Anxiety can be an all-consuming state that seems to interrupt daily functioning. People struggling with anxiety attacks will experience a range of symptoms including shortness of breath, racing heart, excessive sweating, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea and general “butterflies in the tummy”.
Sometimes this ‘attack’ can cause stuttering and cloudy thinking that also interrupts general functioning. It is not surprising that people struggling with anxiety and anxiety attacks worry about meeting new people and dating. Dating, in and of itself, is an anxiety provoking experience. We all worry about impressing the potential partner, having interesting things to talk about and making a good all round impression.
Struggling with anxiety can make being on the social scene a little difficult, excessively worrying about what you may do or say wrong, concerned about your nervous tics and even stressing about having an anxiety attack in public.
One thing is for sure – anticipating an anxiety attack is only likely to exacerbate the anxiety in general and, more than likely, bring on an attack. However, struggling with anxiety should not stop you from pursuing a fulfilling social life and dating.
There are ways and means to make things easier on yourself.
First and foremost be open and honest. Talking about the elephant in the room makes it more manageable and less scary so don’t be afraid to tell your date or the people you are with that you are anxious and want to make a good impression. More than likely they feel the same way to a greater or lesser extent. You may be brave enough to disclose your anxiety condition to your date – while there is some danger in oversharing, it may also help you find someone who is caring and understanding. Try to see the 50% positive. In this sense you have a 50/50 chance of things going badly and most people struggling with anxiety will see the 50% chance of things failing and forget that there is just as much chance of things going really well. So try, as hard as it seems, to keep your view of things rational.
Check your own self-defeating behaviours – The most common self-defeating safety behaviour that people struggling with anxiety tend to use is “self-checking”.
This refers to that constant checking of the self – do I look ok, am I smiling, am I saying the right things? It is almost as if you are looking at yourself from outside of yourself and judging yourself very harshly. This behaviour tends to reinforce the anxiety itself and becomes self-defeating. When you are able to sink into being natural, without constantly checking what you are doing or how you are coming across to the other person, you will find the anxiety dissipates somewhat and you are able to enjoy the experience.
And if all else fails and you are really struggling to keep it together, make use of calming aids such as breathing exercises, visualisations and perhaps herbal calming remedy. Do not use alcohol excessively to calm your nerves, this sort of “self-medicating” rarely ends well on first dates.
Eric is a Clinical Psychologist whose approach is warm, open, and humorous. He works respectfully with his clients to help them understand their stuck emotional patterns and their way of being with both people and life events.