As finding love becomes more and more complicated, the likelihood of people finding themselves in the throes of dating anxiety is also growing. Statistics suggest that 18 per cent of the adult population in the US today suffers from anxiety disorders. As per the findings of another study, app-based dating culture is directly linked to deteriorating mental health outcomes.
More than 28 per cent of users on these apps reported a dip in their self-esteem owing to their experiences with online dating. The fleeting nature of romantic encounters, fear and pain of rejection, a constant sense of being scrutinized by potential partners are some of the underlying triggers of this form of social anxiety.
While the prospect of dating can bring on feelings on anxiety in anyone, the likelihood is a lot higher in people who already struggle with anxiety disorders. Does that mean having to choose between your mental well-being and the prospect of finding a partner? Not necessarily.
With the right techniques and guidance, you can learn to manage these anxious feelings effectively and give your love life a new lease on life.
What Exactly Is Dating Anxiety?
It is natural to feel somewhat anxious before a date. You know that feeling of butterflies in your stomach. You find yourself playing out elaborate scenarios about how the date may pan out, which further fans your nervousness. However, dating anxiety is when these feelings magnify manifold, leaving you unreasonably unsettled by the prospect of meeting someone new.
So much so that you start thinking of reasons and excuses to bail out at the last minute and may even cancel a date because of anxiety. This sense of anxiety is especially pronounced ahead of a first date. But it can last throughout the initial phase of a relationship when everything is new and uncertain.
Related Reading: What Men Notice About Women On Their First Date
This uncertainty about how the other person feels about you and their expectations from the relationship can become unbearable for someone who struggles with dating anxiety. Unfortunately, it is hard to pin down a single dating anxiety cause. As these feelings of anxiousness can be triggered by a host of reasons. These include dating with anxiety and depression, low self-esteem, fear of judgment or rejection.
The anxiety can become so overwhelming that it starts affecting the way you behave on dates. For instance, sweating profusely, being jittery, not being to make eye contact or strike a conversation. When a date doesn’t go as expected and leads to yet another rejection, the anxiety only builds up further.
The fear can become so crippling that some people swear off dating altogether even when they want to be in a relationship.
5 Signs Of Dating Anxiety
So what sets dating anxiety apart from a normal sense of nervousness? If it is normal to be nervous and anxious ahead of a date, how do you tell when these feelings borders 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. The pent up negative feelings leave you trapped in a vicious cycle where you expect things to go awry. Then, feel a strange sense of validation when that comes to pass.
If you’re certain of being rejected ahead of every first date, pay attention to your behavior patterns. This conviction that things may not work out can cause you to self-sabotage any relationship prospects.
2. You ditch your dates often
The prospect of going on dates or meeting someone new can be so crippling for a person with anxiety that they end up bailing out more often than not. Have you come up with the most random excuses to cancel dates? Or bailed out in the middle of a date with or without giving a reason? Have you stood up a date because you could neither go through with nor cancel?
If you’ve answered these questions in the affirmative, there is little doubt that you have dating anxiety.
3. You can’t be yourself
All the negative thoughts whirling in your head, coupled with low self-esteem, doesn’t allow you to show your true self to the other person. While it is natural to be on your best behavior on a first date – or even the first few – you find yourself trying too hard to be someone you’re not.
It’s a classic case of dating anxiety getting in the way of you being able to make a connection with a potential romantic partner.
Related Reading: 15 Unwritten Rules Of Dating We All Should Follow
4. You overanalyze everything
From the way you are sitting to how your hands are moving, the way the other person responds to your words, their body language, their reactions – you overanalyze every little detail during a date. And often draw conclusions from the most inconsequential things.
For instance, if you say something and your date doesn’t quite get it and asks you to repeat yourself, it can lead to thinking that they’re not interested.
If they’re looking at your intently, you begin to wonder if there is something wrong with your attire.
5. You struggle with post-date anxiety
In the rare event that you not only show up for a date but it also goes smoothly, you still cannot shake off post-date anxiety. You find yourself fretting over whether there will be a second date. Or whether the other person will call like they promised.
Even the slightest delay from their end is enough to convince you that they’re not interested. Often to save yourself yet another rejection, you may even take a step back and abandon the idea of ever seeing them again.
11 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 falling in love, starting a new relationship or even dating casually can begin to interfere with your vision for the future.
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 dating anxiety. 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 a life you desire.
These 11 ways to cope with dating anxiety will help you embark on a path of transformation:
1. Beat dating anxiety with optimism
The first step toward countering your tendency to be gripped by crippling anxiety ahead of a date is to fill your mind space with positive, optimistic thoughts. Don’t go in thinking the worst or sure of the fact this is going to be yet another disastrous date.
At the same time, it is important to stop overanalyzing thing and drawing negative conclusions. In short, you have to make a conscious effort to not let your thoughts, beliefs and assumptions cast their shadow on how the interaction will pan out.
It will take some serious effort but will practice and perseverance you can start paying attention to the positive rather than the negative. This will, in turn, help you relax and enjoy your date’s company.
2. Shift your focus on them
One way to get out of your head and get over dating anxiety is to focus on your date instead of yourself. Rather than fretting over how you look, what they think of you or are you saying the right things, pay attention to what your date has to say. Focus on their words, body language, eye contact, touch, smile.
You will realize that the other person can become a welcome distraction that can make you forget all about your perceived flaws and shortcomings, albeit momentarily.
Related Reading: 8 Rules Of Texting While Dating
3. Channelize your curiosity
Everyone we cross paths with has a unique perspective to offer on things big and small. These perspectives are a reflection of the person they are. As they say, appearances can be deceptive. You may find yourself intimidated by their good looks or charming nature. But deep down they may be the most soft-hearted, kind person with their share of fears and vulnerabilities.
So, now that you’re sitting across from them might as well make the most of your time together. Channelize your curiosity to learn about their life, experiences, beliefs and values.
Once you see them for who they are, they may not seem so intimidating after all.
4. Anxiety about dating is universal
Everyone – no matter how confident or together they appear to be – feels nervous and anxious at the prospect of meeting someone new. Even more so, when they know that this meeting can lead to a potential romantic partnership and they may be under the scanner.
Yes, as someone who struggles with dating anxiety, your feelings are likely to be a lot more pronounced. The idea is not to discredit the way you feel. But being mindful of the fact that the person is going through something similar can help you calm down.
You may find yourself enjoying their company.
Related Reading: 12 Best First Date Tips For Girls
5. Be involved in date planning
Yes, we know this may sound like a bit of a reach. Here you are struggling to bring yourself to go out on a date and we’re telling you to be more proactive in planning it. But hear us out.
When those feelings of anxiety begin build-up, small little uncertainties like 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 can leave you overwhelmed.
You can negate that by becoming involved in making plans for your date. If you feel nervous about going to an unfamiliar neighborhood, suggest meeting somewhere nearby. If formal settings make you unease, suggest going to a café with a casual, laidback vibe.
That way you’ll not be tempted to cancel a date because of anxiety.
6. Keep things light and upbeat
One smart way to get over dating anxiety – or at least rein it in – is to 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. These outcomes will only add your feelings of anxiety.
Besides, the getting-to-know each other phase is not the time for this. The goal for the first few dates should be to have fun together and enjoy each other’s company.
These deep explorations are best left for when you have achieved a certain comfort level.
7. Talk yourself up
Low self-esteem, which is a prime dating anxiety cause, can lead to people viewing themselves in poor light. It is quite possible that you feel anxious about going out 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. One way to mitigate your feelings of anxiety is to explore what makes you unique. Project this positive side to yourself on dates rather than trying to cover up what you perceive as your drawbacks.
Related Reading: Negging – How To Spot It In Dating And Get Away
8. Establish a rapport before going on dates
Meeting a stranger can be especially stressful for someone with dating anxiety. A great way to counter that is to establish a rapport with the person before meeting them. 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 next step of going on a real date only when you feel like you know and understand each other somewhat.
9. Practice relaxation techniques
If you experience dating anxiety, chances are that anxious feelings impact other aspects of your life as well. As such, practising relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, journaling and guided imagery can be extremely beneficial in helping you cope with these overwhelming feelings.
Ideally, you should make these a part of your lifestyle to cope with anxiety more efficiently. These techniques can also be particularly helping 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
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 dating. This will help them understand your reactions and behavior better.
Even if, you are not yourself on a date or end up saying or doing something that may come across as a red flag, they’d be able to appreciate the fact that it is the anxiety and not you.
Related Reading: Single vs. Dating – How life changes
11. Cut yourself some slack
If despite doing your best, a date doesn’t go as planned, don’t beat yourself up about it. Or let it dent your resolve to put yourself out there. When dealing with issues surrounding mental health, some setbacks are to be expected in your path to progress.
Take every experience as a lesson. Pat yourself on the back for being courageous enough to step out to meet someone new. See what you can take away from a less-than-desirable experience and use it further work on yourself.
Dating with anxiety and depression is no walk in the park. Sometimes, you may find yourself alone in your struggles. With no one to understand how to feel or steer your efforts in the right direction. In such situations, going into therapy can be a life-altering experience. The right kind of help and guidance is only a click away.
The fleeting nature of romantic encounters, fear and pain of rejection, a constant sense of being scrutinized by potential partners are some of the underlying triggers behind dating anxiety.
Learning different coping techniques to rein in your feelings of anxiety can help you continue to date.
Yes, the uncertainty about the other person’s feelings for you and the future of a relationship can cause some level of nervousness and anxiety in almost everyone.
Practising mindfulness and relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, journaling and guided imagery can be extremely beneficial in helping you calm anxiety.