The rules of dating seem foreign and phobia inducing when you have social anxiety disorder.
Dates who don’t have experience with anxiety might think you’re blowing them off when you’re trying to deal with anxiety symptoms. This lack of understanding can lead to them dropping you in an instant and can leave you feeling alone and vulnerable.
It’s hard for you to talk to people, especially people you don’t know. In fact, you may have tried dozens of times before, only to have your voice catch in your throat and stumble on your words. Then you feel bad because you’ve embarrassed yourself and feel like you’re never going to live it down, so you go out of your way to ever talk to that person again.
That’s the social anxiety talking. It makes socializing a nightmare, to the point where maybe you’ve stopped trying to meet people altogether. Your heart races, you feel like you might faint. You might even feel like you’re dying.
Social Anxiety Takes Time to Work Through
Many people with social anxiety avoid situations that make them anxious. The physical symptoms that come from having an anxiety attack are so horrible that sufferers would do anything to avoid them. However, the more you avoid situations that make you anxious, the more other things will induce anxiety.
You’re not going to just stop being anxious, even if you go to therapy for months. The first few times you put yourself out there, you’re going to be just as anxious, if not more so. The goal isn’t to get rid of it, but to learn to tolerate it.
Start Taking Little Steps
If you’ve been avoiding dating for months, or even years, jumping right back into it will trigger an anxiety attack and make you go back to avoidance behaviors.
Start small. Consider signing up for a couple of online dating services. You can learn to tolerate the anxiety of messaging someone and getting a response before you meet them in person.
This is a great way to reduce the sting of rejection as well. No one likes getting rejected, but it happens to the best of us. Social anxiety can make you feel like you did something to cause the rejection, when there are dozens of reasons why someone might stop talking to you.
Develop Calming Strategies
When you’re first starting to get back into the dating world again, your physical symptoms will still be around. Dating can be anxiety-inducing even for people who don’t struggle with anxiety. Worrying about what someone thinks of you can make the entire process crippling.
Learning how to apply calming strategies in any situation can make it possible for you to start dating again instead of staying alone out of fear.
While things, like being alone or taking a bath, are useful, you’ll need to develop calming techniques you can apply anywhere. Something that wouldn’t seem out of place on a date or at a social event.
Breathing techniques are a great way to flip on the calming switch in your brain. They can be done at any time and in any place. You don’t have to know anything special about breathing behaviors, all you need to do is take a deep breath and let it out. Set reminders to help you practice and turn it into a habit.
Finding a partner when you have social anxiety is hard. But it doesn’t have to be impossible. Take little steps to get out of your avoidance behaviors and pretty soon, you’ll find yourself out in the world again.
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