When Dating Anxiety Becomes Destructive

Hair looking great? Check.

Outfit perfect? Check.

Guy (or girl) sounds like a great match? Check.

From the looks of it, you have all the ingredients for an amazing first date. Your heart rate is quickening and there are butterflies in your stomach. Okay. That’s to be expected.

But wait. Those aren’t just butterflies. It’s a sick feeling. You’re getting nauseous. And your heart isn’t just fluttering, it’s pounding. Add to it perspiration around your hairline and under your armpits — destroying your previously perfect hairstyle and outfit…ugh!

It’s too late to cancel so you focus on trying to get yourself under control. Before you know it though, you’re face-to-face with Mr. (or Ms.) Perfect. When you introduce yourself, your voice trembles so much you don’t even recognize it. While shaking hands you notice your palms are sweaty. And to your horror, he (or she) notices too. Your mind is cloudy and it’s hard to concentrate, making it nearly impossible to be a good conversationalist.

Internally you criticize yourself for being so nervous… appearing unsure and weak. Where’s the confident, competent, interesting you??

Anger seeps in because you’re blowing what should have been a great first date with a potential long-term partner. Worse yet, it’s someone with whom you’ve been meticulously matched.

You. Are. Blowing. It.


Does this scenario sound at all familiar? Sometimes folks add wine, a cocktail, or Valium before or during a date to “cope” with their anxiety and “calm their nerves.” That might be a temporary fix, but it risks you presenting someone who’s not the true you.

So what to do?

First, recognize you’re not alone in becoming anxious in social situations where the stakes are high. Thinking about the potential consequences — both good and bad — is natural. However, when your fleeting “unhelpful” thoughts become those that you dwell on, your normal nervousness may increase to full blown anxiety. The anxiety can be associated with distressing physical symptoms — like increased heart rate, clouded thinking, difficulty concentrating, perspiration, muscle tension, trembling, or a panicky feeling — that worsen your self-critical thoughts sending you in a spiraling loop that makes you miserable, disappointed, and even consider avoiding dating altogether.

Second, know there’s help. And no, I’m not talking about a brewsky or Skinny Girl martini. If your symptoms are very severe, perhaps a licensed therapist is the best route. Otherwise, consider contacting TDR Date Coaches who are available to help you develop coping skills to address what’s making you nervous and possibly destroying what could be The.Best.Date.Ever.


Michele Cooley-Strickland, M.Ed., Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist and anxiety disorders specialist who recently joined the TDR Date Coaching Team. She is developing a TDR Webinar and future TDR Workshop on dating anxiety. Check out the TDR Date Coaching page here, and don’t hesitate to reach out to Michele!


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