Awkward silences, clumsy stumbles, and even mistaken names are all a part of dating, whether you have anxiety or not. The true difference comes before and after the hiccup: did you spend all day practicing what you would say? Are you going to come back to this small moment in time again and again when you think about dating?
If so, you probably have anxiety (Psych2Go is not a medical professional and these articles should not be used in place of a diagnosis!), which means the situations on this list may sound all too familiar. It can be incredibly frustrating to have an extra obstacle to navigate while you’re trying to focus on finding love, but you are not alone. There are countless resources available both on and off-line to help you learn, find support, and kick anxiety’s butt. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet someone who can relate?
Here are 8 dating struggles people with anxiety face:
1. Thoughts turn into obsessions so quickly
Have you ever been so preoccupied with dating that it feels like you run into couples wherever you look? Turns out there’s a science behind this phenomenon. Karen McDowell, Ph.D told Healthline that anxiety stems from the way we think. “So, she began, “if you fear that you’re unlovable, that your date will not like you, or that you will do or say something awkward, your brain will go into overdrive trying to confirm its suspicions.” Next time, try to hold your assumptions back before deciding that something’s gone wrong. Look around, check the facts, and don’t be afraid to balance emotion with logic sometimes.
2. Your fears try to end things before they even begin
Self-sabotage can sound as subtle as “I can’t ask her out––she’s way out of my league.” If you’ve given up on something before you’ve even tried… stop! The anxious thoughts that make you hesitate try to protect you from potential rejection or embarrassment, but by avoiding dating altogether, you’re guarding yourself from opportunities and connection too.
3. What are you supposed to say?
Even though this can be an awkward moment to navigate for those who don’t struggle with anxiety, meeting someone new can often be a trigger for anxious individuals. It’s not uncommon for your mind to race through “what if’s” or to rehearse your hello for the hundredth time. Others might lose their train of thought altogether. What does a person even say to someone they’ve just met?
4. You can’t stay present when you’re together
Time travel might be a cool concept in science fiction movies, but when you’re trying to have a rom-com moment, it just doesn’t click. Connecting with someone requires you to be in the moment and attentive to the other person, but this can be difficult when your brain is swirling with input. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you find yourself ruminating on the past or worrying about the future––there’s a reason your mind wants to do it. Instead, try gently reminding yourself of where you are in the present. Use conversation or a visual detail of your date to keep your thoughts preoccupied.
5. Spending a night out might means spending a night stressed out
Leaving home makes a lot of people anxious, but for some this can severely impact their social life. Mayo Clinic defines agoraphobia as “a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed.” While this fear of stressful situations might keep you indoors and isolated, you are not alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, over 40 million people suffer from some type of anxiety disorder in the US alone, so you’re bound to find someone who’d be excited to spend a night in with you.
6. Anxiety’s physical symptoms can ruin date night
Fewer things could ruin date night faster than an anxious thought which spirals out of control. If you experience physical symptoms of anxiety, such as dizziness, heart palpitations, or sweating, you know just how real the struggle can be. These symptoms come on fast and can be extremely debilitating––think of something along the lines of stomach trouble on a first date. As embarrassing as it can be in the moment, remember that everyone has times when their body, and even their mind, turn against them.
7. You always assume things won’t end well
When anxious and intrusive thoughts have been around for a long time, they can begin to become so habitual that they’re automatic. It becomes only too easy to find the worst case scenario in any situation, and before you know it you’ve transformed into a “glass half empty” kind of person. It’s easy to imagine relationships crumbling to pieces or first dates ending so badly you’ll never show your face again, but––if you’re able to give it time and lots of practice––imagining second dates and a happy love life may not be so hard either.
8. It’s hard to get to know someone when communication is so scary
One of the most frustrating things about anxiety is that it stops you from pursuing things that you want deep down. On the surface you may feel nervous or even fearful around the person you’re interested in, even though what you really want is to connect with them. In some cases, anxiety can stop you from expressing your feelings or communicating with anyone at all, which makes the frustration grow further. Know that you are not alone in this contradictory struggle and there are so many understanding people in the world who want to know you, support you, and maybe even go out with you!