Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 1/10/2022
There’s nothing better than being in a loving, supportive relationship with a romantic partner. But actually finding that love? Ugh. It usually involves going on a series of dates until you meet the right person — and that just sucks.
No matter who you are, there’s usually some degree of anxiety surrounding dating. When meeting someone new — regardless of whether it’s a date or not — you may worry whether they’ll like you or vice versa. But when it’s a potentially romantic situation, it can feel like the stakes are higher.
Of course, being an anxious person is not exactly going to help you find your soulmate. Which is why it’s important to learn how to slay your dating anxiety.
Feeling a bit nervous about a dating situation is totally normal. It’s one of the negative aspects that’s just part of the journey towards finding true love.
But if you find yourself getting totally overwhelmed by the idea of going on a date or it starts to affect how you interact with potential love interests, you may have social anxiety disorder (SAD).
The DSM-5, a guide used to categorize mental health disorders, defines social anxiety disorder as the fear of situations where you are exposed to potential scrutiny by other people or really worry you may do something embarrassing.
SAD is actually quite common. In fact, it’s the third-most common mental health disorder in the United States (after depression and substance abuse). It is also the most common anxiety disorder.
Now that you know the definition of SAD, it makes sense that dating could trigger anxiety, right?
When meeting someone for the first time, it’s easy to stress over your social skills and what this new person may think about you.
You may also worry you could do something humiliating — like getting spinach stuck in your teeth or eating way, way, way too much garlic bread (seriously, how is something so good for your taste buds so bad for your breath?).
In other social situations, where you know at least a few people, it can be easy to overcome your anxiety. But aspects of dating are already vulnerable and sitting down with a stranger for the first time can be stressful.
Wondering if your anxiety around dating is the run-of-the-mill kind or if it’s a sign of you may have social anxiety disorder?
Online mental health services are the best way to help you determine that. But it may be helpful to know some of the symptoms of social anxiety disorder.
When someone with social anxiety disorder has to be around new people, they may:
Tremble or shake
Speak quietly or avoid people
Find it scary to be new people
Avoid situations where they’ll be around new people
It’s helpful to know that your anxiety around dating may be deeper than it seems. But that knowledge won’t necessarily solve your problem. These pointers can help.
Practice may not make perfect, but it can make you less nervous.
When you’re anxious, you’re less likely to open up and share about yourself. And if you’re looking for a love match, not sharing anything about yourself isn’t a great look.
If you want to improve at self-disclosure, it may be helpful to practice. It’s not that you want to sound fake and rehearsed, but rather that collecting your thoughts before a date (while you’re less anxious) can help you present your truest self.
So, how should you practice?
Think about what aspects of your personality are most important to display and how you may want to get those across to a dating partner. If work is a big part of how you spend your time, think about what aspects of your job you want to disclose.
You can review this stuff in your head or even practice with a friend. You may feel silly at first, but you may later find that it’s easier to discuss these things without anxiety when you’re on your date.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the practice of mindfulness. It’s become quite popular and devotees of it swear it can lead to a healthier, happier life.
So, what is it? Mindfulness is centered in the idea of living in the moment. You should strive to be more aware of your surroundings, sensations and thoughts.
Then, if other thoughts start to pop into your brain (like doubts or insecurities), you’re directed to acknowledge them and then release them.
When it comes to dating, staying in the moment can be a big help. Focus on what your date is saying or how you’re feeling about them, rather than thinking ahead or worrying about something that happened earlier in your conversation.
By staying in the moment, you’ll be better able to show who you are and can really assess whether or not you’re vibing with your date.
If you’re really in your head about dating, it may be worth seeing a therapist.
Someone who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) could be a great option. This type of therapy is all about identifying negative thought patterns and coming up with ways to change them.
In the world of dating, you can speak with your online therapy about anxiety patterns you may notice and come up with ways to stop them in their tracks.
CBT can make people feel more confident and in control — which is never a bad thing!
There are even studies that show that CBT can help people with various anxiety disorders, including SAD.
If you’re really paralyzed by dating anxiety, it may be worth speaking to a healthcare professional about anti-anxiety medication.
There are a number of prescription medications used to treat anxiety. They include:
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
Learn more about all of these in our guide to Medications for Anxiety.
If you’re interested in taking medication for dating anxiety, you can get an evaluation for anxiety treatment online.
Dating is hard enough. But when you toss in a healthy dose of anxiety, it can be absolutely brutal to go out with a potential partner.
If you’re an extremely anxious person when it comes to dating, you may have social anxiety disorder. It can manifest as blushing, sweating, nausea and more.
Thankfully, you don’t have to just accept dating anxiety. From prepping yourself for a date to being more mindful and seeking assistance from a therapist, there are many ways to get your nerves in check.
If you’d like help coming up with a game plan so that you can accurately assess the viability of romantic relationships, it’s always wise to speak with a mental health professional.