Nearly half of Americans currently report being stressed about their love life and say dating is harder today than it was 10 years ago, according to new data from the Pew Research Center.

Feeling anxious before a first date is normal. Everyone wants to make a good impression and to be liked by the person we like, but dating anxiety can be a clinical issue when it causes psychological distress. It can make dating difficult to enjoy and prevent a person from exploring and forming healthy relationships with others.

Health experts say fear of evaluation is the core of dating anxiety. Some of the different fears of evaluation include:

  • Fear of negative evaluation — worry or concern that one will be rejected or abandoned by others.
  • Fear of positive evaluation — worry that one will not be able to live up to the increasing emotional and sexual expectations that can come with dating and being in a relationship.
  • Fear of rejecting others — worry about the guilt of hurting someone's feelings or being viewed as cruel or unkind.

Sexologist and licensed marriage and family therapist Jennifer Litner says fear of evaluation is often linked to past relationships.

“We know that early on people’s initial experiences with relationships can have a longstanding impact on them down the road. It’s really being vulnerable to put oneself out there. You enter into a relationship. That person might get their heart broken. It can feel hard to do that again after dealing with heartbreak,” Litner said.

To overcome dating anxiety, consider the following strategies:

  • Choose excitement over anxiety. Focus on what you hope to accomplish on the date instead of what could go wrong.
  • Give yourself permission to set boundaries. Setting boundaries can help you get more clarity about what you want and do not want from the dating experience.
  • Embrace uncertainty. The point of dating is to explore and experiment, which entails being open to new experiences and personalities. 
  • Remember that rejection is survivable. If you are on the receiving end of rejection, allow yourself to go through the disappointment but also give yourself credit for having taken the risk. 

 Anxiety should not keep someone from enjoying the dating experience. Think you may have dating anxiety? Speak with a mental health professional.