12 Ways To Cope With Dating Anxiety

Dating Anxiety

As finding love becomes more and more complicated, the likelihood of people finding themselves in the throes of dating anxiety is also growing. While the prospect of dating can bring on feelings of 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 stop dating anxiety.

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 new lease on life.

What Exactly Is Dating Anxiety?

Statistics suggest that 18% 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% of users on these apps reported a dip in their self-esteem and extreme dating anxiety owing to their bad experiences with online dating. The fleeting nature of romantic encounters, fear, and pain of rejection, and a constant sense of being scrutinized by potential partners are some of the underlying triggers of this form of social 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, extreme dating anxiety occurs when these feelings are heightened 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, distance yourselves, 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.

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. The anxiety can become so overwhelming that it starts affecting the way you behave on dates.

For instance, sweating profusely, being jittery, not being able 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. Dating when you have anxiety is no joke. The fear can become so crippling that some people swear off dating altogether, even when they want to be in a relationship.

Dating With Anxiety: What Causes It?

Unfortunately, it is hard to pin down a single dating anxiety cause. 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. Shambhavi elaborates on a few possible reasons why you end up telling your best friend, “Dating gives me anxiety, I can’t ever have a nice first date.”

“Why dating anxiety happens can be based on a lot of situations. A viable explanation could be if you’ve had bad experiences with dating in the past. Perhaps a few dates went extremely bad, or you’ve heard one-too-many stories about a date gone wrong.

“If you have experienced things like gaslighting, or maybe your past relationship was a toxic one, you’re bound to be anxious when thoughts of starting up a new relationship arise. A lot of times, it can also be hereditary. If you already struggle with anxiety, where the prospect of anything new makes you anxious, you’re definitely going to struggle with starting something new with another person,” she says.

Early dating anxiety can often be overlooked by so many of us. It’s normal to feel a little worried about what this new person is going to think of you, so a few sweaty palms and nervous thoughts probably won’t have you worried about a diagnosis of anxiety.

But when every date suddenly looks harder than having to climb Everest, you’re going to avoid the whole dating game altogether. And once your friends (read: loneliness) finally push you enough to give it another go, all you’re thinking about is wanting to cancel. So, how can you tell what it looks like? What exactly do the dating anxiety symptoms look like? Is what you’re experiencing a part of a bigger problem or something you can shrug off? Let’s find out.

dating with anxiety and depression
Feeling anxious before a date

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 dating apps, has made it a worrisome and harrowing experience for some. 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 border on unhealthy? These 5 clear dating anxiety signs hold the answer:

Related Reading: What Men Notice About Women On Their First Date

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. Clayton often experienced a lot of anxiety when it came to dating.

He supposed it was because of his low self-esteem that has transpired because of his last breakup. Getting back into the dating game was awfully challenging for him. So every time he planned to go out with someone, he would get chills on the way to the bar or the cafe because he already went in thinking that his night would be a complete disaster.

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. Dating when you have anxiety might lead you to simply not dating at all.

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, don’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.

If you’re struggling with online dating anxiety, your profile might have a few questionable things on it (for most, it’s the 6-feet-tall they put up on their dating apps). You might be trying too hard to impress someone on a dating app, or might just be uploading heavily touched-up photographs of you. 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.

For example, Clayton is usually a charming guy when he is around his friends. He cracks all the right jokes at the right time, knows how to treat women well, and is plain kind to those around him. If you ask us, he is a package! But because of his anxiety on dates, he often fumbles with his words, loses track of his thoughts, and goes into a spiral of overthinking.

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 – dating anxiety makes you overanalyze every little detail. And you often end up drawing conclusions from the most inconsequential things. Yup, dating when you have anxiety makes you scrutinize the smallest 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 you intently, you begin to wonder if there is something wrong with your attire.

Related Reading: 15 Unwritten Rules Of Dating We All Should Follow

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 as they promised. This is a case of extreme dating anxiety where even if things are going well, one seems to be troubled by what could go wrong.

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.

Even after the date, Clayton finds it extremely difficult to text his date, wondering if they are going to meet up again. He gets so nervous that he avoids conversation completely and his fear of rejection completely overcomes him. Because he is so scared to love again, he is unable to put his best foot forward.

Has reading all the signs of dating anxiety got you drawing parallels to your life? Are you worried you’re never going to be able to woo your date? Don’t worry, it’s all quite fixable with the right steps. Let’s take a look at how to calm dating anxiety and everything you can do to make sure you never back out of a date again.

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 falling in love, starting a new relationship, or even dating casually can begin to interfere with your vision for the future.

couple on date
Anxiety about falling in love

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 when you have 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 things 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. “Anxiety, in general, is based on very unreasonable beliefs. Beliefs that have been drilled into our minds but are not backed by any facts. They’re created in bubbles and those bubbles can fly away if we try to challenge them.

“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. You can tell yourself things like “This date will go well”, or “If the date doesn’t go well, I will be all right. I will give my best and that is all that I can do”,” says Shambhavi.

To stop dating anxiety will take some serious effort but with practice and perseverance, you can start paying attention to the positive rather than the negative. Stop worrying about how you will be judged or perceived. Have faith in yourself because you know you have done this before. Just focus on your date and getting to know them well. 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. While you’re at it, ask some good first date questions too.

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. Immerse yourself in the situation, the process, and the person instead of tugging on your shirt or worrying about how your hair looks that day or if there are crumbs of apple pie on your shirt.

“The more you accept others, the more you’re going to feel that others are accepting of you. 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 that they feel the same way about you. The ‘need’ to be accepted can hence be substantially reduced. Try to reduce your people-pleasing attitude, and focus on your date instead,” Shambhavi tells us.

Instead of texting your best friend things like, “Dating gives me anxiety, I’d much rather just stay at home”, try to distract yourself by talking about your date with your best friend. Talk about what they’re like, the things they’re into. Plus, the analysis your friends are going to give you will make you believe there probably isn’t much to worry about here.  

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, you might as well make the most of your time together. Channelize your curiosity to learn about their 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.

How to calm dating anxiety doesn’t really have to be too complex. It can be as straightforward as humanizing the person in front of you, the person you made a near-perfect image of in your mind. When you get to know that they feel anxious from time to time as well, you’re going to feel a lot better.

get over dating anxiety
Focus on your date and try to know them well

4. Anxiety about dating is universal

Be it online dating anxiety or a case of the jitters before stepping into the restaurant, everyone – no matter how confident or together they appear to be – feels nervous and anxious. Dealing with dating anxiety is not something that is unique to you but something that people often experience in their encounters. 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 even if you’re looking for casual dating. 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.

And if you haven’t met your date yet but can’t deal with the feelings of anxiety, Shambhavi tells us that talking to a friend or someone you trust can help. “Being vocal about your anxiety is very helpful. Talk to people you already know and trust. When you know that this person is going to motivate you and keep you at your best, it can significantly help reduce your dating anxiety symptoms,” she says.

5. Be involved in planning to curb dating anxiety

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. This one could really help to stop dating anxiety. To stop being so afraid, one needs to view dating in a positive light and make it something one looks forward to. And you can do that if you are in control!

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. Bring up some nice first date ideas, and you’ve already established what you’re doing.

So sort those things out beforehand so that they are not on your mind when you are actually on the date. You know the drill here, you made the rules and picked the place. This is also important as it will set a good example in front of your date because they will know you are interested and looking forward to meeting them. 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 to 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. Deep explorations are best left for when you have achieved a certain comfort level.

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 uneasy, suggest going to a café for a first date, with a casual, laid back vibe.

Shambhavi suggests that being open to new ideas can help. “The way to be open to new experiences is by telling yourself something like “Even if this date doesn’t turn out to be the absolute best, there’s nothing wrong with that”. At the end of the day, it can always be a learning experience. Try not to let early dating anxiety put you in a box of the same-old dating spots, have new experiences,” she adds.

Related Reading: 12 Best First Date Tips For Girls

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.

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.

It is nice to have some comfort established beforehand so you might have an idea of what you should be expecting on the actual date. Take the next step of going on a real date only when you feel like you know and understand each other somewhat.

anxiety falling in love
Establish a rapport with the person before meeting them

9. Practice relaxation techniques

If you experience dating anxiety, chances are that anxious feelings impact other aspects of your life as well. As such, practicing 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 helpful in calming yourself whenever you feel overwhelmed to a point that you want to cancel a date because of anxiety.

Related Reading: Negging – How To Spot It In Dating And Get Away

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.

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 to work on yourself.

12. Seek professional help

“Understanding where the fear is coming from can definitely help. The famous quote from John Green, “We accept the love we think we deserve”, tells us all we need to know about dating with anxiety. The most plausible reason can be low self-esteem, which leads you to think that you’re not deserving of love, hence accepting the love you think you deserve.

“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.

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.

FAQs

1. Why does dating give me anxiety?

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.

2. How do you date when you have anxiety?

Learning different coping techniques to rein in your feelings of anxiety can help you continue to date. Seeking the help of a counselor for your struggles with anxiety can also help you get to the bottom of what’s causing it in the first place.

3. Is anxiety normal in a new relationship?

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. 

4. How can I calm my anxiety fast? 

Practicing 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.

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