By: Salma Eldeeb
Have you ever been so anxious before going on a date with someone? How would you feel if you weren’t worried? Could you imagine any feeling rather than fear and worry? You may not be able to see anything good coming from this. You may feel pain in your stomach and difficulty breathing while thinking about meeting someone. Is it normal to feel worried about the date?
Dating anxiety differs from anxiety disorders. While anxiety disorders involve pervasive thoughts controlling all aspects of life, dating anxiety is specific to the fear of rejection or meeting new people, impacting only romantic relationships. Although it is not a disorder according to the DSM-5, it is a common phenomenon affecting individuals' lives. People who suffer from dating anxiety may experience a fear of what is coming or the fear of getting rejected. Dating isn’t a breezy walk in the park, nor butterflies in the stomach.
It is important to know if you have dating anxiety or not. It is a common condition, therefore, it is not something to be ashamed of.
Here are some symptoms of dating anxiety:
You can have one symptom or many of them. However, it doesn’t have to be a problem. Since you know your triggers and causes, you can overcome them.
What is the cause of dating anxiety?
Dating someone while you have dating anxiety can be a nightmare; it is also different from dating someone who suffers from anxiety disorder. The latter isn’t your problem; still, you need to learn how you deal with someone who lives with anxiety. The former is your fear of rejection and fear of the unknown. It is crucial to know your triggers and causes of dating anxiety;. Here are some common ones:
Poor body image
Previous studies have demonstrated the relationship between body image and the following: romantic/sexual relationships, self-esteem, mental and physical health, and well-being. However, the relationship between dating anxiety and body image within young adults has been underexplored. According to a study published in The Journal of Clinical and Mental Health Counseling, responses indicated that when the participants had lower self-perceived body image, they also reported higher dating anxiety.
Higher levels of depression and low self-esteem
Dating anxiety has been associated with a variety of mental health and behavioural concerns, such as depression, low self-esteem, substance abuse, and loneliness in both men and women. Dating anxiety is considered a manifestation of social anxiety disorder (SAD), as both SAD and dating anxiety involve a fear of negative evaluation.
Fear of rejection
For some people, it is normal to feel a fear of rejection when dating. If a person has faced rejection multiple times before when trying to date, it can make them worried about being rejected again in the future. The bad memories and hurt feelings from past rejection make it scary to try dating again in case they end up feeling that way once more.
According to researchers, the fear might be fueled by anticipations of reprisal, guilt for hurting the pursuer’s feelings, and fear of being seen as cruel or unkind.
FODA (fear of dating again)
Sometimes, your previous experiences could feel like they’re controlling you. You may have feelings of uncertainty and hurt avoidance after a long-term relationship, divorce, or the death of a partner.
How can dating anxiety affect your life?
One of the basic human needs is to socialize with others. Romantic relationships are very central in our lives. While dating anxiety can affect your relationships, it can also affect your ability to build a family. Here are some of the effects of dating anxiety you may experience:
Negative energy and distance
Overthinking, planning for the worst-case scenarios, and intense fear of rejection can generate negative energy and distance in a romantic relationship.
Difficulty in communication
People with dating anxiety may avoid romantic relationships or dating in general due to the fear of embarrassment. They may also have trouble with dating or managing relationships, as they struggle with worrying about their partner abandoning them.
Lower relationship quality
Anxiety has been linked to lower levels of relationship satisfaction, trust, and perceived support in romantic relationships. Individuals tend to experience an overall deficit in the quality of their romantic relationships.
Fear of the unknown
Dating anxiety can be increased by a fear of the unknown and the natural uncertainty that it would bring with it. If you do not have much experience in dating, inexperience may be a significant factor in your dating anxiety.
Overall, dating anxiety can have a substantial impact on our lives, and it is crucial to address this issue to improve relationship satisfaction and overall mental health.
How to beat dating anxiety
Here are some tips to overcome dating anxiety:
Ask yourself what you want and need
Many of us do not know our needs because of distress and fear. You need to know the pros and cons of dating and ways to make the experience less stressful. It is also crucial to think about your expectations and your boundaries.
Talk about your past painful experiences in therapy
One way to improve your current dating experience is to process the pain of past relationships in therapy. Sometimes, the value of a relationship becomes clear after it ends, offering an opportunity to learn, grow, and break patterns that were not possible before.
It is essential to understand that not every person we fall in love with will be "the one". It takes pain to move us forward differently. There are lessons to learn from our disappointments, heartaches, and betrayals. By processing these experiences, we can better understand ourselves and our needs in a relationship, which can help us make better choices in the future.
Therapy can also help us manage negative feelings and work on strengthening the friendship part of the relationship by taking time for each other, remaining positive, and being gentle during conflict. The challenge is working toward developing a balance between discussing past hurts and strengthening the present relationship.
Analyse your past relationships and identify the common patterns
Here is a list of some questions to consider while looking back on your past relationships:
If you are struggling with dating anxiety that you feel is hindering your ability to find a partner, please reach out to your nearest therapist and ask for help. While dating anxiety is not a recognized mental health disorder yet, it can have a significant impact on one's life, leading to negative energy and distance in relationships, difficulty in communication, lower relationship quality, and a fear of the unknown.
Fortunately, the way to help yourself is to start by understanding and articulating your needs and expectations while dating. Seeking therapy can be immensely helpful in processing past painful experiences, learning from them, and breaking negative patterns. Analysing past relationships and identifying common patterns can provide valuable insights and help you make better choices in the future.
It is important to remember that dating is a learning process, and not every person we meet will be "the one." By embracing the lessons learned from disappointments and heartaches, we can grow personally and better understand ourselves and our relationship needs.
Ultimately, dating anxiety should not discourage individuals from pursuing connections and forming meaningful relationships. With self-awareness, support, and a willingness to step out of one's comfort zone, it is possible to overcome dating anxiety and experience growth, connection, and fulfilling relationships. So, let go of the fear, embrace the growth potential, and approach dating with confidence and empowerment.