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Dating Anxiety: What It Is, 39 Causes of Panic and Signs & Steps to Get Over It

Having a dose of dating anxiety is very normal, after all, you’re putting yourself out there! Learning how to handle it means a chance to meet The One. 

dating anxiety

Just because you might be experiencing the panic of first date jitters, does not mean that it is a bad thing. It just means your emotions are running wild and full of anticipation of what is to come. This is what is called dating anxiety.

It’s great to put yourself out there in the dating pool and learn what you want and don’t want in a relationship. That’s what first dates are about after all. Weeding out the ones you’re not into, in favor of ones you might potentially start a relationship with.

It’s the fact this person you’re going on a date with might be your next significant other that gives you these anxiety-inducing feelings!

But sometimes, we let our anxiety get in the way, which can have drastic consequences on our confidence levels. [Read: How to build self-confidence – 16 ways to realize you’re worth it]

What is dating anxiety?

Dating anxiety manifests in many ways and is caused by many things.

Sure, when it comes to meeting online, you could be nervous about catfishing or being kidnapped, an extreme yet plausible fear. There are also nerves about being stood up or rejected.

But, then there is the anxiety that makes no sense. Meeting someone new is scary, but when your nerves become crippling anxiety that leads you to cancel plans every time, you may need some help. [Read: Social anxiety vs. shyness – how to decipher what you’re really feeling]

If you’re reading this, you’re probably going through something similar. The unexplained anxiety about dating is so frustrating. Your brain is rational, but your anxiety is not. However, you can power through the nerves of dating.

So, how do you get your feelings and thoughts on the same page when it comes to dating anxiety?

Dating anxiety causes

The cause of dating anxiety varies from person to person, but there are usually a few common issues that sit behind your irrational fear of getting out there and meeting someone new. [Read: Signs of anxiety – how to read the signs ASAP and handle them better]

1. Previous relationship experiences

You might have had a bad date or two in the past and it’s made you terrified about going through the whole thing again. Or, you might have had a bad relationship and you’re scared to get attached too quickly.

Whatever the reason, getting over your past experience lies in understanding that the future doesn’t have to be the same as what has been and gone.

2. Low self-esteem

If you’re struggling with low self-esteem, it’s quite normal to feel anxious about meeting new people. You worry that they’re going to think about you and whether you’re going to stumble over your words or worse.

3. Attachment style

Your attachment style can also play a part in whether or not you struggle with dating anxiety. If you’re someone who gets attached very easily, you might worry about getting hurt.

And if you have an anxious attachment style, you’re far more likely to get worked up about dating. [Read: Attachment styles theory – the types, signs, and ways you attach to others]

4. A tendency to question

Sometimes, overthinking really can ruin a good thing. Overanalyzing and questioning everything will simply make you even more nervous and as such, you’re allowing dating anxiety to creep in for no good reason.

Common things we feel nervous about on a first date

Are your nerves always on edge before you head on a date? Don’t worry, these feelings are pretty common! [Read: Signs you’re ruining your first dates unknowingly]

1. Deciding what to wear

You may not have a super chic, awesome closet and therefore struggle to pick out a great first date outfit. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have the ability to wear something amazing.

We all know deciding what to wear is a huge process. We try on too many outfits to count, constantly analyzing ourselves in the mirror over and over again.

But here’s a trick that helps you along in this process: the next time you try to decide what to wear on a first date, take a picture of yourself in the outfit you’re considering.

See how you like it in the photo. If you don’t like it in the photo, don’t wear it! Simple as that. [Read: First date moves that will guarantee a second date]

2. Breath check

We’ve all had bad breath at one point or another. It’s safe to say we also know how terrible it feels *and smells*.

If you are going on a first date, you’ll probably brush your teeth about 10 times. Of course, once you’re on your date, you’ll constantly find yourself wondering if your breath smells.

A few ways to avoid bad breath by the end of the night *in case you have a first date kiss* are to not order tuna, avoid drinking coffee, and stay away from anything with lots of onions or garlic.

If you avoid these things, you’ll probably be okay and avoid the whole bad breath situation! Drinking lots of water helps, too. [Read: Signs of a bad kisser and 15 fail-proof remedies]

3. Fear of being stood up

If you’ve watched any dating movie, you are familiar with the panic that comes with being stood up. No one wants to be stood up.

It doesn’t matter if your date is supposed to meet you somewhere or pick you up. When you’re waiting for someone to show up and they aren’t exactly on time, a minute feels like an hour.

If your date is worthy of your time, they’ll pick you up or meet you right on time. And if something happens to make them late, they definitely call or text you to give you a head’s up. [Read: How to avoid getting stood up on a date – everything you need to know]

4. Kissing capabilities

One of the biggest panics of a first date is wondering if there will be an end-of-the-night first kiss, and if so, what it will be like. This takes up a lot of room in your brain during your conversation, but it’s important to remain cool, calm, and collected.

And if your date doesn’t go in for a kiss by the end of the night, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you. Maybe they just want to take it slow, or maybe they were too nervous.

If you do happen to kiss at the end of the night, remember it may not be perfect. Don’t quit on someone just because you two parted ways with a partial kiss. [Read: 15 secrets to make your first kiss really memorable]

5. Embarrassment

No one likes being embarrassed, especially on a first date. Sometimes, things happen that we really have no control over.

Obviously, you don’t want to be the one who walks out of the restroom with toilet paper stuck to their shoe. And you don’t want spinach stuck between your teeth while animatedly talking to your date.

Just keep in mind that these things happen, no matter how careful you are with what you do. It’s best to just laugh it off when you have a blunder. At least your date knows you have a sense of humor. [Read: How to ask someone if they like you without embarrassing yourself]

6. Worrying

Worrying is like a rocking chair, it keeps you occupied while getting you nowhere. If you constantly wonder what your date thinks of you—if you choose the right outfit, if they’re going to pay for your meal, or anything else—you won’t be able to really enjoy your date.

Remember it’s a first date, and it’s okay to be nervous.

Stop wondering about what your date is thinking. Guess what? You aren’t a mind reader. No one is.

Take a deep breath, and order that second glass of wine to calm your nerves if you need to. [Read: 20 ways to perfect your first date conversation]

7. Nervous nitpicking

First-date anxiety leads to bouts of insecurity. One of the worst ways you battle insecurity is by nitpicking your date’s flaws to make you feel better. No one is perfect.

If you have a checklist of requirements the person you want to end up with has to meet, you’ll probably not find them. [Read: Warning signs to look out for in the first few dates]

If you scrutinize your date from head to toe and find yourself thinking things like, “They’ve got a great personality, but I’m not so sure about their weight,” or “They’re nice and all, but they’re a few inches too short for my liking,” ask yourself if your date is the problem, or if you are. [Read: 15 of the most memorable things to do on a first day]

Physical signs of dating anxiety

Dating anxiety can manifest itself in a number of ways. You might think that it’s all about how you think and feel, but in some cases, anxiety can cause physical symptoms too.

Do you notice any of the following?

1. Rapid breathing

2. Increased heart rate

3. Sweating [Read: How to get rid of nervousness and calm your mind wherever you are]

4. Trembling

5. Feeling weak

If you can nod along to a few of these, your anxiety is showing itself in physical ways. Of course, your date may also notice these things.

Signs your anxiety is affecting your dating life

Before we get onto how to handle and overcome dating anxiety, let’s double-check whether this is something you need to address or not.

If you are noticing a few of these signs, your dating anxiety is most definitely affecting your dating life in a big way. [Read: How to gain confidence and turn your life around for the better]

1. You expect bad things to happen

It’s normal to wonder about the what-ifs. But, if you’re always assuming the worst, that’s probably because you have no confidence in yourself.

Dates aren’t only for the person to decide if they like you, they’re also for you to decide if you like the other person too. Relax!

2. You don’t feel present during dates

Your anxiety has distracted your mind so badly that you can’t relax and just enjoy the company of the other person. You probably don’t even remember what they just said, do you?

3. You bail on dates right and left

Rather than put yourself through a date, you cancel it instead. Basically, you’re choosing the easy way out. But just think of what you might be missing out on! [Read: Ghosting – what it is, 63 signs, reasons to ghost, and how it affects both people]

4. You never feel like yourself

Dating anxiety has a habit of making you into a lesser version of who you are. Your confidence is affected so badly that you can’t just relax and be yourself. So, the other person doesn’t really get to meet the real you.

5. Your head is full of negative self-talk

And it’s loud! You have a constant reel of negative chat running through your head. You tell yourself that you look bad and that the other person doesn’t really like you.

Then you start questioning what they just said and whether they were only being polite. It’s exhausting! [Read: Positive self-talk – what it is, where it comes from, and how to master it]

6. You aren’t fully aware of your options

Anxiety can close you off from meeting other dates because you either refuse to go out of fear, or you just don’t think they’d ever be interested in you. You’re missing out!

7. You’ve often been told you “didn’t have a connection”

The reason for this is that you didn’t allow yourself just to chill out and be yourself. How can they feel a connection when you’re not being true?

8. Your anxiety is creating physical symptoms

If you can nod along to some of the physical symptoms in the last section, your dating anxiety is likely manifesting in very visible ways. [Read: What it feels like to experience anxiety in a relationship]

9. You’re nervous to put yourself out there

It’s normal to be a little nervous, but if you’re so nervous that you either refuse to do it or it makes you extremely scared, that’s a problem that’s holding you back.

10. Your self-esteem is easily damaged

All that negative self-talk and fear can erode your self-esteem to the point where one word can affect you in a big way.

A person only has to look at you the “wrong way” and you feel bad about yourself, assuming you’ve done something wrong.

11. You assume every date was a complete failure

Very few dates go totally smoothly. But it’s the quirks and little awkward moments that make them fun!

Laugh at the problems and just go with it. Stop assuming that just because they didn’t laugh at your joke, they think you’re a mess. [Read: 51 warning signs of a bad first date and big red flags in the first few dates]

How to get over dating anxiety

Learning how to get over dating anxiety will not happen overnight. It takes practice and time to recalibrate the way you think about dating.

Whether you have a fear of being hurt, rejected, or just falling on your face on a first date, rethinking how dating works takes a lot of time. [Read: Are you sabotaging your happiness unintentionally?]

1. Don’t dwell

The thing is, ghosting and rejections by someone you really don’t know too well are not the end of the world. It says more about that person than it does about you.

Instead of dwelling on the bad times, let them go. It takes practice, but dwelling only feeds the frustrations that lead to anxiety. [Read: 15 signs of a bad first date that reveal a total lack of chemistry]

2. Have fun

Dating anxiety prevents us from actually having fun on dates. Whether it is working out or not, enjoy it. Modern-day dating seems more like a job or a cruel joke than a fun social outing, but it doesn’t have to be.

If you take it for what it is, you can enjoy dating. It is when you have expectations that the date fails. Whether you expect the best or the worst, dates usually don’t go how you plan.

Just accepting and enjoying the date for what it is can help you experience the joys of dating without the anxiety.

3. Try not to overthink

Overthinking leads to anxiety, and anxiety leads to overthinking. Even for someone with an instinct to plan and look at every situation from each angle, overthinking never helps.

Keep yourself busy up until the date. Occupy your mind with something productive so that your anxiety doesn’t creep up and overtake you. [Read: How to stop overthinking – your strategy for finding peace]

4. Stay open

Going on a date with someone that isn’t sure what they want may be terrifying, especially if you’re certain that you’re looking for a relationship. Why risk catching feelings for someone when they might not be looking for the same level of commitment as you?

Well, keeping an open mind to other possibilities may help you realize what you wanted really wasn’t what you needed. Be open to new opportunities, but don’t settle.

For example, if you know down the road you want a relationship and you meet someone that knows they only want something casual, in the long run, it won’t work. But if you are both open to what feels right, it could be the best thing. [Read: Casual dating vs. serious dating – what’s your ideal dating speed for now?]

5. Acknowledge your anxiety

The more you try and push it away, the harder it will be. Anxiety has a habit of making itself known! So, acknowledge how you feel and tell yourself that whatever comes your way, you’ll handle it.

Try not to make such a big deal out of the date. If it goes well, fantastic. If it doesn’t, just chalk it up to experience.

6. Plan the date

If you’re the one deciding where you’re going, you’ll feel more at ease. When it’s the other person and you have no control over the situation, you might feel even more anxious.

So, suggest a few places to go and say you’ll do the organizing. They’ll probably be glad you’ve taken the job off their hands! [Read: 33 awesome date ideas every couple should try]

7. Be present in the moment

Literally, force yourself to stay right in the moment. If you allow your mind to wander, you’ll just start to question and overanalyze everything.

Whenever you notice that your mind moves away from the moment, pinch yourself *literally* and it will snap you back into the moment. Just do it subtly, otherwise, the other person might wonder what you’re doing to yourself!

8. Be yourself

There is nothing wrong with who you are. Do you honestly think the other person is so confident that they’re not a little anxious too? Of course they are anxious!

Relax and allow your natural self to shine through. It will feel effortless after a while and you’ll connect on a much deeper level because you’re not pretending to be something you’re not. [Read: How to be yourself – 26 steps to unfake your life and love being you]

9. Use relaxation methods

Deep breathing and meditation are great options for helping you to stay calm and in the moment. These deep relaxation strategies can be used anywhere, at any time.

As you’re waiting for your date to arrive, focus on your breathing and you’ll notice that you feel much calmer after a few seconds. Practice mindfulness as much as you can through affirmations and meditation.

10. Set boundaries

If something makes you extremely nervous, don’t do it. Set a boundary that it’s a no-go for you.

If you prefer to meet in a bar rather than in a restaurant because you don’t like eating in front of people, that’s your boundary and something you should stick to. Go with whatever feels comfortable for you. [Read: How to set boundaries – crucial steps to feel more in control]

11. Be open and honest about how you feel

There is nothing wrong with saying to the other person, “sorry, I’m really nervous.” After all, they’ll probably appreciate it, let out a sigh of relief, and tell you that they feel the same!

Being open and honest about how you feel will knock down your walls and allow you to relax.

12. Reach out for professional help

If you find that your dating anxiety really is stopping you from getting out there and meeting people, perhaps it’s time to ask for help.

A therapist will be able to identify the underlying cause of your anxiety and any triggers that affect you. [Read: Emotional baggage – how to help someone put it down and find freedom]

Dating nerves are normal, but you must embrace the experience

The thing about dating is that you won’t get to the good stuff unless you embrace the nerves and work through them. We highly doubt there is anyone on this planet that doesn’t feel a little nervous before going on a first date. But it’s all part of the experience.

Be yourself and know that it’s enough. The other person is probably just as nervous as you! But if you allow dating anxiety to take over your life, you’ll miss so many chances to meet The One.

[Read: How to remain hopeful while dating and not let heartaches keep you down]

Remember, dating anxiety is normal to a degree, but dating is supposed to be fun! Just like anything in life, if you want something to happen, put yourself out there with confidence!

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Vinod Srinivas Serai
Vin Serai
Vin Serai is the founder of LovePanky.com, and has delved deep into the working of love and relationships for almost two decades. Having dipped his feet in almo...