Dating with mental health problems

Sam22nd February 202113 min

So how does a person with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) cope with dating?

Simple answer, like everyone else but with 10x the nerves, worrying and panic. 

Life with GAD is constantly worrying about the littlest things and dating definitely isn’t made any easier by this. From the initial talking stage to the date night itself, my mind fills with what ifs: what if she doesn’t turn up, what if this is all a prank, what if she’s done with me, what if… You get the idea. It may be worth noting I’m now in a long term relationship, so it’s definitely not impossible to date with anxiety, but read on to hear about one of my worst experiences and how anxiety affected my dating game.

Dating with Anxiety

Dating with anxiety for me was expecting every nightmare scenario from a rom-com to come true, fearing things like what if I get stood up, or what if I lose my wallet and come across as a broke boy. It’s really hard to compare to what a normal date might be, because for me normal was unachievable. I was convinced a normal date was the perfect date where every moment was just perfect and any tiny blip was a disaster. I always predicted the worst case scenario. Of course most of the time things weren’t as bad as I thought they’d be. This was until all of my fears became a reality…

Dating Disaster

I met this girl through a mutual friend and things seemed okay at the start. I’d been out with her and some friends before, so I knew the date would be fun and that we already got on. I booked a restaurant near some bars so we could get drinks after eating, as I knew she was a party girl and enjoyed a drink or two. I was excited for our date until the ‘what ifs’ kicked in and I managed to convince myself she wouldn’t show up and what if there’s another guy and they had their date last night, it went really well and she isn’t interested in me. Thinking back, it weird how detailed the what if’s used to get.

I managed to reassure myself and pushed ahead, then on the way to pick her up I called her and she didn’t answer. After the missed call I panicked, other people might have reasoned that she was still getting ready, but my anxiety initially didn’t let me reason with myself and I could only think of the negative outcomes. I got to her house, knocked on her door and called her with no response. Eventually her flat mate came to the door and let me in, only to discover the girl I was there to see was still in bed and had forgotten about the whole date.

I think anyone would be offended in this situation, but it was especially cruel for me because I’d convinced myself everything would be okay, after worrying otherwise, but I was proved wrong and all the what if anxieties felt validated. I thought I was done with dating after this. If I didn’t ask anyone on a date, I wouldn’t have to deal with the what if anxiety and flashbacks of being stood up. I didn’t go on any dates for a while, until I built up the courage to try again.

Every now and then she’ll pop up in my feed or in a conversation and I’ll laugh and think back to a time when someone said ‘one day you’ll look back and laugh’ - it used to seem so unrealistic but look at me now, literally laughing as I type this sentence.

The Extreme Sport of Making a Relationship ‘Official’

I met my now girlfriend through another mutual friend. We became friendly and only spoke when we met up for study sessions with our mutual friend. Although I desperately wanted to try the dating thing again, all the what ifs and the flashbacks from previous bad dates/relationships kept me from trying. My anxiety was kept somewhat at bay because she wasn’t interested in dating either. 

Eventually I asked her out and she agreed to go on a date with me. Despite knowing her well already, I was always nervous to go on dates with her. For me dating is one thing, but making it ‘official’ whilst on a date seemed like an extreme sport. By the time I was ready to ask her to be my girlfriend, we’d known each other for months, been on multiple dates and I was confident she was the one - she just got me and helped me deal with my mental health problems, instead of writing me off. 

On the day I was going to ask, all I could think about was what if she says no, runs out of the restaurant, is coming on the date to dump me? My mind was filled with a list of reasons for her to say no. The only thing that kept me going was knowing that there was only one way to find out - to ask. I started to get stomach aches every time I tried to leave my house to pick her up. I knew it was all in my head but that didn’t stop the pain. I persevered, but I was now late meeting her. NB I’m not the best at being on time, so she didn’t suspect it was nerves.

The date was going really well until every time I remembered why I asked for the date, to ask her to be my girlfriend. I kept delaying asking and before I knew it the meal was over. My nerves continued until we were back at hers and after an hour of chatting about other things I plucked up the courage and randomly asked. It felt so casual. In my head I wanted to ask whilst sat in the restaurant, looking her in the eye to make it extra *romantical*. My anxiety ridden, unromantic way of asking is another reason she’ll say no, I told myself. Not a spoiler, she said yes and I didn’t know how to react. I felt a massive relief and it turned out she didn’t mind that I hadn’t asked in the restaurant because when I did ask it was more private.

Dating Tips

Reflecting on the bad dates and the dating anxiety, they’re now just part of my past that led me to finding my now-girlfriend. Those moments were character building and have made me who I am: able to recognise the what ifs as a symptom of my anxiety, not facts. If I’d let my anxiety win and never dated again, where would I be now? 

If my stories resonate with you, remember everyone feels nervous about dating. Nerves mean you care, they’re not always a bad thing, and we must try to not let them stop us from doing something we want to do. The right person for you will see the individual behind the nerves. Some tips I suggest are:

  • Be honest with your date about how you’re feeling. If you can’t be vulnerable with them now, when can you be in the future?
  • When you start thinking of negative what if’s start thinking about positive what ifs instead
  • Know your worth, the person said yes to the date for a reason, so you must be worth it
  • If they can’t accept you on your bad days, they don’t deserve you on your best days.

Sam from Anxious Extrovert

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