answer may be evident to you, yet indescribable.

If you have an underlying condition causing these feelings, treatment for that condition will help you manage feelings of impending doom. For example, if you have an anxiety disorder, getting cognitive behavioral therapy can help you learn coping techniques to manage these feelings and prevent them in the future.

Your healthcare provider may suggest real-time strategies like breathing, grounding, or mindfulness exercises. These tools help ease symptoms of anxiety and depression or “doom and gloom.”

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Call your local emergency number if you experience a sudden onset feeling of doom. The sense of impending doom could be related to anxiety or indicate early warning signs of a heart attack or seizure. Being cautious in this case could save your life.

You may also consider contacting a healthcare provider or a mental health professional if you’re experiencing ongoing or chronic feelings of impending doom. They will be able to help you determine the source of your feelings and the next steps to feeling better. 

Summary

Feeling a sense of impending doom is associated with anxiety and panic disorder symptoms as well as physical health conditions like life-threatening allergic reactions or heart attacks. If you are experiencing a feeling of impending doom, listen to your body and reach out for support. 

A Word From Verywell 

Not every bad feeling you have will result in a tragic event, but it’s important to remember that your body can signal that something is wrong. It’s always safest to seek medical advice. If these thoughts are interfering with your daily activities, you may consider seeing a mental health professional for guidance. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can anxiety make you feel on edge?

    Anxiety can cause someone to feel on edge, which means they may be quicker to irritate, frustrate, and anger. 

  • Is dread a symptom of anxiety?

    Dread or an impending feeling of doom can be a symptom of anxiety. It can also be a symptom of depression, panic disorder, bipolar disorder, and health conditions including heart attack and some seizures. 

  • Do feelings of impending doom signal a panic attack?

    Yes, feelings of impending doom may be associated with panic attacks or panic disorders as well as other anxiety disorders.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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