The term approach anxiety is used to describe the irrational fear of social interactions, fear of engaging in conversations. This anxiety often leads to social timidity. Although it is most common in dating and relationships, it can happen anywhere, at work, in school, or during family gatherings. It may originate from a variety of issues such as fear of what to say, fear of rejection, social pressure, negative experience, low self-esteem, fear of change, the satisfaction of current status. Approach anxiety can have debilitating effects or co-occur with social anxiety disorder.
What Is Approach Anxiety
Approach anxiety is the fear of initiating a conversation with someone new. This happens not only when you meet someone new but also during an interview, among coworkers, or even right before a presentation. Sometimes you may find yourself in a tricky position. You are at a social event with everything going smoothly until you suddenly find yourself in the spotlight.
You are the centre of attention, all eyes are on you, everyone is waiting for you to say something, then you start to feel jittery, sweaty palms, your tongue feels heavy in your mouth, there is a queasy feeling in your stomach, it feels so hot and you realize you are stuck. Fidgeting on what to say and how to approach the situation.
Many people think approach anxiety only occurs in relationships, dating, when you’re around your crush, or just as you are about to walk up to that attractive guy or lady. Although this may be the main reason for some people, it is partly false. Why? because not every individual has an experience tied to these reasons. For others, it could be because of situations such as academic tests and exams, work projects, family gathering.
What Are The Signs Of Approach Anxiety
Symptoms of approach anxiety include:
Sweating: sweaty palms, excess sweating around the armpit or underarms, the neck region, forehead, and feet soles.
Nervousness: feeling jittery, easily scared with mood swings are symptoms associated with approach anxiety and other medical and psychological problems.
Feeling unable to speak, you are constantly swallowing your saliva, and experience a choked up feeling.
Difficulty breathing: increased heartbeat, tightness around the chest or holding your breath for a while.
Shaky voice: your voice may sound nervous, squeaky, or tiny, followed by an inability to speak out loud or confidently.
Feeling faint: lightheadedness may occur during approach anxiety
Averted gaze: people who suffer from approach anxiety have difficulty maintaining eye contact, their eyes keep moving about without a particular spot and are usually focused on the ground.
Stiff body movement: your body seems to have a mind of its own, your neck feels stiff, awkward body posture and staying in the same position for a long time.
- Anxiety when talking to someone new
- Fear of being criticized
- Inferiority complex
- Lack of confidence
- Feeling like people are not interested
Why Do I Have Approach Anxiety?
Psychological research shows that your first encounter or perception of people influences your connection with that person and how long the relationship will last. There is a common belief that first impressions are everything.
This belief affects every individual so much that it has become a part of the subconscious. First impressions matter just as much as confidence and focusing on your strengths and physical looks. You have prepared a wonderful speech or presentation but find it difficult to deliver.
Research has proven that looking good and smelling nice help to boost confidence level. You get confused, overthink, doubt yourself and eventually give an average performance.
These thoughts are psychological and self-created from pressures, social standards, and extremely high expectations. You want to do so well that you question every step. Overthink how it will go, what others will say. These thoughts can slowly take control and reduce your confidence level. Here are some other reasons you may feel approach anxiety:
Negative self-talk: this could arise because of experiences or criticism. You constantly feel you are not good enough and don’t embrace positivity.
Low self-esteem: Individual upbringing, experiences, and environment have more influence on you than you can imagine. Someone who grows up amid abuse, violence, and trauma is more likely to have low self-esteem compared to others.
Insecurities: Letting your vulnerability take control can cause social timidity and fear of interactions when you pay more attention to your flaws instead of your strengths and values.
Expectations: Perfectionism and superior standards may lead to approach anxiety, especially if you see yourself fall short.
Causes Of Approach Anxiety
Approach anxiety is mostly self-created from personal thoughts or experiences.
Being too comfortable and satisfied with your situation and what you currently have makes you feel very laid back and relaxed. An abrupt change or disruption in flow will cause fear and increase insecurities.
Are you surrounded by people who pressure and constantly make you feel you are not good enough? Or are you someone who is always comparing yourself with other people?
Trauma and negative past events can create fear and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that arises when you are in similar conditions. PTSD is associated with feelings of recurrent negative thoughts and situations.
The human brain is wired to get accustomed to your reactions. Feeding your mind with limitations can cause a subconscious effect. This makes it difficult to be confident and productive when you are in situations you thought were impossible.
Fear of rejection
Failure and rejection hit hard, having a mindset overpowered by fear of failure or rejection can have both positive and negative impacts. While some develop problem-solving skills, others let the fear take control, limiting functionality.
Overcoming Approach Anxiety
Push through your excuses
The fear associated with approaching anxiety is usually self-generated. Discard negative thoughts, learn to embrace change, and have a better view of life filled with positivity.
Focusing and putting so much energy into the unfair experience will reflect in your actions. You realize people are different and your experiences do not define you. Have a better outlook on your life.
Eliminating Negative Belief
Let go of negativity, think positively, and have rational thoughts. Do away with blame and anger defence mechanisms. Stop taking things personally, and practice problem-solving skills.
Realize that everyone has standards, some like to socialize while others prefer solitude. Some will accept your principles and share similar values with you, stop having high expectations from everyone you meet and just go with the flow.
Present Yourself Assertively
Be self-assured and self-aware, develop your strengths, and boost your confidence level. Focus on your confident skills as much as you prepare, be bold, dress well, look good, smell nice.
Enrol in courses that improve your skills, take up progressive courses that align with your values, find counterexamples for unfortunate circumstances, and seek people who can influence you positively.
Do not be afraid to ask for help. Are you having challenges with that course, interview, presentation, or project?. Speak to people who can help, family, siblings, a friend, a colleague, a therapist.
Do not take things personally
Sometimes when things go our way or there is a change in circumstances, we fret or overreact. While overreacting can actually make things worse, take a step back, relax and reevaluate what you can do to solve problems rather than worsen the situation.
Many people usually think cases of approach anxiety are more prevalent in men than women, and in relationships rather than social circumstances. This is partly true, although approach anxiety is more likely to occur in men and in dating, it also occurs in other situations. Approach anxiety is not a severe case, but it can cripple and affect functionality in high levels of fear, low self-esteem and negative thinking.
It is not unlikely that it occurs with other anxiety disorders and can be symptoms in other disorders such as Social Anxiety Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Fear is inevitable, but letting it dictate your life and actions can limit or reduce performance and functionality.
Do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and embrace change. After all, life is subject to change. Stop worrying so much about others’ perception of you and just be you. Work on your personal growth, be conscious of your environment and the people around you. They influence you more than you think.