Dating and putting yourself back into the world of romance can be a scary step anyway. But combine that with a generalised anxiety disorder and any other mental health conditions, it can feel more of a nerve racking and uneasy experience rather than one of excitement and joy. Dating means stepping out of your comfort zone into the unknown, which for an anxiety sufferer is a really uncomfortable place to be, especially if you’re someone use to staying in your circle of comfort. You’re not going to be 100% in control of the situation and that feels completely scary. But it’s also ok. Because the more you do it, the easier it will become and the easier it is the less you’ll feel anxious regarding dating. With small baby steps and self belief, dating can be successful and you can overcome any fears surronding it.
Here are some of the things that have helped me and can also help you with dating when you have an anxiety disordered:
1. Know and accept that you probably will be anxious – Accepting that you probably will be anxious is a great place to start. This way you know you’re not battling against your anxiety nor are you going to surprise yourself if you suddenly feel yourself getting anxious. Know that this is completely ok. Being anxious is something we all experience, especially when it comes to seeking new relationships or going out of our comfort zone, so everyone will be feeling the same way. You will not be alone. Don’t fear the anxiety. Let it be. Ride it out and it will pass. The feelings will not last forever.
2. Be in control – I know I mentioned briefly that dating means being out of control, but if you can try be in control of a situation as much as you can then this will really help ease yourself into it. This could mean being in control of whom you decide to start getting to know, where you go on a date(s), what you want from the situation etc. Also when you feel comfortable, don’t be afraid to share with them how things are for you. This can really help if you do decide to meet with someone, then they will know what to expect from you and how to handle it. By doing this, you’re taking off some of the pressure from yourself and sharing your anxiety with someone else. This will help to make you feel more confident as well.
3. Do things at your own pace – There really is no rush. Do things at your own pace. You have plenty of time on your side. Don’t make snap decisions just to get to where you want to be. Take it nice and slowly. It might take weeks, months or even a year or so, but every frog you have to kiss to get to the right one, will be worth it. It’s all a learning experience and a chance to beat your anxiety, so take it in your stride. Talk to people when you’re ready to. Meet up with people when you’re ready to. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be at a certain stage straightaway. Also don’t let anyone else pressure you either. You’re in control of you. You call the shots.
4. Understand your needs/wants and also theirs too – Ensure you’re both on the same page. Know what you want/need. Whether this is the relationship you both want (dating, seeing each other, an open relationship, a committed relationship etc) or how things are progressing, it’s good to know how things are between you to help reassure you and keep peace of mind. This will help ease your anxiety.
5. Let them in on the know – When you feel ready to, slowly ease yourself into informing them just how you’re feeling and what to expect from you if you were ever to meet properly or start a relationship. This will help give them a good idea of how to handle any flare ups and educate them on the best approach to take to handle your mental health. This will give you assurance that you know someone will be there to support you if you do feel uneasy at any moment.
6. Be confident – Remember that with dating they’re getting to know you for you. So be confident in who you are. Just because you suffer with mental health doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. You’re still you with or without the illness. It does not define you. You’re still a human being with bags of personality. Use this as the perfect opportunity to love yourself to the full and praise yourself for all that you are. Be honest and shine yourself in a positive light, even if it one of the hardest things you have to do, the more you do it, the easier it will become. You want them to get to know the real you, just as much as you want to know the real them, so be confident in it and belief in yourself.
7. Don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work out/they turn out to be a d*ck – Unfortunately some people are harsh. This is not your fault. The problem lies with them not you. So if things don’t work out or someone is disrespectful to you in anyway do not put the blame on yourself. It does not reflect your worth if someone turns out to be a d*ck. The plus side is that it makes way for better people who will treat you right. So don’t lose hope or take it personally. You’ll find someone who is just right for you. No matter how long it takes. It will happen.
8. Find support and encouragement from you and others – When trying to improve your mental health, we’re always taught about self-love and self-care. Really enforce this way of self care onto yourself by being your own cheerleader. Praise yourself for any obstacles in the dating world that you overcome and encourage yourself to go for opportunities with that help of your own self belief. It’s also nice to get the same support and encouragement from your friends and family who will be more than happy to offer this help to you. They can talk with you before any dates and boost you up ready to face the situation. Also they can also help you to come to terms with your feelings regarding any situation, whether this is potential people you’re interested in or the types of things you’re worried about.
9. No pain, no gain after all – No matter how deliberating anxiety can be, without going through it and coming out of the other side, we wouldn’t gain something more positive in return. Once you have got through the anxiety and faced your fears, you will know that it was all worth it, to be able to find someone (again) or have learnt lots from your experiences and gained lots of confidence. It will feel amazing once you have gotten through it and you are able to feel comfortable on dates, around that special someone or even just talking and getting to know new people.
10. Don’t give up – This is super important to remember when you are suffering with mental health. But can also be applied to dating when you have anxiety. Do not give up on what you want or you as a person. You are not your anxiety. Your anxiety might operate within you. But you do not operate within it. So keep going. Don’t let it beat you. Get back up and try and try again. Love yourself and respect yourself. Know your worth and what you deserve. Continue to push yourself out of your comfort zone at your own pace. You’ll feel amazing once you have done. It will all be worthwhile. Believe in yourself and give it time. You’ll get there. Don’t give up.
What are your top dating tips?