Anxiety and dating are a common combination. You’re excited about meeting that online stranger. But if you have underlying anxiety the process of dating can be exciting but also painful.
Anxiety by definition is an emotion characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil. Such turmoil is accompanied by nervous behavior such as pacing back and forth, checking, somatic complaints, and rumination.
If you already have anxiety dating can feel like a rollercoaster ride. Because dating by its very nature is ambivalent the ups and downs of not knowing where you stand make you want to throw up. When you are waiting to hear back from a guy you like, you can’t sleep and have trouble concentrating. You may wonder do I need to take anti-anxiety medications, or should I quit dating to avoid going through another ride?
There are two ways to look at anxiety, either as a ‘state’ or temporary situation or more a ‘trait’ or personality type or anxiety.
State anxiety is your reaction to a situation or event. Because dating is a situation that may be novel and the stakes feel high its normal to feel a bit of state anxiety.
Trait anxiety, on the other hand, indicates more moderate anxiety often times as a result of an underlying anxious attachment style, generalized anxiety disorder GAD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder OCD.
If this is you, the anxiety you experience is dating can be more difficult.
Not everyone experiences anxiety the same way. For some people they are more anxious at the start for others it’s the waiting period that is excruciating.
ANXIETY before A date
Anticipatory anxiety is worrying before your date. You worry, “what will I wear, where will we go? ” Dating feels unpredictable so you want to control and plan ahead. The day before or day of your date, you are amped up.
ANXIETY DURING A Date
During your dates, you get nervous. When anxiety takes over it’s almost like an out of body experience, you are hardly aware of what you’re saying or doing. You fill in any gaps in conversation or you shut down. You find yourself turning to alcohol to cope with your anxiety.
ANXIETY AFTER A date
You’re cool during your dates, but after the clocks start ticking. You can’t stand the long wait time. Waiting to hear back from someone you like feels like an eternity. You start over-processing everything that happened on your date. Did he say exactly when he would call again? Did I talk too much? What did he say about his last girlfriend?
anxiety= a response to real threats:
If you have trait anxiety you feel like you have a lot of your own self-esteem riding on your dates. Regardless of when you are anxious dates can feel like a threat. The threat is that you will like someone, you will invest in them and ultimately you will get hurt.
Not sure, if this is you, here are nine signs that you may have anxiety, check off those that apply to you.
1. you want to control it
The experience of having anxiety makes you feel ‘out of control.’ In an attempt to feel more in control you tend to focus on small details. You focus on what you will wear, where you are going. Do I tell him I might be late if theres traffic?
Before your date you also want to know everything you can about your date, the information makes you feel better. Online, you search to find out what you can, some people call it ‘stalking’ you look at is as ‘homework.’
2. You race ahead
If you are anxious its hard for you to stay present in the moment. As a result of your anxiety you race ahead, at least in your head. Before dessert comes you are wondering hmm he would make a good father? I can see us together. You start planning the next date, what you will say, where you will go. Will he give with your family?
3. seeing things as BLACK OR WHITe
Anxiety can make you see things as good or bad, black or white. Either he’s the greatest guy ever or you are upset, another douche bag wasted your time. Having ridden the rollercoaster of love one too many times you find yourself also questioning what you are doing? You switch between being ready for love and never wanting to date again. It’s because you filter things through an emotional lens that you see things dramatically.
4. body tension
Anxiety is not only in your head, it’s in your body too. The negative thoughts you experience are certain to affect your health. Bodily symptoms correlated with of anxiety are- cold and clammy hands, increased heart rate, shallow breathing, muscle tension. Overall you have a sense of unease and feelings of fatigue.
Anxiety is often linked to avoidance. Makes sense right? You want to avoid things that make you uncomfortable. On dates you try to mask your anxiety by drinking alcohol. Some people soothe themselves with Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications known as Anxiolytics.
6. You lose sleep and concentration
When you want to hear back from a guy you are convinced is your future husband, it’s hard to relax. Your anxiety may show up in sleep difficulties. Even if you fall asleep easily you wake up with thoughts of them. At work it’s difficult to concentrate. Your brain keeps churning ideas and your tendency to ruminate and perseverate on ideas makes it hard to focus on anything else.
7. You care what everyone else thinks
Anxious people tend to care very much what others think of them. In dating how can you not take the outcome personally? It doesn’t matter if you like a person or not, you want him to like you. You can easily idealize a person at the start. Wow, look at how great they are. Unfortunately you put them on a pedestal, but that means you are beneath them. It feels like they have more power than you. You hate waiting but what else can you do?
8. You get disappointed easily
Overall you can’t help but be negative. Why have so many people disappointed you? From the beginning things are good, but over time you get frustrated and agitated. You wished they would have said something slightly different. If only they would commit and let you know how special you are. You’ve been hurt and disappointed by other people. This makes it hard for you to trust that anyone will be there for you. You see yourself as unlucky in love.
9. ANXIOUS BEHAVIORS
You don’t have a mirror, but if you are anxious its likely that on dates you will act out in some way. Anxious behaviors are observed not only in what you talk about but also in your body language. You may talk fast, have an expectant look, or hold your body in a protective way. You might feel pressure to get as much information as possible on dates. Time is precious you want to know what you can about them. Your anxiety can spill out in statements that sound less than confident, like, “I didn’t think you would show up. When I didn’t hear from you I worried you changed your mind.”
If dating anxiety is a problem for you, chances are you have five or more of these signs. You can have fewer symptoms but the few you do have still negatively affect you. Underlying your anxiety is usually insecurity. As a result you worry, am I good enough, attractive enough, stable enough for a good relationship? You worry that once someone gets to know you they might abandon you. You anxiety causes you to feel ambivalent about dating. On one level you are ready for love on the other you hate suffering.
If you want to know for sure if you are anxious. Take my Love Style quiz, your results will show that you are either a Loyal Supporter or an Expressive Giver. Don’t worry you are not alone, the majority of women and men are anxious when it comes to love.
Once you know what it is and why dating is hard you can start to figure out how to cope and better manage your symptoms. In my next post, I give tips on how better to manage anxiety in dating.