Social anxiety and dating can seem like a tough combination. Your relationships can be affected if you have social anxiety, much as you may not accept it. But it’s not like you cannot gain control of the situation and meet new people, date and form intimate relationships – you just need to know how to start and we will help you with the same.
Picture this – on a bright Saturday afternoon, you are at the café, watching your date ride in on his motorcycle. This good-looking man is your date and while he approaches you, you feel sweat trickle down your back, your mouth is dry and you are awkwardly palpitating hands going in for a handshake while he goes for a hug.
Most people would blame your handsome date for making you nervous. But you know it’s your social anxiety kicking in like a MDMA pill at an Ibiza beach party.
Social anxiety makes almost all social interactions troublesome for you. Dating can seem like a daunting experience for someone with social anxiety. Why? Those suffering from social anxiety feel large gatherings are the sin of the Earth. Social anxiety and dating seem like two mutually exclusive sets for some people.
What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety is a mental illness caused by internal feelings of inadequacy and rejection and the fear of being judged negatively by people around you. People with social anxiety often have a high sense of self-consciousness and get embarrassed easily. The fear is considered irrational by some, but for the people dealing with social anxiety, it is a solid reason to hold back from much or any social interaction.
Often, people with social anxiety shy away from dating no matter how much they want to go out and meet new people. Their fear keeps them constantly in a state of worry and stress, making dating a sort of phobia.
Related reading: How to date a girl Out Of Your League
Social anxiety and dating
As one suffering from social anxiety, let me tell you dating gives me the heebie-jeebies. The prospect of having to hold a conversation with someone is enough to turn me into a bundle of nerves and to break out in a cold sweat. I clearly have the fear of dating.
It was only last week, I met Victor. He is a charming Spanish gentleman, great with conversations, a voracious reader and above all, funny. So naturally, when I was asked out for coffee, I was elated. As the day approached, I started building up excuses in my head to cancel it. Dreadful of me,
I know. It was drizzling that evening and I made it into my excuse to get out of it.
Yet another dating opportunity missed.
People suffering from social anxiety will nod along to this. Dating and social anxiety do not go well. I mean who wants sweaty hands and nervous laughter? The prospect of a first date might be pleasant, but for people with social anxiety the prospect is nothing less than a horror show. The idea itself is enough to bring forth your inner insecurities, inadequacies and copious amount of fears you did not know even existed.
Related reading: 20 Brilliant Tips for Dating A Shy Guy
Social anxiety, according to Social Anxiety Association, is the third largest mental health care problem in the world. But that doesn’t mean you cannot have a fulfilling love life. Meeting new people or being at social gatherings could be daunting for you considering any social interaction is enough to force you to climb out through the bathroom window or feel the nervous rash spreading underneath your clothes.
It must be hard to get into a relationship, or just to date, when you have social anxiety.
But slow down your thoughts for now. We have a few tips that might help.
8 tips to date when you have social anxiety
Suffering from social anxiety and dating is on your mind? Well, dating when you have social anxiety challenges you to work harder than most. Mental preparation is a necessity.
Here’s how you date when you have social anxiety.
1. You have to be brave
Cutting down on social activity only strengthens your anxiety in social gatherings. You have to be brave. It’s like telling yourself: “This could be bad, but this could also be good.” A little mantra goes a long way. Every time you feel like you want to ditch a party, or leave your date, even though you are having a good conversation, buckle yourself up to be brave and chant the mantra to yourself.
2. Prep yourself mentally
There’s the constant anxiety that you will run out of conversation topic while on your date? Read up on current affairs and things your date likes and try to incorporate those in your conversation. You can say things like, “I do like Vir Das. His Insta page is hilarious” or “You like Harry Potter? Cool, I have once written a paper on him”.
Social media is pretty handy when you want to get to know a person without them finding out. Do a little stalking before going on the date. And you should be thorough about it.
3. Kick off the adrenaline
Exercising before the big date will calm your mind and body, reducing the symptoms of anxiety. It also relaxes the mood by releasing endorphins. Endorphins are happy pills released into your body that can improve your mood drastically.
So, a little exercise, yoga, or going running before the big date can be useful.
Related reading: Effective tips from an introvert on how to date an introvert
4. Use a friend
Take your friend with you when you are on a date. They don’t have to actually sit with you at the table with your friend. Just having a close friend nearby can do a lot to boost your self-confidence. Friends can also help you get away from a bad date, should that happen.
5. When things get anxious, open up
If you start feeling anxious in the middle of the date, don’t be shy about it. Your date might not even know of your anxiety, so it’s alright if you let them know. Feelings of shame and rejection will hit you like tide waves hitting the shore and that’s common. If you say it out loud, you take away half of its power. It lets you just “go there” where you tell your date, “Hey, I am sorry but I am getting a little anxious right now”.
If your date is an empathetic person, they will appreciate your honesty. They might even go into the history of your social anxiety and get to know you better.
6. Do not keep an exit strategy
Ready to fake an emergency to get out of a date? Or have your friend call you with one so you can bolt out of the door the moment you get anxious? Keeping an exit strategy ready is fine and all, but remember, you are letting your anxiety win by pre-planning your exit. Your anxiety already knows it has a stronger hold on you; by already thinking of an exit plan, you are emboldening it. Instead, don’t have your friend call you with an emergency.
Learn to push yourself beyond the comfort zone and see how you can manage. It’s going to be tough, but remember the first tip: you have to be brave.
Related reading: How I fought my depression and won
7. Do not overindulge in alcohol
Drinking alcohol soothes the nerves but over drinking might throttle back at you. Shilpa Agarwal, author of The 10-Day Total Body Transformation: A Doctor’s Guide To Getting Leaner, Cleaner, and Happier in Just 10 Days, advises those with social anxiety to practice moderation with any substance that might alter their mood.
So, if you are meeting your date in a pub, binge on the food more than the alcohol.
8. Choose a comfortable meeting place
Are you calmed by the sound of the waves? A beach shack seems like a better place for a date than a pub? Then let your date know about it. You can also stay back, cook together and have a date night at your place.
A comfortable environment will ensure you get out of your own head, and focus on the present.
9. Make use of dating apps
Use Tinder, Hinge, Bumble and any other dating apps at your disposal. Talking over a social app before meeting a person really helps to dissipate your fears. There will be some common interests which can be conversation boosters on a face-to-face date.
Related reading: How to start conversations on dates and on dating apps
10. Give yourself credit for going out there
After a date, no matter how it turns out, pat yourself on the back. You have survived yet another day. Another baby step taken to being out there. Practice self-compassion. It is more productive on the mind than self-critiquing your every move.
We all know social anxiety is hard to deal with but we also know that there are plenty of people out there who are dating despite having social anxiety. Social anxiety and dating are not two exclusive terms. Follow our tips and step into the world of dating with confidence.