If you ever find yourself becoming an anxious mess, have asked yourself, “Why do I get anxious when going on a date?” or go a little bit cray cray in the initial stages of dating someone, this post is for you. Today, we dive into dating anxiety – and don’t worry, you aren’t alone.
What is Dating Anxiety?
Put it this way – you’re a fairly reasonable, sane and level headed person. All is going well in your relationship or your potential new beau but when you see that little ‘read’ icon on a text message with no reply from your newest flame, you suddenly feel yourself spinning into obsessive, overanalysing mode. You start to break down every little thing; your mind gets flooded with an abundance of questions and concerns… And it’s all over someone you’re just dating. The worst is when you weren’t really into them and then they ghost you and – VOILA – you are hooked. This, my friends, is dating anxiety or in other words, heightened anxiety experienced when dating.
Here’s the thing though, it’s not you. You’re not totally bonkers. Nobody is exempt from this rollercoaster of emotions and chemicals that come with dating, and it’s actually a matter of science.
Signs of Dating Anxiety
I’m super conscious of this stuff (it’s literally my job to be, as a Feminine Energy and Relationship Coach) and I still notice it playing up from time to time in my life when I’m involved with someone. Even with the nicest, most attentive partners. I still catch myself obsessing over the hours between messages, the days between hang outs, the never-ending spiral of –
“Should I just message him?”
“But he said this, which means he likes me?”
“Maybe I shouldn’t have done that thing I did when we hung out last.”
…or my personal favourite
“Bec, if he really liked you he would have made more of an effort.”
All of which are quickly alleviated when my phone eventually does ‘ding’ and he’s right there again, paying me attention. Then, I start to feel a little silly because I went in spiral-mode for absolutely no reason. Then, I start to question if I’m stable enough for a relationship and then, the dating anxiety turmoil starts all over again.
Two Things to Keep in Mind:
- Firstly, I want you to be aware that there are a number of different chemical processes that are involved and associated with different stages of the courting period.
- Secondly, I want you to acknowledge that once you’re hooked in and addicted to these chemicals, a lack of the repeated stimulus (aka. Bae sending you steamy messages) creates some pretty hefty withdrawal symptoms.
I mean let’s face it, these chemicals are great when they’re in thick supply and making you feel all warm and fuzzy when you’re with bae and are crucial to allowing us to develop feelings of love and attachment, but when you’re not getting your hit it can wreak havoc.
What Happens During Dating and Relationship Anxiety?
In the early stages of courting, dating, relationships or lust the two main chemicals that are released are testosterone and oestrogen. It goes without saying that these two have the key role of making you feel sexy and wanting to do the sexy time. Not a lot more to say here.
The next phase, or ‘attraction’ is a little bit more complicated than that. The first chemical involved is phenylethylamine (PEA) which has similar effects to a stimulant and also released when you consume chocolate. So every time you get a message from the person or think about them your reward centres in your brain are being pinged. That means that when the stimuli is gone (aka you haven’t had a message in a while) so does the release of the chemical.
PEA also, in turn, releases norepinephrine (creating the physical responses of sweaty palms and pounding heart and explains the physical excitement you feel by being around your partner) and dopamine (which is associated with mate selection and funnily enough is increased by drugs such as alcohol, heroin and opiates – if this doesn’t scream a withdrawal waiting to happen, then I dunno what does).
“Attachment” is a fundamental human need and the next logical step in your relationship. During attachment there are three key chemicals involved: serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin. Oxytocin is known as the ‘cuddle hormone’ and its name accurately sums it up. It is released during touching, physical intimacy and also interestingly during breastfeeding and labor. It creates feelings of trust and closeness. Serotonin increases our dependence on another person, helps to regulate mood, appetite, sexual desire and sleep. A lack of serotonin (or a plummeting level) has been associated with depression and higher anxiety levels.
Lastly, but not least(ly) you’re all probably familiar with feel-good endorphins. And if you’re not I’d like to quote the most reputable source possible – Elle Woods in Legally Blonde – here;
“Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t.”
Endorphins are associated with feelings of comfort and attachment, they calm anxiety, relieve pain and reduce stress. They’re released famously during exercise but also through hanging out with bae, making the sexy time, getting messages and thinking about that person.
Now as I’ve said – a withdrawal of ANY of these chemicals involved in the numerous stages of the courting process can cause your body to go haywire and your brain to follow, wreaking ensuing havoc on your sanity and yes… your budding relationship.
Awareness is a super power and once you’ve mastered that you can detach from your ‘emotional addictions’ (caused by chemical releases) and your ego which is telling you to burn down his house, sacrifice his cat or flip your shit because you’re not getting your hit of feel-good substances.
So every time you have a pang and you’re feeling like you’re not acting like yourself, just know that at any given moment there’s an array of chemical withdrawals probably going on.
Techniques for New Relationship Anxiety
I’ve developed a few handy techniques for dating and relationship anxiety that will help you catch yourself in the act before you morph into a moody, anxious dragon lady sending off a whole series of scathing, passive aggressive messages that might send bae running for the hills.
The best anxiety techniques almost always relate to you becoming hyper-aware of what exactly is going on in your mind and body in these moments when you’re feeling yourself spiralling. #Mindfulness It will give you some knowledge about what is happening scientifically and chemically that causes your anxiety to go haywire and your brain to go in overdrive.
1. Take a moment to acknowledge the feeling, breathe deeply and patiently wait for it to pass.
Do something for yourself that will help to boost endorphins or get a hit of feel good chemicals without the need for a response from your flame. I can recommend hitting the gym for a sweat sesh, taking a nice relaxing bath, essential oils, meditating or hanging out with your girlfriends. Being around baby animals is also incredibly effective for relieving stress and anxiety!
2. Express Yourself Calming and Reasonably
If none of these things help, it can also be handy to explain (in a calm and diplomatic way) your feelings to your partner and express what the lulls in communication do for your mental health.
The key to tackling these emotions head on is to remember that although you may be experiencing impulses and insecurities in this time, it is perfectly normal and it is perfectly within your control whether you indulge them or not.
You always have the ability to be the master of your own emotions – control them, don’t let them control you.
- Relationship and Dating Anxiety: It’s Science - June 17, 2019
- Healing Without Medication: Strength, Courage & Badassness - June 14, 2019