Dating can be a minefield at the best of times, but when you’re dealing with depression, the idea of dating can seem pretty impossible. But that doesn’t mean you should give up completely.
Here, we’ve covered how to navigate the challenges of dating with depression.
Dealing with your critical voice
People with depression are adept at convincing themselves they are not worthy of the same love and affection that others enjoy. Whenever the prospect of a loving relationship arises, that critical inner voice speaks up, insisting that you do not deserve the time and attention of someone else.
Naturally, this is a significant obstacle in the pursuit of a healthy, active dating life.
But finding love starts at home, so it’s essential that you treat yourself well. Exercise, a healthy diet, the pursuit of anxiety-reducing activities such as yoga, reading, or meditation — these are just a few examples of things that can help to balance your mind and teach you to love yourself.
Of course, with depression, this is easier said than done — this requires a conscious effort, an effort that can seem mountainous in the face of a black dog day.
Online dating apps
Online dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble, or Grindr have their benefits.
But for those with depression, dating apps pose an array of unwelcome challenges and tribulations.
The commodification of dating through these apps can dramatically impact one’s confidence and self-esteem. Having your viability as a potential date decided by the swipe of a thumb, or reduced to a few photos and a short bio, can obviously be quite damaging to your self-confidence.
That doesn’t mean you should give up on dating apps altogether — but it might be worth eschewing some apps in favour of others. And take some time to consider how you can use dating apps without damaging your mental health further.
Ditch dating apps like Tinder and Bumble (which rely on swiping) in favor of apps such as OkCupid or Hinge. These place more emphasis on meaningful connections and more detailed dating profiles, meaning you can spark genuine conversations based on deeper traits.
And when you do connect with someone through a dating app, don’t feel like you have to meet up straight away — take as long as you need and build up a connection that makes you feel comfortable.
Trusting the person you’re dating
When you have depression and you start dating, it’s easy to feel pressured into revealing your condition on the first date.
Withholding such an important part of your life might feel deceptive, or you might wish to avoid potential heartbreak further on down the line. But it’s important to remember you don’t have to share every personal detail straight away.
See how it goes, don’t actively hide your depression but talk about it when you feel comfortable and ready to — maybe on your second or third date.
You might be tempted to put on a front, overcompensating for how you’re feeling by being more animated or louder than you would normally be. While we all want to portray our best selves when we first start dating someone, it’s not something you can keep up indefinitely and it’s more likely to make the person you’re dating feel misled.
Ultimately, this type of approach will only end up causing you more damage.
Dealing with bad days
There’s a lot of pressure in the early days of a new relationship to be enthusiastic and engaged at all times. But when you’re living with depression, you are going to have some bad days.
Sometimes you might be able to push yourself into going out, sometimes you won’t be able to — and that’s okay. There’s no point forcing yourself into a difficult situation.
If you have to cancel plans, be open, and explain that you’re not up to it. But try to show interest for another time — make a new plan for the next day or later that week.
And if you start to feel off when you’re on a date, try to focus on the other person. Ask them questions about their interests, their works — concentrating on them can help you to get out of your head and distract you.
Although dating can be great, it’s important that you consistently prioritise your mental health. Don’t neglect your therapy sessions and treatments if you start to hit it off with someone.
Don’t be tempted to settle
Dating is full of hurdles, rejections, and disappointments. Not many people will find their perfect match straight away. But don’t give up and don’t end up settling.
Dating someone with depression can be a lot for some people — sometimes you might be irritable, difficult to be around, or just completely unable to get out of bed. But you should hold out for someone who can be there for the good and the bad, who wants to understand how you’re feeling — someone who wants to support you and help you, without trying to ‘fix’ you, or criticise you.
While dating with depression poses some difficult challenges, it’s far from impossible.
You need to take things slowly, be as open as you can when you feel comfortable, and try to believe that you do deserve to find love.