How to deal with dating anxiety

Dating is supposed to get you all hot and flustered, but in a good way. Everyone gets anxious about dating, whether it’s the fear of rejection, past relationship trauma or just the regular minefield that comes with modern dating and dating apps. Nerves are common and approximately 1 in 5 people experience relationship or dating based anxiety - so you’re not alone. 

When it comes to dating and relationships, it’s completely normal to feel anxious, especially if you’ve had a break from dating or don’t have much experience. It’s just part of the journey, however, for some the anxious feeling can be too much that it puts them off dating completely, but it shouldn’t!

Common causes of dating anxiety and how to deal with them

Dating requires us to be vulnerable and to put ourselves out there, which can be quite overwhelming, causing feelings of anxiety. Here are examples of some of the most common causes of anxious thoughts and how to deal with them.

To avoid spiralling in your own thoughts, practice good communication instead. Stop with the ‘what if they’re thinking this/that’ and confront your thoughts head on by speaking about how you’re feeling.

Feeling nervous is completely normal when meeting someone new. To make sure you’re comfortable, plan a date that you’ll enjoy and be at ease with, like going for a drink or going to the cinema.

Getting rejected sucks, so of course the idea of it is scary. Try to remember that rejection is far more about compatibility to the idea of who they want than your inherent worth. Worry less about if they might not like you and more about if you even like them. We all have a tendency to put people on a pedestal which can make rejection even harder.

This is a super common situation, who actually enjoys putting their vulnerabilities out there? It’s a brave thing to do. But the benefits are worth it. If you feel like someone isn’t respecting your boundaries, the only way to fix this is by expressing how you feel, so think about how much better you’ll feel once you’ve asserted yourself and claimed back that power. 

Tips for online dating for people with anxiety

We’re positive that the dating game will not only become more bearable, but actually quite fun (you can thank us later). Knowing what triggers your anxiety during dating is only half the problem so we’ve put together some tips to help you control anxious thoughts and keep the anxiety at bay!

  1. Take charge of how you think.

Battling anxiety can be hard, but a way to start tackling it is by recognising the thoughts that are causing and triggering your anxiety. Netdoctor suggests doing this through mindfulness: “Mindfulness practices can help us to recognise this tendency of the mind. By noticing our thoughts and feelings with an attitude of curiosity and acceptance, we can watch them come and go whilst giving up any attempts to prepare for, or control, what happens in the future. This allows us to experience life without getting caught up in past stories of pain, or imagined future worries.” Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is also suggested as an option, helping improve self-esteem and teaching you to view relationships more realistically, both of which should improve your dating anxiety. Read more about CBT and how it works on the NHS website.

  1. Allow yourself to take a break from dating

You need to be honest with yourself. Online dating can be tough, from ghosting to rude matches. It can be a minefield, one of which may only make anxious feelings worse. Being turned down or rejected is shown to trigger the same part of the brain as physical pain, so you need to be mentally prepared before downloading. There’s nothing wrong with deciding you don’t want to deal with rejection or d*ckhead behaviour right now, so ask yourself if you can mentally deal before deciding whether to give it a go. And if you are using them, knowing when your anxiety has got too high is key for realising when to give yourself a break.

  1. Set your boundaries. And stick to them.

Acknowledge and accept what triggers your dating anxiety in order to set your boundaries. This way you can start to be clear with yourself and your dating partner about what you expect and what you won’t tolerate (and telling yourself to just ‘chill’ won’t help, trust us). For example, if unconfirmed plans heighten your anxiety, get a date and time set in place as soon as possible. Setting boundaries is a must for protecting your mental health whilst dating, so don’t apologise for it!

  1. Learn your attachment style.

Attachment theory is all about how our childhood development affects our relationships as adults. Learning your attachment style is a great way to understand how we respond emotionally to other people and what we need from a partner. Whether you have an Dismissive Avoidant style who is independent and find it difficult to get close to someone, or you have a more Anxious style so need intimacy and are prone to feeling insecure in relationships. Understanding our own attachment style can help us better understand own emotions. Read about attachment styles here.

  1. Put a time limit on your app use and turn off notifications.

We know we're a dating app saying this but… we truly believe that less is more. Endless swiping isn't good for anyone. It's why we only recommend a few people a day and why you can only have three chats at a time, so you can focus on getting to know someone, not swiping (and then getting on with the rest of your life). 

Studies show a strong link between dating app usage and social anxiety, meaning the more time spent swiping leads to less happiness from its users’. Dating and relationship expert Cheryl Muir suggests limiting dating app usage to just 10% of your daily interactions, with the remaining 90% spent talking to friends, family and pre-existing relationships. 

Notifications provide the brain with the same dopamine hit as a text message or an Instagram like, making them slightly addictive. This can cause the brain to associate these online social interactions with the same pleasure as in-person interactions, so turning off notifications will make you less likely to check the app frequently, meaning you have the overall choice of when to use it, becoming less addicted. You don’t want to become dependent on social interactions through a dating app (even we can admit that). 

Dating is supposed to be fun, so when those exciting butterflies start to feel more like being on a plane with really bad turbulence, give yourself a break, re-read these tips and wait until you’re ready again. 

If you ever feel like things are getting too much or you want medical advice, please take a look at the following links.

Team elate x