It’s safe to say that dating anxiety is a widely experienced phenomena today. Some studies show a positive correlation between symptoms of anxiety and depression, and the individual’s extent of dating app use. Whether you have experienced it yourself or you have listened to the trials and tribulations from a friend, it’s clear that the game of dating has changed due to the advent of technology and dating apps. The rules have changed and so has our emotional experience of dating today, creating a new subset of anxiety referred to as dating anxiety. Although not a formal mental health diagnosis, the experience of dating anxiety is very real and can impair your life in various ways.
People have never before been able to have so many options for potential mates across different cities, states, and even social groups as they have today. With the rise of dating apps, I’ve noticed a trend in my own practice where relationships are beginning fast, skipping the courtship phase and eventually sizzling out. I work with many clients who are left feeling rejected, “ghosted” and anxious about their worthiness as a partner. Without the proper tools, understanding, and support to navigate dating anxiety, it can leave one feeling apathetic towards dating and preferring isolation.
It’s important to note that there is some level of anxiety inherent in dating because you are putting yourself in a vulnerable position. Dating is vulnerable because you are venturing into the unknown, meeting a completely new person, sharing about yourself (ideally!), and you know you’re being evaluated. Meeting someone new can have the body pumping out adrenaline. For those who don’t struggle with anxiety, the difference is that feelings of adrenaline will not be interpreted as dangerous or bad. There will be an excitement and a curiosity about meeting this new person. However, the experience for those who are struggling with anxiety over dating will be much different.
The experience of dating anxiety can look like…
– Obsessing over how you present yourself on dating profiles
– Regularly stalking them on social media
– Catastrophizing when you haven’t heard from them
– Frequently worrying you did or said something to change their view of you
– Settling by dismissing red flags or your non-negotiables
– Avoiding dating altogether after you’ve experienced rejection
The quality of our relationships is an important pillar of wellness and studies have repeatedly shown that healthy relationships are correlated with better health outcomes over time. This is explained by the evolutionary history of our species, as living in tribes was advantageous to our survival. The extent to how well we used our strengths to work together benefited our survival. Today is no different, we literally need to be connected to each other for our health.
There’s many benefits to learning how to manage dating anxiety as it can help you to return to a place where you’re having fun dating (yes, there’s fun to be had) while helping you find a partner that will help elevate your life experience. Working with a licensed therapist can help you develop the tools needed to navigate modern dating including reframing catastrophic cognitions, practicing self-disclosure, getting clear on your values and needs, practicing communication and acceptance, among others. If you experience dating anxiety, consider working with a licensed therapist to help empower you to try new behaviours, overcome fears and limitations, and find the joy in dating again.
Erica Basso is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist practicing statewide in California. She helps guide women in overcoming anxiety, perfectionism, and imposter syndrome.