As the dating scene gets trickier by the day, it’s no wonder that anxiety can swoop in like an unwelcome third wheel. Butterflies in your stomach, sweaty palms, and a racing heart – all because you’re about to go on a date. Sounds familiar? If yes, get ready to kick dating anxiety to the curb and embrace a thrilling journey to find your perfect match!
Wondering how? Well, we’ve got the ultimate guide to help you navigate the twists and turns of dating while keeping your mental well-being intact. With the help of Shambhavi Agrawal (MSc. in counseling psychology), who specializes in anxiety, work-life balance, depression, grief, and life transition issues, let’s give your love life a fresh beginning!
What Exactly Is Dating Anxiety?
According to a study, app-based online dating culture is directly linked to deteriorating mental health outcomes. More than 28% of users on these apps reported a dip in their self-esteem and extreme fear of dating owing to their bad experiences with online dating. But, what exactly happens when you experience this type of anxiety? Let’s find out.
The nerves, the butterflies, the overthinking – it’s enough to make you want to hide under a blanket fort and never leave. But here’s the thing: extreme anxiety about dating is like a monster under your bed that just won’t quit. It sneaks up on you, leaving you a bundle of nerves before a date. It can even make you bail on dates!
For instance, you’ve got a first date coming up, and suddenly your mind becomes a movie director, playing out a thousand different scenarios of how it could go. The anticipation, the uncertainty – it makes you a nervous wreck. From overthinking every move to constantly questioning how the other person feels about us, it’s a recipe for stress. And let’s not forget those bad first-date experiences that can turn us into skeptics, making us question if it’s all worth it. But fear not, my friend, because we’ve got your back. Get ready to learn 12 incredible ways to conquer dating anxiety and take back control of your love life!
Related Reading: How To Find The One? 13 Tried and Tested Tips
Is first-date anxiety normal?
First-date anxiety? Totally normal! We’ve all been there, feeling like a bundle of nerves ready to explode. A little bit of overthinking before a date is neither unusual nor abnormal. We all have those fleeting thoughts like:
- “What if they take one look at me and run for the hills?”
- “What if I say something so dumb that they sprint?”
- “I don’t know how not to be nervous on a first date”
- “What if I spill something and make a fool of myself on the very first dat?”
Feeling anxious about new relationships is very normal when you start dating. As long as these thoughts don’t take over or make you cancel a date because of anxiety, you’re all good. But for some folks who are afraid of dating, it’s like a full-on battle. They might even swear off dating altogether, even though deep down, they crave a loving long-term relationship. Here’s what a person with first-date anxiety goes through before meeting a potential partner:
- Becoming extremely nervous and restless
- Sweating profusely
- Being jittery and afraid of dating
- Not being able to make eye contact
- Can’t seem to strike a conversation with romantic partners
- Rapid breathing with a pounding heart
- Analyzing what might go wrong on the date
“As long as these thoughts don’t overpower you to the extent that you are unable to go through with your plans or stay in control of how you behave, it’s all right. If it comes down to a point where these apprehensive feelings wreck your romantic life and you experience anxiety about falling in love, perhaps it’s time you start paying attention to your mental health,” says Shambhavi.
How to calm first-date nerves?
Speaking of what can be done to manage the struggle of first-date nerves, a Reddit user says, “Think of it this way, you’re not going on a date. You’re going to whatever place with this new person with whom you share some similar interests. You want to see what else you have in common to start building a friendship. So, you have no pressure to act any particular way; just be how you are around your friends.” To help you further, here are a few quick-fix techniques to beat the stubborn anxiety about dating:
- Listen to some upbeat music or pamper yourself with a spa treatment before the date
- Perhaps shop a little something or pick a bunch of flowers for your date
- Don’t let the voices in your head take charge and convince you that this date is the worst decision of your life
- Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to impress this person
- Go with an open mind hoping to have some fun
- Prepare your cheatsheet of first-date questions to ask so you don’t run out of topics to talk about
- Breathe in, breathe out – try to focus on the present moment. You got this!
5 Signs Of Dating Anxiety
Have you ever thought “dating gives me anxiety” before or after meeting someone? Because you are not alone. The nature of dating these days, especially with dating apps, has made it a harrowing experience for some. So what sets anxiety about dating apart from a normal sense of nervousness? If it is normal to be nervous about dating, how do you tell when these feelings border on unhealthy? These 5 clear dating anxiety signs hold the answer:
1. You expect your date to be a disaster
“One of the unmistakable dating anxiety signs is that you go in expecting the worst. It’s like you’re stuck in a never-ending cycle of negative feelings, where you anticipate things going wrong and oddly feel validated when they do,” explains Shambhavi. If you’re certain of being rejected ahead of every first date, pay attention to your behavior patterns. This mindset can easily lead to self-sabotage and hamper any chance of a real long-term relationship. In such a situation, here are a few thoughts you may have:
- I’m scared to get close but I hate being alone
- I’m scared to go on a date for the first time
- I’m scared to get into a relationship again
- I don’t know how to overcome the fear of rejection in dating and thus feel anxious about going out
2. You ditch your dates often
If the mere thought of going on a date or meeting someone new sends you into a tailspin of panic, and you’ve come up with more excuses than you can count to cancel plans, it’s time to take a step back. Try to recollect if you’ve ever bailed on a date with the most random excuses. Or maybe you’ve even stood someone up because you couldn’t bring yourself to go through with it? These are telltale signs that anxiety about dating has got a grip on you.
3. You can’t be yourself
Now, we all want to make a good impression on a first date but when anxiety is in control, you struggle to be your authentic self. Negative thoughts and low self-esteem dating experiences hold you back from showing the real you to your potential partner. Here are a few online dating anxiety symptoms in such a scenario:
- Your profile has a few questionable things on it (for most, it’s the 6-feet-tall they put up on their dating apps)
- You try too hard to come up with the best pick-up lines to impress someone on a dating app
- You upload heavily edited photographs of yourself
4. You overanalyze everything
When dating with anxiety, even the smallest details become subjects of intense scrutiny. It’s like your brain is on an overdrive of analyzing every single interaction. Here are a few things to notice:
- The way you sit, the movement of your hands, the response and body language of your date – every little thing gets dissected and overthought
- You start drawing conclusions from the most insignificant occurrences
- If your date asks you to repeat something you said, your anxiety might convince you that they’re not interested
Related Reading: The 13 Types Of Crushes You Have Had (Or Will Have) At Least Once!
5. You struggle with post-date anxiety
“Will there be a second date?” “Will they follow their promises?” “Dating gives me anxiety! Did they like me at all?” This is post-date anxiety, where you’re constantly troubled by what could go wrong. Even the tiniest delay or perceived lack of interest from your date can send you spiraling. Sometimes, to protect yourself from potential rejection, you might even take a step back and ghost them, leaving them wondering about the effects of dating someone with anxiety.
12 Ways To Cope With Dating Anxiety
“Dating anxiety can prove to be a real obstacle in your pursuit of finding a partner. When the entire experience of meeting someone new is tainted by fear and worry, the prospect of enjoying such encounters is slim. If left unattended, the anxiety about whether you’re falling in love too fast, starting a new relationship, or even dating casually can begin to interfere with your vision for the future,” says Shambhavi.
Besides, it can significantly dent your personality, your mental well-being, and your social life. This can leave you wondering if it is possible to get over anxiety when dating someone new. Well, even if you cannot free yourself from it completely, it is possible to manage it effectively so that it doesn’t interfere with your ability to lead the life you desire. These 12 ways to cope with dating when you have anxiety will help you embark on a path of transformation:
1. Beat dating anxiety with optimism
“Relationship anxiety, in general, is based on very unreasonable beliefs. Beliefs that have been drilled into our minds but are not backed by any facts. When you try to question your fear and reframe those fears in more affirmative sentences, you can begin making sure that you’re never dating with anxiety again,” says Shambhavi. You can tell yourself things like:
- “This date will go well”
- “Even if the date doesn’t go so well, I will be all right”
- “I will give my best and that is all that I can do”
- “I’ll have a nice time with my date and enjoy it thoroughly”
2. Shift your focus on them (with an appreciative mindset)
“At the end of the day, when you have a more accepting and appreciative attitude toward the people you meet, you’re more likely to believe they feel the same way about you. Try to reduce your people-pleasing attitude and focus on your date instead,” Shambhavi tells us. In doing so, don’t focus on their flaws or the things they may dislike about you, instead be attentive to the things you like about them.
3. Channelize your curiosity
Wondering how to get over dating anxiety and how to stop being nervous on dates? Channelize your curiosity to learn about your date’s life, experiences, beliefs, and values. Bring up some nice first-date topics to make the conversation flow. Once you see them for who they are, they may not seem so intimidating after all.
4. Speak to a close friend or someone you trust
If you haven’t met your date yet and are having trouble dealing with feelings of anxiety, talking to a friend or someone you trust can help. Shambhavi says, “Being vocal about your anxiety is very helpful. Talk to people you already know and trust. Pouring your heart out to someone who is going to motivate you and keep you at your best can significantly help reduce your dating anxiety symptoms.”
Related Reading: 8 Rules Of Texting While Dating
5. Plan ahead to curb your fear of dating
When those feelings of anxiety begin to build up, small little uncertainties like these can bother you:
- What will the ambience be like?
- What’s the right outfit for the place your date has picked?
- What is the parking situation?
- How expensive will it be?
But when you’re involved in planning the date, you already know the answers to these questions and you can pick out a place that is right in your comfort zone. So, the next time, instead of bailing, try to come up with some cute date ideas. If you feel nervous about dating and going to an unfamiliar neighborhood, suggest meeting somewhere nearby. If formal settings make you uneasy, pick a café with a casual, laid-back vibe.
Quick tip: When you’re meeting new people for the first time or want to start dating again, make sure you maintain a healthy lifestyle and get enough sleep. This can really help anxious people plan ahead and get rid of negative thoughts.
6. Keep things light and upbeat
Want to know how to calm down before a date, how not to be nervous on a first date, or get over dating insecurity? Traumatized by dating apps or struggling with low self-esteem dating? Here’s a solution: keep the conversation light and upbeat. Avoid broaching tricky topics that can bring on dramatic responses, trigger traumatic memories, and make the whole vibe heavy with a sense of negativity. The light and breezy vibe can help calm your nerves and put you at ease if you are too anxious to date or you’re dealing with dating social anxiety.
7. Talk yourself up
Low self-esteem, which is a prime dating anxiety cause, can lead to people viewing themselves in poor light. You may feel anxious about going on dates because you can’t think of anything that makes you desirable or attractive to the other person. However, everyone has their share of good qualities, assets, and strong suits. So explore what makes you unique. Project this positive side to yourself on dates.
And when you’re in a safe space, ask yourself the following questions:
- Why do I avoid relationships?
- Why does dating make me anxious?
- Why do I have meeting anxiety and feel an intense fear of rejection which makes me want to stop dating?
8. Establish a rapport before going on dates
Whether you’ve connected through a dating app or are being set up by mutual friends, start by texting and then graduate to speaking on the phone. Take the step of going on a real date only when you feel like you know and understand each other somewhat. At least, then there won’t be many elements of surprise coming your way to trigger your anxiety.
9. Practice relaxation techniques
If you experience anxiety about dating, chances are that anxious feelings impact other aspects of your life as well. As such, practicing these relaxation techniques can help you cope with overwhelming feelings:
- Deep breathing and meditation for healing
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Guided imagery
Ideally, you should make these a part of your lifestyle to cope with anxiety more efficiently. These techniques can also be particularly helpful in calming yourself whenever you feel overwhelmed to a point that you want to cancel a date because of anxiety.
10. Come clean about your anxiety
“I’m so nervous before meeting someone new, how can I overcome approach anxiety?” Being vocal about this inner strife can help you navigate social anxiety and relationships better. Once you have established a certain comfort level with your date or a potential partner, confide in them and let them know that you struggle with anxiety about falling in love or the dating scene. This will help them understand your reactions and behavior better. Try this if you are too anxious to date or you’re dealing with dating social anxiety.
Related Reading: 18 Early Dating Signs He Likes You
11. Cut yourself some slack
If despite doing your best, a first date after meeting online doesn’t go as planned, don’t beat yourself up about it. Pat yourself on the back for being courageous enough to step out to meet someone new. See what you can take away from this less-than-desirable experience and use it to work on yourself.
12. Seek professional help
Wondering how to get over dating anxiety and how to stop being nervous on dates? “Understanding why you’re thinking the way you are and figuring out how to tackle it is almost vital. The best way to do that is through counseling. A professional counselor can help you understand your patterns and triggers and tell you how to challenge them,” says Shambhavi. If you’re looking for help, our skilled and experienced counselors on Bonobology’s panel are always here for you.
- Anxiety when dating someone new is a common form of social anxiety which makes people extremely nervous before meeting a potential partner
- Dating anxiety causes include past trauma, toxic past relationships, low self-esteem, the fear of scrutiny by other people, and insecurities about your financial status or appearance
- You may tend to cancel a date because of anxiety, feel jitters, and expect the worst-case scenarios
- One way to deal with anxiety falling in love is to shift your focus on your date from yourself, listen to them, ask questions, and take an interest in their life
- Instead of trying to impress them on the very first date, keep the conversations light, practice some relaxation techniques and try to enjoy their company
Battling anxiety and love dilemmas while dating can be a lonely road sometimes. But guess what? You have the power to turn things around and take control of your anxious feelings. It all starts with a little self-awareness and the determination to break free from those old patterns. Take a deep breath, remind yourself of your worth, and embrace the excitement of meeting new people. Remember, you are deserving of love, and it’s right out there waiting for you. Keep going, my friend, and watch as the magic unfolds!
This article has been updated in July 2023.
Dating can give you anxiety because it involves fleeting encounters, the fear of rejection, and feeling like you’re constantly being judged by potential partners.
If the dating scene feels too intimidating and you’re scared of meeting new people for the first time, practice positive affirmations for love and relationships. This will remove negative thoughts and make you feel comfortable in front of a new person. Take the first step to practice these positive affirmations early in the morning and watch how your love life transforms. Apart from this, practice a healthy lifestyle by getting enough sleep and learn how to enjoy the present moment. Learning different coping techniques to rein in your feelings of anxiety can make your dating scene easier. Seeking the help of a counselor can also help you get to the bottom of what’s causing your anxiety.
Yes, it’s completely normal to feel anxious about new relationships due to the uncertainty about the other person’s feelings and the future of the relationship. Remember, many people experience these nerves at the start of a new romance.
If you want to calm your anxiety quickly, try practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, muscle relaxation exercises, journaling, or guided imagery. These techniques can help you find a sense of calm and ease in moments of anxiety.