Feeling nervous on the dating scene can be a natural part of the process, but dating anxiety that’s overwhelming could be something more.
The majority of folks feel anxious when they meet a new romantic partner. You’re getting to know that person, focusing on how to put your best foot forward.
Nerves are typically just part of the deal.
When you live with an anxiety disorder, however, dating can mean more than butterflies in your stomach on the first date.
If anxiety feels strong enough to make you second-guess dating altogether, there may be some underlying reasons you feel the way you do.
Anxiety when dating someone new
While you could start dating someone you’ve known for a long time, current dating culture relies heavily on getting acquainted with someone outside your familiar pool of prospects.
Sometimes you might not know much about your new person beyond one or two points of interest.
Despite what you read on a profile or what someone has told you about them, they’re unknown to you.
When you live with an anxiety disorder, 2017 research suggests you may be hypersensitive to this “fear of the unknown.”
Other reasons you may feel anxiety when dating include:
- Body image. Concern about your appearance and how someone may judge it.
- FODA (fear of dating again): Feelings of uncertainty and hurt-avoidance after long-term relationship, divorce, or death of a partner.
- Social anxiety. Feelings of fear and unease in most social situations.
- Avoidant personality disorder. Extreme feelings of inadequacy and fear of being judged by others.
- Rejection avoidance. Much has been explored about anxiety over being rejected, but emerging research observes the fear of rejecting others, as this 2021 study abstract details.
- Phobia. Though not all impairing fears related to dating are clinically diagnosed as “specific phobias,” commonly experienced phobias surrounding dating may include:
- Fear of dating (sarmassophobia)
- Fear of falling in love or relationships (philophobia)
How can you tell if you have anxiety and not just dating jitters?
The dating jitters can feel like an anxiety disorder.
You may experience similar symptoms of:
- excessive worry
- difficulty concentrating
- muscle tension
- rather untimely digestive issues
But dating jitters can fade as your date progresses.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), anxiety disorders can cause chronic, debilitating symptoms that linger beyond the initial stressor, or resurface depending on the triggers specific to which type of anxiety you might live with.
Living with an anxiety disorder or not, there are steps you can take to help relieve dating anxiety.
Fear of the unknown can be exacerbated when you also don’t know what the date will entail.
It’s OK to create a loose plan. By focusing on what you can manage — like date location, mealtime, transportation, and activity — you can help make the atmosphere as predictable as possible.
Acknowledging your anxiety
While it might not be easy to reveal, being upfront with your person and letting them know they’re dating someone with anxiety, may help ease your mind — and allow them to prep and learn more.
When you experience dating anxiety, it can be helpful to have methods at your disposal to calm symptoms in the moment.
Relaxation methods, like breathing exercises and mindfulness meditation, can give you go-to options no matter where you are.
Self-compassion is the practice of forgiving and comforting yourself.
It’s often the opposite of what you may do when feeling a rush of anxiety, like being self-critical and self-deprecating.
Research on teens indicates self-compassion is linked to diminished symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Boundaries help those around you know your limits and expectations. They’re also important for maintaining your mental well-being.
You don’t have to voice your every expectation on a single date, but knowing your boundaries — and sticking to them — can help you set standards for date-related situations.
It’s natural to experience anxiety when dating someone new. While often uncomfortable at the moment, these emotions tend to fade once you break the ice.
If you live with an anxiety disorder, however, dating anxiety can be a bear. Feelings that typically fade within hours for other people might instead linger and spill into other areas of your life.
Relaxation methods, date preparation, and self-compassion can help alleviate dating anxiety.
If you live with an anxiety disorder, long-term relief may require guidance from a mental healthcare professional.
If you’re prone to dating jitters, a relationship coach could be beneficial to get you confident and comfortable.