Dating anxiety can make it feel difficult to put yourself out there. Many people feel nervous dating because it involves meeting someone new. You want to look your best and make a good impression. This is completely natural and there is nothing wrong with wanting to be liked and accepted. Anxiety and dating does not mean that you will end up alone or without love. Though, it can sometimes feel this way.
Why Do People Have Dating Anxiety?
Dating anxiety isn’t an actual anxiety disorder. However, the term refers more to the anxiety symptoms that a person experiences related to dating. Worrying affects your ability to date with ease. Other factors such as shyness, introvertedness, and previous hurtful or negative experiences also influence anxiety and dating.
In some circumstances, social anxiety disorder or social phobia contributes to apprehension to date and meet someone new. Social anxiety disorder affects 12 percent at some point in their lives. People with social anxiety disorder experience anxiety in most social situations and dating is no different.
Social Anxiety and Dating
Social anxiety symptoms include fear of negative evaluation, fear of criticism or ridicule by others, and feeling easily embarrassed. If you experience social phobia, you know how hard it can be to talk to someone new. You want to appear natural and casual, but this is made difficult by the uneasiness you feel inside.
Fear of being perceived negatively and the possibility of your date not liking you is enough to stir up the nervous system. Once the nervous system is activated, the fight or flight survival response is also turned on.
This means that the brain sends important survival signals to the rest of your body to try to protect you. The body physiologically prepares you to either confront or flee from a perceived threat. And you will experience the results of this process.
This can be in the form of facial blushing, heart palpitations, sweaty palms, shortness of breath, and other uncomfortable feelings. Trying to manage these symptoms can make dating anxiety incredibly painful. You even find yourself avoiding or postponing dating all together.
What To Do When You Feel Nervous Dating
Self-reflection and introspection
First thing is to do a bit of self-reflection and introspection. Being able to observe and examine your own emotions and thoughts about dating is incredibly important. A self-analysis can lead you to understand more about what is getting in your way.
For many people, social anxiety, fear of rejection, low self-esteem, or feelings of low self-worth increase nervousness. Also, are pressure to find the right partner, get married, or have children by a certain age or timeline.
The dating process triggers these deeper issues and more painful issues and make anxiety and dating unpleasant and confusing. In order to reduce anxiety and dating concerns, allow yourself to name these difficulties and fears. Then, you can begin to build an action plan to address them.
Starting therapy with a licensed mental health counselor is one way to receive support so that you aren’t doing it alone. You can discover when these fears developed and how to manage them. There are also some tips below that you can begin doing today to help calm and reduce dating anxiety.
Tips to Manage Anxiety and Dating Jitters
Be Aware of Negative Thoughts
When you think of the date, are you imagining worst case scenarios? Awful moments where you smile and have green lettuce in your teeth? Have too long of a pause in conversation and won’t know what to say? Fear that you don’t have interesting life experiences or anything substantial to contribute?
These are all negative thoughts. And negative thoughts can trigger the fight, flight or freeze response. Simply imagining something going wrong and thinking about it too much can activate feelings of nervousness and anxiety.
When you catch yourself in a moment of negative thinking, try to actively stop and shift your mindset. Remember that the thought of something going wrong does not mean that it will. In fact, most of the things that we worry will happen, don’t usually end up happening at all! Thank goodness for that!
Instead, reframe the negative thought to something more positive. Just as you have negative thoughts about your dating performance, you can also have positive thoughts. Imagine yourself having a successful date. What does that look like for you?
What is the best thing that can happen as a result of dating? Focus on the positives and give less attention to the negative possibilities. Furthermore, write down these positive statements or thoughts so that they stay fresh in your mind.
You can revisit them when you feel nervous and as you get closer to your date. For example, if a frequent thought is, “I’m so shy, I won’t know what to say”. You can reframe that to “I’m shy, but I’m also friendly and a good listener. This will help me to contribute to the conversation”.
Positive thinking has great benefits and plays a role in reducing dating anxiety. Remember that thinking positive does not mean coming up with fake statements you don’t believe. It’s about reminding yourself that good things also happen. And you possess good qualities that you can bring to the dating experience.
Be Aware of Your Assumptions and Interpretations
There can be a tendency to evaluate and interpret another person’s actions through our own lens. Most of the time, this happens automatically and outside of our awareness. Without even realizing it, you could be making interpretations and assumptions about what your date is thinking.
Assuming something that we do not have complete information about can lead to an increase in anxiety. This is because we can draw incorrect conclusions and inferences that are mostly negative.
For example, consider your thoughts when you are waiting for a text after a really good date. If the text doesn’t come within a certain timeframe, you might think, “They don’t really like me”.
Our mind can come up with various reasons or explanations for the delayed text.
In addition, we can also project our biggest fears and insecurities on to other people. Thinking that someone doesn’t like you can provoke a deep fear of rejection.
Be aware that this influences your interpretation of events and situations. But this won’t be helpful because it increases anxiety. Moreover, the conclusions you come up with may not be accurate. Because unless you ask them directly and confirm the information, you cannot know for sure.
You can counteract this tendency by checking in with yourself and trying to find evidence for your assumptions. In many instances, we will find that we don’t have sufficient information to really know what someone else is thinking.
Anxiety and dating are challenging experiences to deal with on a regular basis. It’s hard to continually put yourself out there and open up to someone new. You may feel pressure to bring your best self to every date in an effort to find love. And it is disheartening when you are searching for a meaningful connection and don’t find it.
When this happens, you may be discouraged and feel nervous about meeting someone new. Self-doubt increases and so does the reluctance and worry to put yourself out there again. Both of these can feel painful.
Offering yourself a moment of grace and compassion can help to reduce dating anxiety. And also increase acceptance of yourself and the difficulty of your experience. Self-compassion involves being kind to yourself when you are suffering.
Rather than criticizing yourself for feeling nervous dating, be gentle with yourself. Instead of responding to anxiety with harshness or criticism, choose to offer yourself empathy, grace, and encouragement.
Self-compassion can go a long way to help soothe heartache and stress. Comforting yourself through hard times can help you get through them.
Let Your Authentic Self Shine Bright
Confidence and a willingness to put yourself out there can help reduce anxiety and dating jitters when meeting someone new. Make a decision to show up as your authentic self.
Remember that you don’t need to dim your light for anyone. After all, the point of dating is simply to see if you are a potential match. There are no guarantees.
Being yourself increases your chance of finding the right person that can accept you for who you are. Focus on being yourself on every date.
Push through self-doubt and fear that you will be rejected if you show your quirkiness. In fact, let those people reject you. They are not the one. The right person will appreciate your special interests, personality traits, habits and lifestyle. And because of that, they will easily fit into your life.
Allow yourself to experience what it feels like when someone likes you for you! The real you. Because there is only one of you. Let your uniqueness shine through!
Let Go of Perfectionism
No one is perfect. Be aware of any tendency to want to appear perfect. To say the perfect things or have the perfect date. Similarly, try to be receptive of your date’s human flaws.
Of course, this does not mean allowing or accepting rude or bad behavior and ignoring red flags. Do not ignore warning signs and always stay safe.
But, it does mean attending the date with an open mind. A lot of dating anxiety comes from placing expectations on ourselves or our date. You already have your own ideas of what dating and relationships should look like.
However, rigidly holding on to these ideals and setting high expectations and standards can lower your chance for true connection.
Practice flexibility and open-mindedness. Ask questions that will help you know if this is a good match for you. If you don’t share similar life values, it is ok to move on.
Disconnect from the Outcome
We are not in control of all of the outcomes of the date. You can have a great time and pleasant conversation but it does not mean that you are compatible.
When meeting someone new, it is easy to get carried away with dreams of the future. This can lead to disappointment and anxiety. Instead, don’t attach yourself to a certain outcome.
Allow the dating process to be fluid and to progress naturally. Remember that you are just meeting this person. You do not have to like them. And they do not have to like you. Furthermore, even if you do like them, they may not be a good overall fit as a romantic partner. And vice versa.
Check in with yourself if you are being overly invested in your date before you have gotten to truly know them. Be mindful if you want them to be a good match no matter what. Because this could actually be triggering negative beliefs of your own self-worth and need for validation from others.
To combat this, focus on asking important questions that will lead you to discover and understand your date as a complete human being. Many people shy away from asking the significant questions because they are afraid of rejection.
The truth is that dating involves a great risk of rejection. Let yourself be rejected sometimes. It could be the best thing! Not everyone you date will bring you joy. And vice versa.
Let go of the idea that you have to be perfect to make dating work. Let go of a need to control the outcomes and try to manage feelings of uncertainty.
Learn to deal with setbacks and disappointments. You are worthy even if this particular date isn’t what you had hoped it to be.
Stay in Contact with Your Support Network
It is essential to have a support network when you are navigating through anxiety and dating. Find someone that you trust and can talk openly about your dating experiences.
Your support system can help guide you away from negative thinking by reminding you of your positive attributes. Additionally, friends can spot red flags and unhealthy patterns of dating which help you steer clear of trouble.
Spend time with people that uplift you and will give you honest feedback. Dating anxiety is common and and you might receive great advice from people in your trusted circle.
Remain in contact with supportive friends and family members. Prioritize your well-being and ask for help when you need it.
Get Help with Anxiety and Dating
Counseling is a helpful way to begin understanding the causes of anxiety and learn tools to manage it. As an anxiety therapist in Rockland County NY, I specialize in helping young adult and adult women manage anxiety and women’s issues. Schedule a 15 minute complimentary consultation to learn more.