How To Not Freak Out When Waiting For Test Results

modeled by Chloe Snower; photographed by Erin Yamagata; produced by Julie Borowsky; produced by Lorenna Gomez-Sanchez.

Whether you're waiting for results from the LSATs or an STI screening, the agony of the unknown can be seriously anxiety-inducing.

But if it comforts you any, it's totally normal to be nail-bitingly nervous about tests and such — and that anxiety is actually meant to help prepare you for the results.

"This is one of those situations where anxiety is a good thing," says Kevin Chapman, PhD, a member of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).

He explains that anxiety is a essentially your body's way or preparing you for a potential threat, and in that sense, it can help you adapt to cope with danger.

"Anxiety involves thoughts of uncontrollability of future events, and these are really common situations that involve the essence of what anxiety is about, which is: I can’t control or predict the potential outcome," he says. "Inevitably, that’s going to make anyone anxious because they have no clue what that [outcome is] going to look like. Being anxious and uncomfortable and your heart racing is a sign that you’re trying to prepare for the potential threat."

Still, knowing that it's normal to feel nervous about the results of your health screening doesn't mean that anxiety goes away immediately. You might be tempted to try to forget that you had the test in the first place and distract yourself from thinking about it, but Dr. Chapman says that the first thing you should do is to acknowledge your anxiety.

Being anxious and uncomfortable is a sign that you’re trying to prepare for the potential threat.
Kevin Chapman, PhD

"Rather than suppressing or distracting [those thoughts], acknowledge that the thought is there, accept that it’s there, and actually ride the wave associated with it," he says.

For instance, you might allow yourself to indulge in thinking about the worst that could happen: Maybe you failed your LSATs, you'll never get into law school, and you'll never be a lawyer. And then, Dr. Chapman says, you counter those thoughts by asking yourself what he calls disputing questions, like what’s the evidence that this exam result will be horrible? Am I 100% sure the results are going to be horrible?

Dr. Chapman says that doing this means you've acknowledged the thought, but you're not feeding into it. Once you realize you have no control over the results of that test anymore, you can move on to what you can control: Taking your mind off of your anxiety and doing something that you enjoy, whether that's going for a run or calling a friend.

If you are experiencing anxiety and are in need of crisis support, please call the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.

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