What It's Like To Date When You Have Anxiety
Anxiety can be a straight up crippling condition to live with.
You're forced to deal with constant waves of panic and unease, potentially leaving you with a racing heart, fear and feelings of helplessness.
It's overwhelming, frightening, and could go on to affect so many different aspects of your life — especially your dating life.
When something goes awry or if you're forced to approach a new situation blindly (as can be expected in the dating world), it can you leave you feeling scared, withdrawn, and unable to connect with others.
More often than not, you're stuck dealing with problems in your own head, as you may not be comfortable explaining what you're dealing with. And your date may not realize how living with anxiety affects typical social situations, like dating.
Here are the ways dating changes when you're dealing with anxiety:
It can be hard to deal with how much dating puts you outside of your comfort zone.
Licensed psychologist Erika Martinez spoke to Elite Daily and explains that dating when suffering from something such as anxiety can be especially difficult. “It means you have to constantly put yourself in triggering social situations (e.g. crowded places like bar, restaurants, coffee shops, etc.),” Martinez says.
She continues, “It also means you have to face uncertainty head-on because there's no guarantee you'll click with the other person, that they'll call/text back, or want another date with you.”
The unpredictability of a date can be stressful, and unfortunately, not everyone is capable of simply setting their anxiety aside to enjoy themselves with a new person.
You may make excuses to avoid forms of social interaction, like dating.
Like Martinez said, dating places you in the unknown — something people who deal with anxiety are not typically a fan of.
While the pursuit of love can sometimes require enough work and effort to make it feel like a second job, it can also be extremely pleasurable and rewarding. But anxiety can make putting forth that work and effort seem impossible.
With that said, Martinez explains that those with anxiety may resort to avoiding dating entirely. But before they bail completely, Martinez wants to make sure that they are capable of separating their long-existing anxiety with normal nerves that just about anyone can feel before meeting up with a potential romantic interest.
“Often my clients have lived with anxiety for so long that it all feels the same to them and get interpreted as ‘bad' or ‘distressing,'” Martinez says. “Understanding that it's common to experience a certain amount of anxiety before a date helps people with anxiety realize that they're normal.”
Anxiety may force you to step back and calm yourself down while out on a date.
Sometimes, those with anxiety will feel themselves overthinking or freaking out at the most inopportune moment (like when you're awaiting your date's arrival) to the point where it's overwhelming, and they might need immediate help with staying calm and present. Martinez says there are ways to help you focus on the now.
“Since anxiety can be fueled by worries about the past or future, mindfulness techniques can help ground you and connect with the present moment,” Martinez explains.
For specific relaxation techniques, she offers some discreet methods to calm down that won't take away from your date:
You can try diaphragmatic breathing (e.g. box breathing technique) to relax before a date. You can even pop into the restroom and do this in the stall while on your date to calm yourself. If your anxiety comes with muscular tension, then try progressive muscle relaxation paired with the breathing. Also, steer clear of too more than 2 servings of alcohol if you're nervous. The physiological effects of too much alcohol will do more harm than good.
Like with any mental illness, you may also be apprehensive to let your date (or even your partner) know what's going on in your head. But Martinez explains that, instead, it's important to speak up and voice what you're feeling.
“When you do settle into a relationship, it means explaining and helping your SO understand that triggers you to freak out (e.g. crowded events or places, undone chores, lack of communication, etc) and what to do to help you calm down,” she says. “It also means learning to ask for what you need (instead of expecting your SO to read your mind) so there's clarity about the relationship and where it's headed.”
They'll never truly understand you and what unique challenges you're facing unless you're upfront and honest about what prompts your anxiety.
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