This Is What It's Like Dating With Anxiety
Dating can be scary at the best of times – there's the chance for rejection, and hurt feelings
Dating with depression and anxiety, says Gabby Abbott, is even harder, and it's important that you look after yourself
If you need help with anxiety, find a therapist here
I probably get asked twice a week how my love life is. The question itself has little to no effect on me – people are interested and want you to be happy - but placing happiness and contentment on whether you are in a relationship or not is anxiety-inducing for me. Generally, dating as someone with anxiety and depression is hard to manage.
Swipe right, swipe left, judge me on my appearance…
I go through phases of downloading dating apps, deleting, installing, deleting again, installing for a day… it’s never ending. And that for me is where the fun ends. All of a sudden, I am very aware that, although I am doing exactly the same, someone is sat on the other end of their phone swiping for me based on my pictures.
My mind consistently tells me that I am ugly, that I don’t have any qualities that anyone would find attractive and that people are going to look at my profile and only enforce those negative thoughts. When no one is judging me on the way I look, they can have little contribution to reinforcing your negative thoughts because they don’t exist, if no one’s looking at you, then no one can make a judgement.
This era of online dating builds self-esteem (omg I have 400 matches) and knocks it right back down again with one message, one bad date, no new matches. There is nothing slow and steady about it. And it’s really scary. Especially if your twenties have been a rollercoaster of gaslighting, dating faux pas, some average-to-good dates, regret and past relationships.
A date is booked in. I get so nervous and overthink the whole thing. I write it off in my head before it’s even happened. My friends get me there – they big me up, they show me my worth and they understand. So, I go. Because I feel like I have to. What if this is the love of my life and my life just rockets because of this man I meet who exceeds all my expectations and adores me?! You’ve got to kiss a few frogs, right?
In my experience, dates are the most awkward social meeting you will ever have. Do I act cool? Do I exaggerate my nice traits? Are they being themselves? Should I pay?
Until now, I’ve tried my hardest not to show too much of myself, avoiding opening with, ‘Oh by the way I have anxiety and sometimes I get really depressed and I might overthink everything you say and be paranoid and worried you’re dead when you don’t reply and then panic when you don’t constantly reassure me.’
I tend to overthink, to play out situations in my head before they have happened and to create scenarios in my mind where I always come off worst; in the dating world this isn’t exactly ideal.
Luckily, I have learnt so much from dating and reflecting that that’s not me anymore, but I do get it. I promise, it doesn’t have to be like that.
The aftermath can be exciting, full of butterflies in your stomach; it can also be the worst – Why haven’t they text me? You have to realistically ask yourself what the date was like; if your anxiety is exacerbated then you have to judge whether this person is right for you. A natural, mutual like will lead somewhere – they will be as in to it as you. I have had many a guy message me loads after a first date, maybe a second and third date and then NOTHING. When questioned if they wanted to see me again they said yeah, then NOTHING. Do I need this in my life? Do I even need this from people I’m not dating when I know my brain is sensitive? No.
Something didn’t work out recently and I haven’t been bothered, my head hasn’t even given it a second thought, and do you know why? Because the person was honest.
In dating, it's important to be honest with yourself too – is this person building you up or kicking you when you’re down? They can be the hardest to get over, the ones that do the latter. Those that manipulate, or string you along, or encourage you to live a lie where you thought they genuinely cared for you. They don’t deserve you. They feed on your anxiety and trust me you feed on that enough without someone else doing it too.
Have they been honest with you? If not, why? To cover up their guilt? To make you feel insecure? To lead you to a 6-year relationship or a second date? What’s the difference? You and your mental health deserve more.
My tips for the dating with anxiety:
- Were you okay before you met someone? Yes. And you will continue to be okay I promise.
- If he/she lets you down or it doesn’t work out. It’s NOT personal. It is no reflection on you or your personality, it’s a mismatch. Have you liked everyone you have ever met? I doubt it.
- Don’t expect anything. Expect average. Anything better is a bonus and you can build on it.
- Don’t do anything you don’t want to. If you feel so anxious you can’t go. Don’t go.
- Anyone that judges you isn’t worth your time anyway.
- You need someone to build you up not kick you down.
- Life is so much more than dating.
- Make your apologies and leave if you have to – don’t waste money and time.
- No one is their ‘true self’ on a first date – they will be as nervous as you.
I have been on dates that have given me amazing stories to tell; I have been on dates that have left me sobbing in bed wondering what on earth is wrong me; I have been in long, serious relationships that have done exactly the same. But I see no difference in my strength to get back up and keep trying.
Know your worth. Someone should enhance your personality, make you laugh harder, make you proud to be who you are and not be dismissive of your anxieties. Whether you’re on a first date or a second or third or fourth or fifth you should be building your self-esteem and confidence every time.
I have taken a break from dating for a little while now to work on myself – to try and be what I know I can be, to be the best version of myself for myself so I can be the worst version of myself around someone else and they will not put me down for it. I have cut people off who make me feel insecure, self-conscious and make me feel like I have to act different. Even if they want a second date and they made you feel like this – are they who you really need?
Dating should be fun. And if it’s not, maybe you need a little more time to work on yourself. And that is totally okay. Being with someone is bottom of my list of things that matter. I am shown love every day and when someone fits into my life they are more than welcome; but until then my anxiety is so much more important.