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Woman frustrated with terrible text from man on dating app

Anxiety and Online Dating is Real!

By now, we've all seen some cringe-worthy bios and pictures. And it's not getting any better.

Let’s get real; dating is a lot of fun. There’s something special about hitting it off with a new match or that indescribable adrenaline rush after your first kiss with someone special. But even in the best of circumstances, dating means putting yourself out there, something that’s a bit scary for everyone. After all, dating requires vulnerability, and truth be told, vulnerability isn’t easy for anyone.

However, if you’re one of the three million Canadian adults with an anxiety disorder, dating and starting new relationships is even more difficult. Since 75% of anxiety sufferers fail to get proper care, it’s essential to educate yourself about anxiety.

You want to recognize the symptoms of normal dating anxiety compared to the signs that it might be time to seek professional help. Educating yourself on this topic can help you better understand your dating anxiety or the dating anxiety of someone you love. 

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Online dating can be frustrating and time consuming, with limited if any results. Or maybe you just don’t know where to start.

At the same time, anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issues, according to The Anxiety and Depression Association of America. So if you or your significant other has an anxiety disorder ( or experience similar symptoms of one), know that you’re not alone. 

Dr. Cheryl Fraser, a prominent Canadian psychologist, sex therapist, and author, is known for her expertise in how to create passion in your romantic relationships. We asked Dr. Fraser your most frequently asked questions about dating and anxiety. 

Read on to learn more about how to navigate everything from the usual stresses of dating to tips for dating with an anxiety disorder. 

You need to ask yourself if your anxiety cripples you.

Dr. Cheryl Fraser

How do I know if my anxiety about dating is typical or if it might be red flags of a mental health problem?  Elliot, 31

Dr. Fraser: You need to ask yourself if your anxiety cripples you. Do you have a panic attack where your anxiety is an 8-10 out of ten with physical symptoms like shortness of breath, sweating, or shaking?

If it is, be kind to yourself. Be sure to seek professional from a psychologist or a highly trained counsellor who has training in treating anxiety. Remember: anxiety is very treatable, and there’s a great response to anxiety treatment. 

Try to think of treating your anxiety as a positive change. Dating anxiety may lead you to tackle your general anxiety. Receiving treatment for general anxiety will improve your life in all aspects. 

1 in 3 million Canadian adults have an anxiety disorder. Online dating only amplifies this.

My friends call me a hopeless romantic, but I know I have a hard time focusing on being present in my love life. Every time I go on a first date, I ask myself if this person is my future husband. How can I manage my anxiety so I can enjoy the moment without worrying about “what if?” 

Margot, 29

 

Dr. Fraser:  I love this question, because we are human and oh, boy, we do this! I would love to give a quick technique or fix for this…but there isn’t one.

My best advice is to accept that rather than trying not to “fast forward.” You need to understand that your brain can script an entire relationship in seconds. Literally! You can imagine where you’ll have your wedding, what kind of dog you’ll have or how much you’ll love to teach your kids how to ski. 

You need to accept that the brain tends to script elaborate love stories as well as elaborate catastrophes. As I teach in my book, Buddha’s Bedroom, “The mind is a storytelling machine.” In this book, I show you how to train your mind so you can create an extraordinary relationship. Because, as I say, “Great love is all in your head.”

When you catch yourself fast-forwarding, the first step is to acknowledge that what you’re telling yourself is just a story. Laugh about it and practice letting go of the fantasy.

This is hard, but you’ll need to try. Then take three mindful breaths and truly try your hardest to show up with what is actually happening. This takes training, so don’t beat yourself up if this is super hard. 

 

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I recently got divorced. I took some time for myself, and I’m ready to start dating again, but I have anxiety and dating seems so different nowadays. I’m so out of the loop! Are apps still a good idea for someone like me? – Amelia, 36

 

I love giving my single clients “online dating homework.” Why? Because online dating is a fantastic way to experience rejection when the stakes are still quite low. 

With online dating, you can practice swiping right or sending a message and seeing how you feel when the person doesn’t reply. Ouch, a mini rejection! 

Afterward, I get folks to learn to examine the irrational beliefs. For example: do you think they don’t like you because they didn’t respond?

C’mon, that’s a story! It’s not the whole picture. Let’s get the facts straight. You sent a message or tried to communicate with someone, and nothing came back. That’s it. However, your anxiety story says, “it’s about me.” 

Next, I challenge my clients to go on a minimum of ten first dates, in person, ASAP. (Of course, this might not be possible due to social distancing). This way, clients can practice facing their anxiety head-on. Typically, anxiety about getting back into dating revolves around meeting people in person, not knowing what to say, or what to do if they don’t show up. Basically, you get to work on your anxiety before you “really really like” someone.

Is it easy? Nope. But you get to feel how dating anxiety feels for you both physically and mentally.

Also, you get to experience what it feels like to be rejected. Is rejection fun? No! 

However, online dating makes it easy to experience rejection (which will happen), and you’ll learn you can survive the lies that your anxiety tells you.

My significant other has anxiety. How can I best support them? 

Henry, 29

 

Dr. Fraser: This is my best advice: you can never entirely understand what your partner feels. For example, if you never gave birth to a baby, you can’t ever understand what it’s like to do so. Supportive partners can follow these steps: 

  • Don’t ever tell your significant other to calm down or not to worry. Likewise, don’t tell them that what they’re thinking is not reasonable. 
  • Do ask them to explain how they feel. Let your partner talk for no more than ten minutes about their worries and fears. Then ask them to stop talking and embrace them in a sincere, long hug. Anxiety creates a fight or flight response in the body, which activates a person’s sympathetic nervous system. Hugs activate the calming system, the parasympathetic nervous system.  
  • Do turn to trusted resources so you can better understand the inner torment your beloved feels. Also, you should try your best to be patient. 

Ultimately, anxiety can stop you from dating successfully.

Dr. Cheryl Fraser

How do I know if my anxiety disorder is impacting my love life? 

-Winston, 33

 

Dr. Fraser: Quite simply, anxiety often stops a person before they start. People with anxiety often ask themselves: What if they don’t like me? What if I don’t know what to say? What if they like me more than I like them and I’ll need to let them down? 

Those are the types of thoughts that keep you at home, alone, dreaming about what can happen instead of taking the actions. And yes, this includes the scary steps that are needed. 

Ultimately, anxiety can stop you from dating successfully.

Meanwhile, once you’re dating someone or are in a committed relationship, anxiety can sink your love boat because of the inevitable question: What if? 

What if they cheat? What if I’m not who they want? What if there is someone better for me still out there?

You might have a fear of missing out on other potential partners. Perhaps you have a fear of messing up your relationship or the doubt that you can’t count on your significant other.

That is a subconscious fear – a fear you won’t survive if they leave you. 

So then you become clingy and demanding and risk scaring your sweetheart away.

Or you subconsciously shut down your heart and “lose interest” in your partner. After all, anxiety is worrying about what might happen. 

What if they cheat? What if I'm not who they want? What if there is someone better for me still out there? These are realities we create in our heads

Online Dating and Anxiety 

Research shows interpersonal support is one of the most effective ways to reduce anxiety and stress. 

Here at Shift Dating, our team of experts can help you navigate everything from setting up your profile to one-on-one time with an executive dating coach. 

With our help, you’ll have the support you need for a more positive, stress-free online dating experience. It’s making a huge difference to the lives of so many clients! 

Join the growing list of happy clients who already have a head start.

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