8 Dating Tips for People With Anxiety, According to Experts


ANYONE WHO has experienced anxiety, whether daily or occasionally, can tell you it’s not a pleasant experience. The nerves and self-doubt can creep in, stopping you from being fully present or enjoying the moment. It’s a common occurrence, with about 31.1% of U.S. adults having one or more anxiety disorders in their lifetime.

One of the events that can bring on anxiety is meeting new people—especially romantic partners. Dating is a vulnerable experience, and dating with anxiety is even more so. It can cause you to question how you look, what you say, and if you’ll meet the right person.

“For individuals with significant social anxiety, fears about rejection can be so intense that a person doesn’t pursue dating at all,” says Dr. Tynessa Franks, a clinical psychologist who specializes in helping adults learn evidence-based strategies to improve problems with social anxiety. “Even for those who don’t have a clinical level of anxiety, the nerves that come up before, during, and after a dating situation can impact how a person initiates a date.”


It’s all too easy to let anxiety stop you from pursuing things that could make you happy, such as finding a great partner. To help you navigate this, eight leading experts shared their best advice for dating with anxiety, from how to put yourself at ease to working through anxiety.

    Expert: Danielle Tucci, LPC, a psychotherapist and a clinical supervisor at a behavioral health agency.

    Anxiety is a common experience, and remembering this can help you feel less alone and cope. “One principle of self-compassion work discusses the concept of ‘common humanity.’ It is a helpful reminder that pain and discomfort is part of the shared human experience, something that we all go through, rather than only an experience you have,” says Tucci. “Be kind to your mind when you notice yourself being your own toughest critic.”

    Use this knowledge and that of overcoming past bouts of anxiety to ground yourself. However, don’t criticize yourself when the anxiety doesn’t immediately pass. It is not a negative reflection of you.

    Genuinely Compliment Yourself

      Expert: Amy Andersen, the founder and CEO of Linx Dating.

      Do you find yourself preparing for rejection before every date? If so, Anderson recommends listing all the things you like about yourself. It should be throughout and detailed, stating what you genuinely like. It can be anything from external attributes such as your hands or legs—there’s no reason not to appreciate your physique—but also include personality-based items. Are you kind but know when to stand up for yourself? Do you feel ready to commit to a healthy, equal partnership? Are you undefeated at the Sunday crossword? This list is about what you like about yourself, that makes you smile when considering.

      “These are all of the reasons that would make someone lucky to be your significant other. Some of it, of course, is going to seem very silly. But the rest of this should feel very true and very real,” says Anderson. She cautions against dredging up anything you perceive as a negative that will spark your anxiety. “If you go into an evening expecting that your date is going to reject you based on your own insecurities, you’re creating a situation in which one of the worst possible outcomes simply lives up to your expectations.” Start the date in your own corner.

      Date How Is Right for You and Think of It Like Meeting a New Friend

        Expert: Angela Ficken, LICSW, a psychotherapist who specializes in treating anxiety disorders.

        Does online dating make you feel overwhelmed or more anxious? Though it’s a common means of meeting someone, it’s certainly not the only option or a fit for everyone. Ficken suggests dissecting whether online dating makes you anxious or the general process of finding someone. If it’s the former, skip it, and meet people in real life. If it’s a bit of both, consider thinking of dating as meeting a new friend. Instead of questioning if they’ll like you, try to approach the date as an opportunity to get to know someone, says Ficken. This mindset can help you stay relaxed before and during the date.

        Meet People Through Shared Hobbies and Go on the Dates That Interest You

          Expert: Dr. Tynessa Franks, a clinical psychologist who specializes in helping adults learn evidence-based strategies to improve problems with social anxiety.

          No one denies the anxiety that can sprout when asking someone out, especially when you don’t know them well. To counteract this a bit, try to utilize existing connections, such as the gym or community groups, to connect with potential dates. “When you initiate dates with people with whom you have a connection—even if it’s minimal—you benefit from a psychological principle called the mere exposure effect, which reflects the human tendency to develop more favorable, positive feelings about people whom you’re exposed to repeatedly,” explains Franks.

          When it comes time to plan a date, there’s no reason you need to stick to the basics. As Franks says, “Anxiety often stems from feeling like dating has to look a certain way or follow a particular script.” Suggest an activity or place you like that your date would enjoy. It adds a personal touch and can put you at much greater ease.

          Examine Worst Case Scenarios and Remove Expectations

            Expert: Dr. Monica Vermani, a clinical psychologist and author of A Deeper Wellness: Conquering Stress, Mood, Anxiety and Traumas.

            It can be hard to pinpoint the source of anxiety when it occurs. Without a relatively straightforward answer, it’s also harder to soothe it. Vermani encourages you to “examine the possible versus the probable.” It can be terrifying to think about the worst-case scenario, especially in a situation like dating, which can leave you vulnerable. However, it can calm the anxiety and allow you to work through what bothers you. “We need to challenge our negative thoughts and reframe them into more positive ones,” says Vermani. “We also need to stop ourselves from spending hours catastrophizing and realize that instead, we can better spend our time and creative efforts on bringing in positive thoughts, thoughts related to what we want to manifest in our dating scenarios versus disastrous outcomes.”

            At the same time, remember it is unlikely the first person you date will be the love of your life, but they can still provide a fun time, Vermani says. Stay present and open to possibilities as you navigate the dating world.

            Instead of Avoiding Dates, Shorten Them

              Expert: Dr. Charissa Chamorro, a clinical psychologist and expert in the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety, OCD, and related disorders.

              According to Chamorro, anxiety-led discomfort can cause you to opt-out of dating, delay responding to someone, or create excuses. “In the short term, this works. By avoiding dating, you avoid anxiety,” she says. “Unfortunately, this just reinforces the tendency to avoid, and it makes it even more difficult to approach the next person you find attractive.”

              Instead, Chamorro recommends opting for a mini-date. These meetups may be a quick ice cream cone, bike ride, or small exhibit. It takes the pressure off to fill a lot of time but still provides an opportunity to see if you like the other person.

              Be Honest About Feeling Anxious

                Expert: Dr. Hayley Nelson, a neuroscientist, tenured psychology professor, international speaker, and founder of The Academy of Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience.

                When you’re anxious, it’s easy to shut down and hide your feelings. Yet, this leaves your date confused, and you miss out on a potential connection. “Don’t allow fear to prevent you from being honest, and be sure to let them know what activities or topics of conversation may be triggering for you,” says Nelson. “This way, they can be aware if you need to abruptly leave the dinner table to go practice your box breathing in the corner of the restaurant.”

                There’s a decent chance they, too, are anxious and will be relieved to break the tension and bond over it. However, if your anxiety builds to the point of complete distress and removing yourself from dating, Nelson recommends speaking one-on-one with a mental health professional or your physician. They can provide a range of support options.

                Work Through Existing Trauma, if Applicable

                  Expert: Kandace Ledergerber, a licensed mental health counselor trained in EMDR therapy.

                  It’s rare to find someone naturally calm while invested in dating. For many, the anxiety brought on by putting yourself out there can be debilitating. Your anxiety may stem from a range of experiences, from minor frustrations to deep trauma. If you feel it’s possible, it can be worth exploring these roots and working through why you find dating so anxiety-inducing.

                  Ledergerber suggests speaking with a trusted loved one or a mental health professional about your feelings. This person can not only assist you in working through the trauma but also validate your emotions in a way it’s challenging to do yourself. “This awareness could also inspire the person to seek deeper healing for themselves,” says Ledergerber. “People heal in so many ways, from spending time in nature, journaling and self-study, yoga, religion, spirituality, therapy, and more.”

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