Regain control over your love life.
Anxiety in dating is a common thing. You are excited about meeting that online stranger, possibly making a connection, and finding true love.
But for some people, it’s more than excitement. Instead, their anxiety makes dating more painful.
What is anxiety and how do the symptoms affect your dating and love life?
The symptoms of anxiety are characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, often accompanied by nervous behavior such as pacing back and forth, somatic complaints, and rumination.
In dating, anxiety can cause you to lose sleep and over-worry. It can lead to avoidance where you want to take anti-anxiety medications or quit dating, altogether.
Psychologists look at anxiety in two ways — either as a temporary or “state” situation or more as a personality type or trait:
- State anxiety is your reaction to a situation or event. Since dating is a situation that may be novel and the stakes feel high, it’s normal to feel a bit of state anxiety.
- Trait anxiety is your underlying anxious attachment style or generalized anxiety disorder GAD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder OCD.
If you have underlying anxiety issues, then dating and a new relationship may make you more anxious than what is considered normal.
Trait anxiety can affect you in three different ways — before, during, and after your dates and can cause you to worry or even affect your functioning and concentration.
- 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.
- 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.
- After a date: You’re cool during your dates, but only 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 you talk too much? What did he say about his last girlfriend?
Anxiety is a response to real threats. So if you have trait anxiety, you feel like you have a lot of your own self-esteem riding on your dates. Regardless of whether you experience anxiety before, during, or after your dates, dating feels like a threat. The threat is that you will like someone, you will invest in them, and, ultimately, you will get hurt.
Here are 9 symptoms of anxiety that keep people from finding true love.
1. You need details
The experience of having anxiety makes you feel ‘out of control’. Dating easily makes you feel this way because you never know where you stand. In an attempt to feel more in control you focus on small details.
You feel like it’s the only thing you can control, so why not focus on it? You wonder, “Where will we go? What will I wear? Did I tell him that I might be five minutes late? There’s traffic.”
You want to know everything you can about your date, beforehand the information makes you feel better. Online, you search to find out everything you can about your date. Some people call it ‘stalking’ but you like to think of it as internet ‘research.’
2. You race ahead
The anxious person has trouble staying present in the moment. As a result, it’s easy to race ahead. Even if in your own head, you can’t help but get ahead of yourself.
Before your dessert comes you are wondering, “Hmm, would he make a good father? I can see us together.” You start planning the next date, what you will say, where you will go, and how he might like your family?
3. You see things in black and white
When you’re anxious it’s easy to see things as good or bad. Either you are into him and he’s the greatest thing or you are upset because another jerk 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.
4. Your body is tense
Anxiety is not only in your head, but it’s in your body too. Your brain and body are connected. The negative thoughts you experience in your head are certain to affect your health and well being.
Bodily symptoms that indicate anxiety are cold and clammy hands, increased heart rate, shallow breathing, and muscle tension. Overall, you have a sense of unease and a feeling of fatigue that can mimic depressive symptoms.
5. You avoid things
Anxiety is often linked to avoidance. Makes sense right? You want to avoid things that make you uncomfortable.
6. You lose sleep and concentration
When you’re waiting to hear back from a guy you are convinced is your future husband, it’s hard to relax affecting your precious sleep and your ability to concentrate and function at work.
You find the rumination and preoccupation make you obsessed with finding out where you stand and how things are going.
7. You care what everyone else thinks
One of the key signs of anxiety is caring about what people think of you and wanting people to like you. It doesn’t even matter if you like the person or not, you want people to like you. If you are an anxious person you can easily idealize other people, especially at the start. Wow, look at how great they are!
Unfortunately, by putting them on a pedestal, you put yourself beneath them. It feels like they have more power than you do.
8. You get disappointed easily
If you listened to your complaints about people, often your theme is negative. You wished he would have said something slightly different. If only he would have secured the next date. The pattern is one of being hurt or disappointed people. It makes it hard for you to fully trust that anyone will be good enough, will be there for you.
Somehow, you see yourself as unlucky in love. Love is elusive and you can’t figure out why it is so hard for you?
9. You behave anxiously
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 chose to say but in your body language. It can be pressured speech, talking fast, an expectant look, or the way you hold your body in a protective way.
Anxiety can manifest as leg shaking, twirling your hair, touching your face or mouth. If you are anxious, you might feel pressured to ask intimate questions wanting to find out everything you can.
Anxiety spills over when you say things like, “I didn’t think you would show up”or “I was surprised you contacted me, you are so good looking.” In a relationship, you say, “Oh, I thought you were going to break up with me because you pulled back.”
While most anxious people identify with five or more of these signs, you might have only four but anxiety certainly negatively affects you.
Beneath these traits, anxiety is the low sense of self and insecurity and distrust in other people. Because you are anxious, you are conflicted. You want love but you also presume the worst, can be negative, and easily disappointed in others.
Don’t worry. You are not alone. Most people feel some level of anxiety.
Once you name it as such, you can find coping strategies to better manage it. Anxiety no longer has to ruin your dating outcomes.