As a person with anxiety, dating has always brought its own set of struggles. Because a lot of my anxiety has to do social situations, dating is something I tend to avoid. And when I do find someone I want to go out with, my anxiety isn’t something I want to talk about. Because, I think, who wants to date the anxious girl?
Instead, I hide it.
But why should I have to feel like I need to hide such a big part of who I am? If someone is scared off by my anxiety, it’s going to be better for both of us if I’m upfront about it from the beginning. Because even if I can hide it successfully for a while, it can’t and shouldn’t stay hidden forever.
So in the interest of full disclosure, here are five things you will need to know about my anxiety before we date.
1. There are physical symptoms.
Anxiety is a mental illness, yes, but there can be a lot of physical side effects that go along with it. Something I struggle with a lot is feeling physically ill from my anxiety.
If I say I can’t go out with you because I’m not feeling well, what it probably means is that I was feeling so anxious I threw up, and now I feel like crap. Or maybe I feel like I’m going to be sick, and I don’t want to chance going out with you in case I get sick on our date. Unfortunately, this has happened before (it was exactly as horrible as you might think), and it’s not unlikely it will happen again.
The more I get to know you, the more comfortable I’ll be and the less anxious I’ll feel. Until then, the best thing you can do is to try to be understanding, and not blame me for something I have no control over.
2. Sometimes I need to organize my thoughts.
If we’re having a tough conversation, anxiety can make my brain lock up. Sometimes it feels like I literally can’t speak, as if my mind has gone blank or I can’t figure out how to put into words what I’m feeling. I’m not trying to be difficult, I just sometimes need a minute or two to collect my thoughts and calm down.
Chances are, the anxiety comes from fear of how you will react to what I’m feeling, and I’m trying to fight my way through that to say what needs to be said. I might just need a minute to breathe and think without the pressure to speak, or I might need to leave the conversation entirely and come back later once I have processed my thoughts.
3. I don’t jump into relationships quickly.
Like I said, I tend to avoid dating. I’m sure there are people who will say the only way to get over dating anxiety is to go out with a bunch of different people, but that sounds unbearable to me. I’m much more comfortable getting to know the other person slowly. If I’m going to date you, it’s because I think you might be worth fighting through all my mental obstacles for. It will take me a while to really open up, so you’re going to have to be patient. If that’s not something you can do, then you should move on.
4. Sometimes I feel needy.
My anxiety likes to tell me you probably aren’t really all that interested in me, and even if you are interested, you won’t be for long. So I have a tendency to feel a little needy. Not that I will share these feelings with you, of course. Because then you definitely won’t be interested anymore, since no one likes a needy person.
Instead, I’ll just feel anxious and sad and overanalyze every interaction, waiting for the moment I can tell you are no longer interested. In an ideal relationship, I’d be able to share these feelings of insecurity or neediness without the other person judging me or putting me down for them.
5. It’s OK for us to laugh together about my anxiety.
In my family, humor is how we cope with difficult situations. I make jokes about my anxiety all the time because it helps me deal. If I make a joke about it, it’s OK to laugh. And if you know I’m feeling anxious, trying to get me to laugh can be a good way to help me calm down.
That doesn’t mean it’s OK to make fun of me. What I’m saying is sometimes my anxiety is ridiculous, and I have to laugh about it or the weight of it will bury me. You are encouraged to laugh with me.
Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images