Anxiety can make anything tricky, including dating. Especially when it comes to first dates, the process can seem more like a nerve-wracking interview rather than the potential discovery of your lifelong partner. Certain symptoms of anxiety, such as avoiding eye contact and being quiet, may also be misconstrued as signs of disinterest if the other person is unaware of your condition, which can be confusing and frustrating for both parties. If you’re currently in this situation, we’re sharing some tips for dating with anxiety that could help.
Anxiety and Dating
Anxiety disorders are the most common psychological disorders in the United States, affecting 18% of adults. Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is the third-most-common disorder, affecting 15 million men and women.1 Social anxiety is defined as the persistent fear of one or several situations in which the person is exposed to possible judgment or scrutiny from others and fears that he or she may be humiliating or embarrassing themselves.
Based on this definition, I’m sure you can imagine how difficult it can be to date with social anxiety. Even people who are just shy, and not necessarily socially anxious, may experience social situations in a more reserved, tense, and uncomfortable manner until they get to know others.
It’s also possible for people without anxiety disorders to experience anxiety every once in a while. The diagnosis, however, is applied to situations in which the person’s anxiety inhibits them from doing day-to-day tasks, like grocery shopping, going to work, and spending time with others.
Dating is a typical situation in which people feel nervous or anxious. Dating often exposes people to possible scrutiny, rejection, new people, and fear of embarrassment. For these reasons, dating tends to add fuel to the fire.
Rife with opportunities for awkward and embarrassing conversations and infinite “what-ifs,” dating can seem overwhelming, scary, and unappealing. As a result, dating anxiety can lead to avoidance of meeting new people, as well as isolation and hopelessness about finding a partner.
Tips for Dating With Anxiety
Dating with an anxiety disorder can be tough, and many people with this condition who are deserving of love and companionship are too paralyzed by fear to move forward. Oftentimes, these individuals end up struggling with loneliness and hopelessness. However, with the right kind of guidance, people with anxiety can get into the dating world without giving up on themselves.
With this in mind, here’s a guide on how to date when you have anxiety that could help you.
Practice Opening Up to Others
Anxious people are less likely to self-disclose or open up about themselves, mainly because social anxiety is rooted in the fear of embarrassment and ridicule. While some dating advice encourages pick-up lines or manipulative strategies to win over a date, real relationships are founded on honesty and genuine connections. A relationship should therefore be started on honest ground.
Self-disclosure is a doorway to intimacy. It allows you to grow closer to another person the more you reveal about yourself. While we’re not saying you have to give this person your entire diary to read, giving the other person a glimpse of who you are is important in building a relationship. This can be as simple as telling them a story about someone you care about or sharing your feelings about a recent event.
One of the main reasons why people with anxiety struggle with dating is fear of being judged. They don’t want to disclose too much about themselves because they’re afraid of embarrassing themselves or getting a negative evaluation from their date. This is the root of social anxiety, which is worsened in a dating setting.
However, the majority of the time, anxious daters’ ideas of what their dates are thinking are far from the truth. They highly overestimate how harshly the other person is judging them, if at all. Overthinking is a common aspect of anxiety, so it’s easy for people with anxiety to beat themselves up for hours or days after they make a comment that comes out the wrong way.
If you have anxiety and want to get back into the dating game, remind yourself that the other person is not judging you nearly as harshly as you’re judging yourself. Don’t put yourself under a microscope, and instead focus on the other person. When you find yourself sinking into a self-negative thought, ask them a question or focus on their features.
Be Confident in Yourself
Although easier said than done, by focusing on self-acceptance and self-worth, you’re less likely to feel intimidated to share your thoughts with others. When you’re confident in yourself, your opinions, and your likes and dislikes, the process of dating will seem less intimidating. When a person feels good about who they are, their values, and what they have to offer another person in a relationship, they practice compassion towards themselves and are more likely to enjoy the experience of dating.
Shut Down End-of-the-World Mentality
Another great way to minimize the fear of judgment from others while dating with anxiety is to shut down end-of-the-world thoughts. Anxiety can cause harsh and negative thoughts to take over, blowing the smallest things out of proportion. An effective coping strategy is to pinpoint and shut down these thoughts immediately.
Thoughts like it’s the end of the world if I’m rejected or if this date doesn’t go well, I’ll be alone forever, are common in anxiety, but it’s important to address them and bring out the truth. Just because this one date didn’t go well doesn’t mean you’re never going to find someone. Remind yourself that the anxiety is playing on your fear and exaggerating your thoughts.
Our specialists teach clients receiving mental health treatment at our Palm Beach rehab to practice mindfulness because it’s effective in shutting down anxiety that stems from thoughts about the past and future, as anxiety is largely based on past and future worries.
If you aren’t ruminating over that one embarrassing moment from 11th grade English class, then you’re freaking out about how your workweek will start next Monday. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is based on remaining in the present. Connecting to the “here-and-now” with acceptance leads to greater emotional awareness, which is beneficial when dating.
Emotional awareness is also a major aspect of emotional intelligence (EI), which is when a person can discern their own emotions and the emotions of others and adjust their behavior accordingly. A meta-data analysis showed a strong link between EI and relationship satisfaction. This means that couples with high EI tend to be happier in their relationships.
Help for Anxiety
Dating with social anxiety or any kind of mental illness can be challenging. However, the trick is to practice coping skills that encourage self-confidence and self-awareness. You are your worst critic, and by learning how to shut down negative self-talk and accept all the wonderful things about yourself, you’ll feel secure enough in your skin to take on the world of dating.
However, generalized anxiety disorder and other types of anxiety are legitimate mental health disorders that are best managed with professional care. Therefore, it’s okay to ask for help. Our rehab in Palm Beach, FL, offers anxiety treatment among a variety of other mental health services that can help you learn how to properly manage your anxiety symptoms.
BHOPB also provides substance abuse treatment, counseling, and even family services to promote wellness and recovery for both the individual and their loved ones. If you or someone you know can benefit from professional addiction or mental health care, call Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches today at 561-220-3981 to learn how to get started.
- National Library of Medicine – Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of 12-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication
- University of New England Psychology, Australia – Trait Emotional Intelligence and Romantic Relationship Satisfaction: A Meta-Analysis