Dating isn’t easy for anyone, but dating with anxiety comes with its own unique set of challenges that can be really tricky to deal with. The good news is that if you do have anxiety, you’re not alone. Here’s why dating with anxiety is more difficult than dating without it, and how to navigate it like a boss.
How dating with anxiety is more challenging
- Anxiety stops you from being vulnerable. Dating with anxiety is hard because anxiety can stop you from putting yourself out there. Vulnerability is hard enough for the average person and can feel impossible when you are used to putting up walls to protect yourself. But being vulnerable is one of the keys to building a bond with someone. So if you can’t open up and let your guard down, it’s difficult to grow closer to someone—a problem that many people with anxiety deal with.
- It can stop you from knowing how you really feel about that person. Anxiety can make it feel like there are a thousand thoughts running through your brain every minute. While it’s important to trust your gut while dating, sometimes it’s difficult to know what’s really coming from your gut, and what’s just anxiety. For example, you might really like someone, but your anxiety can make you feel uncomfortable around them. When this happens, it’s difficult to know whether there are really red flags, or whether your anxiety is just messing with you.
- It stops you from going on certain dates. Depending on your level of anxiety and how it manifests, it might also stop you from going on certain dates. For example, if crowds are a trigger for you, you might avoid dates in busy areas. This can make dating even tougher than it already is. On top of not being able to enjoy otherwise fun activities, you feel like you’re annoying the other person by being so rigid.
- It can be interpreted as dislike or disrespect. Classic anxious behaviors include canceling dates at the last minute, being late, or even failing to reply to messages in a timely manner. But these things can all be interpreted as dislike or even disrespect. Anxiety is so often misunderstood, and it causes a barrier between the person with anxiety and the person they date.
- Anxiety stops you from enjoying your dates. How can you possibly have fun when your mind is going a mile a minute? You might have such strong symptoms of anxiety during the date, including symptoms of panic, that it’s impossible to actually relax and be present in the moment. After all, dating is supposed to be fun. When you have anxiety, it rarely is.
- You take things more personally. The dating scene is brutal at the best of times. Nearly everyone who dates will deal with rejection, which can cause a blow to their self-esteem. But things like rejection and criticism can be even harder to swallow when you have anxiety. You might take things more personally and take a longer time to bounce back from setbacks.
- Dates can lead to panic attacks. Generalized anxiety is not the same thing as panic disorder. But if you have a particular fear of dating or your anxiety is severe, you may experience panic attacks either during your dates or when you think about them. Panic attacks, while not dangerous, are extremely uncomfortable and can be devastating to a person’s sense of safety and well-being.
How to navigate dating with anxiety
- Be honest about your feelings. The natural response is to hide your anxiety from your date. But being honest is usually the best policy, especially if you exhibit anxious behaviors that may be misunderstood. Anxiety is extremely common and nothing to be ashamed of. Plus, being upfront about how you feel might take the edge off, as the pressure to hide anxiety can make it worse. You don’t have to go into detail about your mental health, but just casually mentioning that you have anxiety or feel anxious can make you feel a lot better. If the person is worth your time, they won’t judge you for it.
- Confide in someone you trust. It can really help to vent your feelings to someone you trust. Dating with anxiety is tough! Talk about it with a friend, family member, or even a professional therapist. You’ll feel better.
- Stay in control of the date. Anxiety often gets worse when we lose control of the situation. So try to stay in control of the date as much as you can. Know exactly how you’re getting to and from the date. If you can, choose a location that’s familiar to you. And have a plan in case your anxiety becomes too intense and you need to leave. These things put you in control of the situation.
- Only date people you’re comfortable with. You should keep an open mind while dating without writing people off too quickly. But remember that you never have to date anyone you don’t want to. If you’re really not feeling it, that’s absolutely fine. Don’t feel pressured to date someone you’re not comfortable with. That will only make your anxiety worse.
- Go slowly and give yourself breaks. Dating is overwhelming, even when you don’t have anxiety. So be sure to give yourself breaks and take it slow. If you feel burned out or overwhelmed, step back for a while and return to the dating scene when you have the energy for it. Dating with anxiety takes a lot out of you, so there’s no shame in taking the time to recover.