How To Deal With Crippling Approach Anxiety

A couple months ago I had a debilitating hypochondria attack that lasted a week. I thought I was going to die of a rare disease. I wrote about a previous attack in A Dead Bat In Paraguay, where I described moments of terror in between obsessive checking of symptoms and health resources. In both cases I couldn’t stop negative health thoughts from entering my head, even though I knew they were unreasonable. An above-average intelligence offered me no immunity and probably made me even more susceptible.

During this recent attack my sister said, “Why don’t you read a book about it.”

“A book?” I replied.

“Yeah you know—words and paper.”

I went to Amazon and read reviews on several. I eventually settled on The Worry Cure by Robet Leahy. My attack subsided by the time it came to my door. It’s definitely a self-help book and I felt hesitant to begin reading. I’m a highly experienced man of the world—how much more can I possibly learn? Several weeks passed before I cracked it open.

The book takes a cognitive approach at addressing the anxiety problem (cognitive therapy is the mainstream term for “NLP”). It says that the way you think is flawed, and the only way to get rid of phobias, anxiety, or other mental issues is to change your belief system. Replace the faulty beliefs with the correct ones, and voila, the desired change should result.

Here’s a couple of things I learned from the book about my problem:

- Obsessive checking on the internet and seeking reassurance from family or friends that I wasn’t going to die soon only had a temporary benefit, and kept the attack going. I wanted to be an expert on health to rule out possible problems.

- It’s impossible to be 100% certain of your health status. No reasonable person is an expert on every little symptom and disease.

- During an attack, I was overestimating my risk of having something serious. I only read about the deadliest outcomes that were most improbable.

- Death can be delayed, never denied. One day you will get sick with something that millions of other people have been through. You will adapt and life will go on (hopefully). You must accept that you are mortal.

You may be able to see how these statements can be spun around on other sources of anxiety. Let’s apply them to social anxiety for guys who are too scared to approach:

- Obsessive preparation and reading of pickup advice in an attempt to gain control of future approaches, which doesn’t reduce the anxiety when it’s actually time to approach.

- It’s impossible to be 100% certain that a girl won’t reject you. No man is everything to every girl.

- When you are about to approach a girl, you overestimate the chance of getting rejected outright. You imagine the worst possible outcome.

- Rejection can be delayed, never denied. Millions of men get rejected every day. You will get over it and life will go on. You must accept that most girls don’t want to be with you.

One thing I liked about the book is that it doesn’t only detail health anxiety, but other areas as well (work, relationships, money, and social interactions). Second to approach anxiety, relationship anxiety in the form of jealousy and a fear of getting dumped is a popular topic of guys who email me. They are unreasonably scared of losing their girl, doing things that, ironically, are more likely to push those girls away.

The book offers mental techniques to reduce anxiety. I’ll share two:

- Practice your fear. For 20 minutes a day, repeat the feared thought in your head (i.e. “I probably have cancer” or “The next girl I talk to will reject me”). Make the thought intense, vivid and full of doom. What happens is you begin to accept the negative outcome and get bored of it. I know this works because it’s a strategy I’ve shared to help guys approach girls, but something I didn’t use when it came to health. (The funny thing about anxiety is that it can be crippling in one area but completely absent in another. A successful businessman can make important presentations in front of dozens of people but can’t approach a girl if his life depended on it. We use different strategies for different things.)

- Test your predictions. Look back to when you had anxiety about something in the past. Did it turn out to be true? How correct were you? Obviously I’ve been wrong every time I had a hypochondria attack. I’m batting 0%, so there is no reason to believe any future attack unless a doctor properly diagnoses me. Even guys with approach anxiety have had prior interactions with girls. How did those go? Were rejections as awful as you thought? Or was the rejection rather benign?

Realize there is a difference between run-of-the-mill nervousness and genuine approach anxiety. It’s very normal if you hesitate before approaches or notice your heart picking up in speed. It’s okay if you chicken out every now and then because in the end you’re not a robot. Even I get a little nervous if I haven’t approached in a while or if I’m in a new environment. In these cases I don’t think you need to read this book.

But if the thought of approaching fills you with dread and you’ve gone out several times without doing what you’ve intended to do, in spite of how much you’ve prepared yourself or how much encouragement your wingman was giving you, then I think this book will help. If you follow its solutions I think you’ll notice a difference in about a month. I’d lend you my copy but my sister is reading it right now.

Read Next: 7 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Game Right Now

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  • klasik

    You should add this to your best posts list. Practically everyone is afraid of something, if we learn to manage our fears we can live the experiences fear has denied us.

  • http://therookiedc.wordpress.com/ The Rookie

    i remember having crippling approach anxiety early on. the thing was, i wasn’t so much fearing the rejection from her, as opposed to the people that may be watching: everyone else in the room. it’s no longer crippling, but it’s still a problem

    The Rookie’s last blog post: BCN: The Setup.

  • Ben Kenobi

    Great post. And +1 to what the Rookie said. I find the thought of everyone in the room focusing on me and listening to me get rejected a big issue. I realize that most people probably don’t give a shit about me and depending on the venue may not be able to hear a word that’s said, but its still stuck in my mind.

  • Cliff Arroyo

    Another good resource for those prone to health jitters:

    http://www.amazon.com/Staying-Well-Gentle-Verbal-Self-Defense/dp/1567310818/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1283182769&sr=8-3-spell

    It’s less academic and more basic and down to earth, it does give some good techniques for identifying and changing circular negative thoughts that take over a person’s brain.

    That author would also discourage chanting “I have cancer” to yourself as she believes your body is able to create it if you push the idea hard enough.

  • http://www.greendroppings.com simon

    Awesome post, Roosh. I have heard of the imagining complete failure technique in the past. I’ve also heard of visualizing the positive result vibrantly, then thinking of the negative result, making it black and white, shrinking it down, until you barely consider it in your mind.

    simon’s last blog post: Meeting Girls at Raves/Electronic Music Shows.

  • nathan

    “I’m a highly experienced man of the world—how much more can I possibly learn?”
    -Roosh

  • Timitz

    I had approach anxiety early on, especially in highschool. I dealt with it by reframing, to her being lucky to talk to me, and her trying to win my approval. The anxiety for me was partially caused by a confidence issue. I ultimately overcame it by faking it till I made it. To you guys who are nervous, Kenobi and Roosh are right. It’s work to overcome anxiety, but its soooooooooooo worth it.

  • Tazzy Bee

    excellent post

  • T

    Eh, I know I shouldn’t be saying this, but here is another sure-fire cure for approach anxiety: Xanax.

  • outlaw josey wales

    Very topical for me. I have realized that past a certain point, reading game blogs becomes a form of vicarious pick up. You fool yourself thinking that the things happening to others can be done by you, and you feel better, but actually nothing has happened.

    Often I feel like I have some kind of membrane in my mind, like some kind of approach hymen. I just have to break free and say “Hey” but I can’t do it or make up some excuse for myself.

    It’s not helpful that most of my opportunities are on the DC Metro or walking from the Metro to work, but I have noticed situations where I could have approached or sat next to someone I found attractive. And I didn’t.

    I’ll try these techniques.

  • http://www.meetup.com/tacomawingmen Wolf

    @Rookie; Yeah, fear of what other people are going to think is a major issue for many. The thing to realize is, you are at the center of your world, but to other people they hardly notice you. Think about a time like when you fell off your bike, or spilled your coffee on yourself or something…to you it’s extremely embarrassing and feels like the whole world is now watching you. But when it happens to another person we notice it briefly, think ‘How about that?’ or ‘Is he okay?’ but then we quickly move on and completely forget about it. Same thing with being rejected, it’s always feels far worse than how it looks.

  • http://www.meetup.com/tacomawingmen Wolf

    I’m dubious about how ‘Practicing Your Fear’ works. By repeating the worse case scenario constantly, aren’t you just reinforcing a negative belief and self-talk? If I truly believe now that the next girl I talk to will reject me, why make any effort whatsoever?

  • Truth

    Approach anxiety is difficult to overcome at first. Sometimes it can help to dare yourself to do it. Like just say, f*ck it, whatever happens, happens…or even bet with a friend/wingman that you will do x number of approaches or else you hand him $20 at the end of the night.

    However, there is another problem the becomes very apparent after you get over approach anxiety, and that is that cold approaching has a low success rate – at least if you are truly going after cute or pretty girls. So many of these bitches have boyfriends or have an ex that is still in the picture…uggghhhhhhhhhhhh.

    This is the most frustrating thing about cold approaching, in my opinion.

    It truly is a “numbers game.”

  • http://neointhegame.wordpress.com Neo

    The biggest thing that helped me was the realization that every thought and feeling doesn’t last. At first it sounds like it can suck(I’m not going to be happy and feel good forever? Nope!) Once you accept it though, a lot of things just stop bothering you. In the case of cold approaching, I’ve noticed when I get blown out it stings for a minute maybe, then within the next 5 minutes it’s gone from my mind and life goes on…

    Having a selectively short memory, is a useful trait with certain things.

    Neo’s last blog post: Two New Projects..

  • Anon77

    Long time reader/lurker here. Roosh.. not to get all mushy but really.. You are truly doing a service to guys out there that are struggling with anxiety when you post these. This post in particular is very inspiring. I’m going to direct my brother to it. He has crippling anxiety when it comes to women and words like these are a godsend

  • West LA

    Recognizing the fact that you will probably never see this woman again (especially in random daytime encounters, not repeatedly going to one bar or club), it’s easier to relax and aim to make these few moments with her as rewarding for you as it can be (not frantically scheming to do it ‘perfectly’ so that it sets up more time with her later on).

  • Roosh

    The “i’ll never see her again” strategy doesn’t work for most guys. In foreign environments they end up having even more anxiety because they are way out of their comfort zone.

  • Chicken Little

    @West LA
    “Recognizing the fact that you will probably never see this woman again”

    Nuff said!!

  • gringoed

    “- Obsessive preparation and reading of pickup advice in an attempt to gain control of future approaches, which doesn’t reduce the anxiety when it’s actually time to approach.”

    A little ironic to be reading this on a blog of pickup advice.

  • Roosh

    gringoed: And how is that ironic? Did you not read what preceded it? “You may be able to see how these statements can be spun around on other sources of anxiety. Let’s apply them to social anxiety for guys who are too scared to approach

  • Animal Crackers

    I remember my first ever cold approach.
    I had a canned opener, which at the time I felt was rather cheesy, thus adding more AA.
    Well I saw a cute chick walking towards me, but I still couldn’t muster enought courage to just say something. So she just walked by and I seethed as the moment evaporated.

    I had just finished reading the MM the day before, and for some reason, I started to repeat something mystery wrote in the ebook (this was the very first edition btw, not the one with neil strauss writing the foreword). It went something like, “Men are measured by their actions.” So I just kept repeating that phrase inside my head, turned around, tapped her on the shoulder and opened her.

    Looking back I fucked up on so many different levels, and I still didn’t have the balls to get her number. But I walked away with my heart singing. I wanted those digits for sure, but taming my AA alone was a huge win for me.

  • Greves

    Or just take some lexapro 10mg for six months. Problem solved forever.

  • Greves

    Anxiety that is. It flutters away like an clogged spiderweb. No new age nonsense, western science has uncovered the real cure for evolutionary anxiety.

  • sdynamite

    agree with Rookie etc… I have pretty much no anxiety per actual approach. I can come up and open with Hi and a stare. But I hesitate (and thus masturbate :) ) within so-to-speak wider social circle – bars/clubs when I’m a regular and everyone knows me and would see me get blown out. I get complacent and just hang out there and in the end my game suffers (I’m a big believer in the idea that every time you pass up on opportunity you mess up your inner game). How do you deal with that?

  • Living Dead Bachelor

    This is a sore spot for me as for whatever reason I am unwilling to make an effort to approach. I can never tell if it’s anxiety of approaching or just laziness. Probably a bit of both. Either way, I’ve passed up more easy opportuntiies than I care to admit and I agree with sdynamite, it messes up your inner game the more you do that. You psych yourself out.

  • Gorbachev

    Approach Anxiety has a sister and it’s called Escalation Anxiety.

    The first step in escalation is the approach. The last step is sexual penetration. If your approach is direct instead of indirect, you already escalated to the next step which is revealing to the woman your true (sexual) intentions. This is where “painful” rejection might occur. Then comes the kiss – another step. And so on. Every level may or may not be accompanied by some sort of anxiety = fear of rejection or fear of messing things up. Of course, the anxiety should diminish proportionately to how much the girl likes you and feels the same as you.

  • speakeasy

    @26

    Brilliant points! I don’t think I’ve ever heard the term “escalation anxiety” coined and nobody in the game I’m aware of has spoken of it. You’re right though. I’ve always experienced escalation anxiety unless it was a situation where the girl was totally coming on to me.

    You start with that chit chat stuff and at a certain point you come to a fork in the road where you’re either going to have to step it up to the next level or you’re going to just be considered a “friendly guy” that likes to chat. It’s really hard if the girl isn’t giving any obvious signals that she’s ready to escalate, yet isn’t really giving any IODs either. Maybe can Roosh can tackle this issue in a future post.

    Btw, I bought The Worry Cure a few years ago and haven’t even read it. I guess I should dust it off and take a look.

  • Schwanson

    Wait! YOU GAVE UP ON CATCH-22? WHAT!?!

  • Victor

    I had an idea about this. One way to work on approach anxiety is to go to strip clubs. They are full of beautiful women who are willing to talk to you. I think it would be a good place to practice carrying on conversations with attractive women.

    Plus the lap dances.

  • http://www.puaforums.com Pick Up Artist

    Body language often sends messages that we aren’t even aware we are sending off. Buy or borrow a book on body language and memorize it!

    Pick Up Artist’s last blog post: LJBF problem.

  • sam

    There was one famous psychotherapist who went further…saying you should even exagerate the feared outcome. The girl is going to yell to the club that I have a small penis and pour her drink on my head! Possibly more effective-because then if she just politely says she isnt interested, its a positive thing-I mean you’re heads still dry!

  • Aaron

    Seems to me like approach anxiety is actively created on purpose by American women (mostly white and the other races follow their example) by the way they avoid men in public. Were any of you born with it?
    If they are near you they get on their cellphone to block you from talking to them, if they are on the same sidewalk they go to the other side of the street, if they’re in their car they’ll close it so you dont see them, if they are the cashier or bagger at a grocery store they’ll switch lanes when they see you get in line etc..
    This is not my imagination because the unattractive girls are not acting like that in public.
    They make the same money as us here so why can’t they approach? This is the big problem. This shows what kind of people they are. Look how destructive their actions are towards the other half of the human race. Approach anxiety is an awful thing to inflict on men.

  • Anonymous

    Hey so, your sister, she seein’ anyone?

  • Anonymous

    I tend to get real nervous about the approach and the best technique I’ve had is when I have a wingman I literally hand him a $100 bill and say if I don’t approach that girl in the next 15 minutes it’s yours. Everyone has their price, maybe it’s $20 or $1,000, but someone the thought of losing that $100 is worse than getting rejected for me.

  • jayj

    day time = work
    Work = money
    Money = good time
    approaching a girl = time wasted
    time wasted = frustration
    frustartion = lack of good time
    its a circle, girls = waste of my money and time. FAR TOO Expensive. Chances of pulling a girl are low and even if you do it doesn’t garantee anything, even if you do you pay for the drinks,food,cab. Once in your place she drinks my expensive booz eats my food, uses my water and electricty and dirting my sheets with her filthy ming = wasting my money. Therefore hookers are the best, less time wasted approaching the slut = more good time and I also have my choice in nationality and not just the only bitch stupid enough to talk to me. Just remember the only women who truly loves you is you Mother and all the rest will FUCK you up given the chance.

  • Ian Mc

    Hey Roosh, I haven’t talked to you in a while. But something that caught my eye made me think of my time working as an EMT and working at Bethesda (the Naval Hospital).
    It didn’t take me long to realize that I (nor anyone else) has ever saved anyone’s life. Just merely extended it. Jesus (if you’re into that, or whatever other religion) is the only one who can “save” you.

  • thepolishhammer

    when I was a kid, my older brothers took me cliff jumping. I was so scared about jumping off a little 30 foot cliff into the nice soft water that I just stood there on the edge. Then my two older brothers gave me the best advice of my life. they said, you have to train your mind so that as soon as your brain tells you not to jump. you do it without thinking and just let it happen. I apply this with public speaking class. when the teacher askes who would like to go first, you muster up all your courage, jam your hand in the air and make yourself go through it. Am I scared? hell yea, do people know that, nope. To this day, I can walk up and break ice like its no ones business. when you see a nice chica walk by and the minute you tell yourself im nervous, or no I can’t jump. just pick ur feet up and go,

    try it. you got nothin to lose =)

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  • dave

    Let the women approach.Then you at least know that they are interested.

  • Emc2

    “Practice your fear. For 20 minutes a day, repeat the feared thought in your head (i.e. “I probably have cancer” or “The next girl I talk to will reject me”). Make the thought intense, vivid and full of doom.”

    I remember this was called systematic desensitization in my psychology textbook.

  • dave

    Still trying to understand, but if the women were to approach me, I would at least know that she was interested. Since fewer men are approaching women these days, is this not the best way to go?

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