Candace Ganger
Updated April 14, 2016
Columbia Pictures

The idea of dating can already be anxiety-inducing enough, let alone if you’re someone who already lives with anxiety. As someone with anxiety disorder, I know firsthand how difficult taking those first steps towards anything can feel. Getting out of bed, running errands, and even making dinner. Every little thing feels like a million tiny steps in the wrong direction, no matter what I do and my day is filled with a to-do list longer than most novels. It’s daunting. Even now, in a marriage of nearly 9 years, the mere thought of being thrown back into the dating scene makes me want to curl up in the bathtub with a bottle of wine and sob. If I had to do it, I don’t think I’d succeed due to the long string of stressors that come into play.

In case you’re on the receiving end when it comes to dating someone with anxiety, here are a few struggles we go through:

Going out isn’t an option sometimes.

Thankfully, meeting people these days doesn’t have to start with an awkward face-to-face pick-up line at a bar you don’t want to be at. But that doesn’t make it any less stressful, and you’ll probably have to leave your house at some point. Unless someone can invent a teleportation machine that can project only my best qualities to a public space to meet, I’m gonna have to think about actually putting pants on, leaving my house, and going through with this whole dating thing for a minute. So, I’ll get back to you on that.

The fear of reaching out is just too much.

If you’re brave enough to be the first one to message someone you’re interested in, you deserve all the cupcakes in the world! That alone means you’re about a thousand steps ahead of someone like me, because I’d put it off until the message disappeared into oblivion. Even if you aren’t the first to do so, if someone swipes or pokes or matches with you on one of these dating sites, you might feel utterly paralyzed when you go to respond. You’ll have all the usual anxiety-riddled thoughts (what am I doing?) that make procrastination that much easier. Eventually, you’ll put off responding so long, you’ll miss the chance to possibly meet your future partner and thus, the anxiety wins again. Don’t fret. The beauty with online dating is that you can go at your comfort level, so be patient with yourself. If you find someone who isn’t into waiting for you, they’re probably not worth it anyway.

A phone buzz, or ring, is the actual worst.

Between online profiles and meeting in person lies this weird middle ground of texting or talking on the phone. To me, both are equally horrifying, TBH. One little buzz across my coffee table and I jump across the room because WHAT MONSTER WOULD CONTACT ME THIS WAY? I’m not the president so lay off, people. But seriously. At some point, the time will come to cross the barrier into this type of communication, so brace yourself. Not every buzz is an emergency, bad news, or a solicitor, but it doesn’t matter because our minds don’t know the difference (it’s ALL stressful)!

There’s literally nothing to wear.

It takes me approximately three to five days to plan an outfit for a casual take-out or drive-thru dinner date with my husband and before I even look, it’s a given I’ll end up in an old racing tee and jeans because that’s all I own. I still give it the old college try each time, hoping my closet will magically expand with interesting things, my “fancy” clothes will suddenly seem appealing, or I’ll be able to, for the first time ever, make a decision quickly. But, no. If we can just go somewhere sweats are socially acceptable and preferred, all is good because I can’t possibly stare at all the things I don’t want to wear another second. Oh, and please love me and tell me I’m beautiful anyway. Thanks.

All the insecurities once you actually go on a date.

If you’ve made it to this stage of the game, congrats! You’re dating! But now that we’ve surpassed all the roadblocks along the way, things start to get real. Like really real. There’s the worrying about how I’ll sound or look. I’ll stop listening to what you’re saying because I already feel that rosy flush of embarrassment on my cheeks and I’m busy silently praying it doesn’t show. The room may have begun to swell and I might be suffocating so I’ll breathe and panic inside and hope you don’t notice because the worst that could happen is, I reveal my true self. Then, what if you don’t accept it? I’ll spend my night wondering where it all went wrong and ultimately decide it was probably in second grade when I should have checked “yes” instead of “no” on that note from someone who had a crush on me. This is where it all comes crashing down and I’ll decide dating isn’t worth all the fuss even though I really want to do it. Sound familiar?

Dating with anxiety is hard! It’s to be expected the first few interactions with a new person will feel different or out of your comfort zone, but when the anxiety takes over, it’s easy to believe nothing could work out the way you hope. However, you should try your hardest to calm these fears — there are plenty of good things to come from taking the first steps towards your love life, including finding someone who embraces all of you. So be real, anxiety and all, and the rest will follow.