Anxiety affects roughly 40 million Americans so it stands to reason that more than a few of those sufferers will try their hand at dating at some point in their lives. Now, dating can lead non-anxiety suffers to feel some pre-date jitters, but for the most part those tend to subside a short time after the date has started. So what can be done for those that have anxiety, especially a social anxiety? What can they do to help themselves relax and have a good time? How can they make it past date one or, dare we say, date five? Psych2Go offers you this list of tips and tricks you can employ if you’re dating with anxiety as your third wheel.
1. Don’t focus on your fear of the worst case scenario
Focusing on what could happen not only takes you out of the moment, it also causes undo stress. This can be applied to both a casual dating situation as well as a more established relationship. It can also, in both instances, sabotage anything that could happen. Before you get after yourself for these thoughts you should take a moment to evaluate what they are good for. Are the helpful or do they just add insult to an injury that hasn’t even happened yet? In most cases they are going to be the exact opposite of helpful. The best thing you can do is replace them with something that isn’t. You should be proud of yourself for getting ready and going on that date! That’s a huge step for anyone but especially for you!
2. Keep your dating location small
If you have a hard time around crowds or loud people, take this opportunity to find someplace that isn’t as busy. Make sure that you are practicing safe dating, but don’t just go to their place without first talking to someone though. That isn’t the advice we are trying to present here. No, find somewhere like a nice little coffee shop where you two can be relatively undisturbed and where you don’t have to worry about meeting a bunch of new people such as a party. You can also use this as a time to go to a museum, an art gallery, or even wine tasting.
Focusing on the date, and the person that you are with, can help you cancel out some of the negative self-talk that might be floating around inside of your head. Being comfortable in your surroundings doesn’t always mean physical safety. It can pertain to your mental state as well.
3. Don’t worry about what the other person thinks of you
This is another tip that can be applied to both casual dating as well as established relationships. It is also another example of putting undo stress upon yourself. If you are already in an established relationship and worrying what your partner thinks of you, take a step back and remember that they are with you for a reason. They already want to be around you and like your company so you’ve ticked two items off the list of things to accomplish with dating. If you are going out on your first date with the other person just be yourself and have a good time.
A healthy dose of nerves can help keep you focused on the date, but they can also get out of hand and cause you to panic. Which is something you’re already wanting to avoid at all costs. Casual is the key word here so just keep it there. People are going to like you for you, and if they don’t you shouldn’t dwell on it. Just remind yourself that there are other fish in the sea and there is going to be someone out there who wants to share your part of the ocean with you.
Having a list of topics that you like can be a great way to see if you and the other person share the same interests. It can also mean that you have learned from past dating mishaps and are now using that data to optimize this newest experience. Going over topics of conversation might allow you to work out any kinks. Especially if you worry that you might stutter from nervousness. Having a funny anecdote from a bad date might add levity to a slightly awkward situation.
Mentally preparing for the date will allow you to feel more in control if your anxiety starts to creep up on you. Either way it is important to help yourself feel comfortable within the date so stacking the cards in your favor might help you out with this one.
5. Don’t worry if your anxiety hits you in the middle of a date
This will allow you to be upfront about your struggle and will allow your date to ask what they could do to help lessen the stress on you. Hiding your anxiety can make you resent it even more than you probably already do. This can lead you to avoiding situations and experiences that would otherwise be great opportunities for you.
Make sure that you feel safe and comfortable sharing this information about yourself as it is a big step to allowing someone to get to know the real you. Sharing can also allow you to get out of the repetitive negative or fearful thoughts that might be there. Plus, your date can help you focus on the here and now which could lead the two of you to some interesting common ground you might have missed otherwise.
The five tips listed above are focused, mainly, on casual dating and what to do if you are the person suffering from anxiety. What follows are a few things that might help you if you find yourself dating someone, either casually or long term, with anxiety.
1. Understand what anxiety is
Anxiety isn’t just something that resides in people’s heads that causes them to be a little nervous sometimes. It is a serious condition that can lead to severe panic attacks and can be debilitating to the sufferer. Having an open mind and listening to what they need when they are feeling anxious is a wonderful start. This will allow them to focus on something, telling you what they need, as well as giving you an opportunity to get to know them in a different way. It is also nice for the sufferer to know that they aren’t being judged for their anxiety and that you are willing to be patient with them while they ride it out.
2. Learn what causes their anxiety to flare up
Some people have what is known as generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, which might not have a specific trigger for them to steer clear of. Others suffer from social anxiety which is often the case with those that get extremely nervous on dates and with other people. If your partner doesn’t do well with loud crowds, then it probably isn’t a good idea to surprise them with tickets to see their favorite band. That is something that needs a lot of forewarning and time to prepare. If your partner gets overly nervous in quieter situations then an intimate poetry reading might not be the best date for them. You can tailor the dates to your wants and their needs so that you both have a great time.
3. Knowing that there is a good chance the anxiety will impact your relationship
This last one is especially true for those that are in long term relationships or living together. Your partner is already thinking of the millions of things that can go wrong. That is going to seep into your lives and your dating eventually. Your partner is going to feel terrible about this so reassuring them that things will be alright, that this is just a bit of anxiety is something that you can both work through, will be more than helpful. Being there to listen to them will show them that you care about them and the relationship as a whole.
There might be times that your partner is irritable, or down right mean, but this is a manifestation of the anxiety and doesn’t actually have anything to do with your personally. Anxiety doesn’t give someone a pass to be rude or combative, it does however explain why they are behaving that way in certain situations. You might need to suggest that you move to another location so that your partner can have a moment to gather themselves. Again, this is where the reassurance comes into play. It’s hard to remember that things are alright when you are in the grips of a panic attack. Having someone you trust there with you can make a huge difference.
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