I have debated about writing this post for some time now- partly because it is very personal, and partly because I have been worried that it could end up coming across as a ‘pity’ post- and I don’t want to.
This post will be about dating as a anxious PhD.
Dating in general can be quite anxiety inducing- even for ‘normal’ people i.e those without a anxiety disorder. But it is even harder for those of us with anxiety.
I can’t speak for all PhD students, but a PhD can be relatively isolating- you go to work in a small lab from 9-6 every day, you often end up socialising with the same people you are working with. After work you often just collapse in front of the TV.
The PhD is also not fixed- some days you need to work to 7, other days you finish at 5. Some weekends you may have to come into work. Sometimes a experiment unexpectedly overruns- these are all little things, but can make it more difficult when meeting new people. In addition, most PhDs will find themselves working in a relatively small bubble of people, so if you want to meet new people, you need to go outside the bubble. This is daunting for most people, but when you add anxiety to the mix….
For many people dating is an exciting experience, for me it isn’t so much.
For me anxiety has had a huge impact on my social life, and as a consequence my relationships too. Until very recently I haven’t found myself in a place where I could even consider entering the world of dating, and now I still find it extremely difficult.
What sort of things do I worry about?
- Do I tell them about my anxiety? It helps to explain how I can act sometimes, and eventually I think you need to tell your partner, but when is the right time?
- Self-sabotage: Anxiety makes me overthink things way to much. Most people when chatting to people via dating webs ect will feel anxiety about talking to someone new- its normal, I think, but my overthinking can lead to me to self-sabotage. If someone doesn’t reply, I worry, if they do reply, I also worry.
- previous relationship experience *read lack of here*
- The date itself: my anxiety can get the better of me, I lose my appetite, I feel very shakey- my adrenaline kicking in. If you go for food, then it will look weird if you have nothing: ok go for coffee instead *insert another stupid worry*…
- Some days I don’t want to communicate with anyone- but I then end up worrying that with my lack of communication they will stop communicating themselves… so I think about telling them why: anxiety, and worry about that for a bit. At this point I have been known to simply stop…. and retreat completely from the dating scene again.
Plenty of people will simply say, just reply anyway, just go on the date- what’s the worst that can happen?
Nothing- I know this… but, sometimes its…. just not worth the effort. Anxiety gets to a point sometimes where you just go ‘stuff it, it’s not worth it’. Its not worth having your jaw aching all night, the panicky feeling when you get a message off someone, the panicky feeling you get when you don’t…. feeling on the edge all the time.
It sounds ridiculous, even writing it down- relationships are so natural for so many people- why am I making it so hard for myself- yet another thing to worry about: “what’s wrong with me!”
Anxiety can affect parts of your life that people wouldn’t even think about, and can make already ‘harder’ situations that much more hard.
To all those reading this and nodding their head in agreement- we are in this together, and will get to a point where all these worries are in the past. For those pursuing a relationship with someone with anxiety- maybe this has given some insight into how some of us act.