Is Dating Triggering Your Anxiety Disorder?
Welcome to the Ex Games: a content series about love lost. Whether it's the realization things need to end, the act of rejection, the reality of being single, or the resurrection that is moving on, the Ex Games has every stage of a breakup covered.
And to really bring these stories to life, we've launched the Ex Games podcast, where we delve into the two sides of a break-up story with a new couple each week, and aim to end up somewhere near the truth. Because when it comes to affairs of the heart, everyone plays, but does anyone win? Let's find out.
I've been living with a terrible anxiety disorder for many years now. It was always bubbling under the surface, but really came to the forefront when I was starting college, living on my own for the first time, and dating a truly selfish and awful dude.
I spent a lot of time pushing my feelings of anxiety away. I figured it was just nerves, that all of the games and the uncertainty were just a part of the process of “falling in love.”
I spent nights lying awake (if I was sober) and spent days feelings like my heart would explode. What would happen next? Was this normal?
After everything fell apart in the relationship, I realized that what had awoken inside me was a full-fledged anxiety problem, aggravated by the stress of this bad relationship.
A bad dating experience can't cause anxiety, but it can trigger something that's there. Trust me.
At the risk of sounding like Carrie Bradshaw because IDGAF, I have to wonder: How does dating factor into your anxiety disorder? Obviously, dating someone with anxiety is a challenge in and of itself, but can the dating process itself actually make anxiety worse for someone with a disorder?
Listen, dating is an anxiety-inducing experience for everyone. There is a difference, however, between getting nervous about dating – becoming strung out from constant interactions with f*ckboys/girls and the tediousness of swiping – and a real, full-blown anxiety disorder aggravated by dating.
Dating CAN aggravate a pre-existing anxiety disorder.
Whether you're diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder or a Panic Attack Disorder (like yours truly), the dating game can trigger your symptoms and make them worse, “Anything super stressful can illuminate an otherwise dormant spark of anxiety that lives beneath the surface. Anything – a tsunami, earthquake, tornado, even the unknown.” Lisa Cypers Kamen, CEO of Harvesting Happiness and author of Are We Happy Yet tells Elite Daily.
Let me ask you a few things, bb.
Do you ever find yourself swiping through the meandering asshats of Tinder and Bumble and low-key feel like your heart might explode from the overwhelming slew of creepshows and weirdos? Do you pre-game your dates with half a bottle of wine to avoid the onset of a panic attack?
It's quite possible that dating is making your anxiety worse, and here's how I can help.
For those of us with anxiety, obsessing about things is a given. One tiny detail, one delayed text response, one lukewarm date, can throw us off kilter.
Now don't burn mama at the stake here. It's not just the diagnosed among us who find dating emotionally exhausting and anxiety-inducing, but if you have a diagnosed or emerging anxiety problem, the imbalance and uncertainty brought on by the inherently risky dating game can jack you up big time.
“The dating game...can teach us what we do and don't want in a long-term relationship. It's the test-drive to partnership.” Kamen says, “It can be damn stressful and anxiety producing. Dating taps into our curiosity but also our fear of the unknown. It knocks at the door of our core self-esteem and vulnerability.”
For someone with a legit anxiety disorder, something as tumultuous as dating and something as uncertain as putting your heart on the line is enough to give you heart palpitations. You, however, are far from alone.
Remember how much the dating game has to teach; try to embrace the "curiosity" over the "fear." And if you can't? Don't beat yourself up. Find someone to talk to, seek help, and you'll get back on the horse.
If you want to manage dating while you simultaneously manage an anxiety disorder, you've got your work cut out for you. But don't worry, bb. It's doable. It's just hard. NBD.
I guess you're probably wondering why something that's supposed to be exciting, something that's supposed to lead to finding the love of your life, sucks so much.
“It goes back to vulnerability. It can be terrifying to risk transparency that subjects us to potential rejection, judgment, and risk of showing our emotional deck of cards.” Says Kamen. “This is scary because it involves negative future fantasizing. Opinion before knowledge, which can then become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
For those of us with anxiety disorders, this is the kiss of death, the everyday reality. If you have anxiety, you know the game: You sit around and think about absolutely every single that can go wrong before it even has a chance to get started.
FYI, that's not good for someone who struggles with anxiety because triggers make it impossible to control. The entire process of meeting someone, flirting, and going on dates is a trigger. Yay, dating!
The first step of dealing with the dating-onset anxiety is acknowledging that it exists. I spent far too much time pretending my anxiety was just normal nerves when it was really an issue with my mental health.
If you're unmedicated or aren't seeing a therapist, you should start there before venturing into the unchartered territory of dating. You don't even have to go to a therapist's office anymore. Doctors will talk to you via online platforms.
Or, Google it.
“Train for it! Make the internet your friend. You can consult Dr. Google for free 24/7 for great tips on how to flirt, making the first move, conversation skills, impression management, how to win people over, the disclosure vault (revealing too much too soon) and how to handle disappointment/rejection.” Says Kase.
Once you have your anxiety under control, you'll not only be better equipped to face the Tinder scene, but you'll be an overall better partner when you meet someone you actually vibe with.
So you feel like you can handle putting yourself out there? Great.
Kase suggests psyching yourself up before your date to drive the frenzied feelings you may be experiencing into as positive a sphere as possible, “Doing anything new is stressful and that's OK. What we want is to mitigate paralyzing bad stress and support the good kind that arises in the face of anticipating something positive.”
I know it's hard to believe that you can have some semblance of control in the face of anxiety, but the more positive your thoughts are, the better off you'll be.
Turn on some uplifting music and “drown out the voices in your head,” says Kase. Dance around your apartment while you get ready. It sounds ridiculous, but it works.
If you can jazz yourself up and distract yourself from those pesky feelings of impending doom, you'll be all right. Probably. JK. You'll be fine.
Try to see the bigger picture and remind yourself that every single person on earth is terrified of dating and is terrified of rejection. This is one night, one person, one blip on the radar that is your life.
Seriously, how bad could it possibly be? Even some of the worst dating horror tales – the ones where a girl's date showed up blacked out or a guy's date had a serious allergic reaction to the cat hair on his clothes – all become fodder for stories.
As someone with an anxiety disorder, I know this line of thinking helps. If I can convince myself this is no big deal and everything is going to be fine, even if the night is a disaster, I'm calmer about the whole thing.
Anxiety is not something that goes away, but neither is dating.
Sure, you can shut yourself up in your house and become a hermit with 976 cats, but that's not what you want, is it?
Finding love is worth it.