It’s normal to feel anxious about dating, especially when you’re meeting the person for the first time. You worry whether you’ll make a good impression and if your date lives up to your expectations. There are also niggling fears of rejection. What if your date doesn’t find you as attractive as you do them? What if you say the wrong things? What if they find you weird?
It’s okay to wonder about these things. If, however, your fears are getting ahead of you and preventing you from actually going on dates, you might be suffering from dating anxiety.
What Is Dating Anxiety?
Dating anxiety is a subset of social anxiety or the fear you sometimes feel when you’re thrown into unfamiliar or intimidating social situations. Social anxiety is described as the fear of rejection and being judged by others. It becomes a disorder when the fear becomes persistent and affects your ability to function in school, at work, and in everyday activities where you need to out in public.
When you experience social anxiety in a dating situation, you’re experiencing dating anxiety. It may become a problem when your fear intensifies to the point that you call at the last minute to cancel your date.
Signs of Social Anxiety
Social anxiety has physical and physiological symptoms:
- Blushing (reddening of the face)
- Fast heartbeat
- Upset stomach
It also has behavioral and emotional symptoms, such as:
- Fear of situations that subjects you to people’s judgment
- Fear of embarrassing yourself
- Fear of talking to strangers
- Fear of other people noticing your anxiety
- Experiencing panic attacks before a planned social event
These symptoms usually don’t appear piecemeal. If you’re experiencing one during social events, you may also be experiencing more. So it should be apparent if you do have social anxiety towards dating.
Ways to Overcome Dating Anxiety
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) acknowledges various treatment methods for social anxiety disorder. These are medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, and support groups.
- Support Groups -Organized groups consisting of people who suffer from social anxiety, people who have learned to manage their anxiety, and counselors can give moral support and concrete tips on what to do if your anxiety builds up as your date approaches. Family and friends can also be part of support groups. It also helps to speak to public speaking trainers, dating coaches, and mentors in exclusive dating services as they can offer practical tips on how to act, what to say, and how to keep yourself calm when you finally stand before your date.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy -This is a type of psychotherapy that teaches the ideal reactions to situations that trigger social anxiety. Cognitive-behavioral therapists can also help people with anxiety practice their social skills and learn how to master their symptoms.
- Medication -The NIH gives three possible medications for treating social anxiety disorders: antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, and beta-blockers. Anti-depressants and beta-blockers treat the physiological symptoms and may take weeks to take effect. Anti-anxiety medications, on the other hand, work immediately. They are very potent and can quickly put anxious people into a calm state.
Medications for social anxiety need a doctor’s prescription. Self-medication should never be an option: the wrong prescription and dose could be harmful to your health.
Other Coping Methods
Sometimes small adjustments to your date can help reduce your anxiety and save you a visit to your psychotherapist.
Since the root of social anxiety is fear, avoid surprise dates. Take part in planning your date and suggest things to do that are within your comfort zone. You can recommend having dinner at your favorite restaurant, for example, then go to places that are familiar and comfortable.
Another option is to have a double date and invite a close friend whom you know can help you relax the entire time.
Finally, Psychology Today offers a useful tip: be curious about the person you’re dating. This is to shift your focus from yourself to the other person. When you are curious about your date, you think less about what you feel and focus more on their words, behavior, and character. Curiosity is a good thing to practice because it reinforces the purpose of dates: to know the other person better and discover if he or she is the one for you.