First Date Ideas for People With Social Anxiety

Make first dates fun by doing an activity together.
First dates don't have to be nerve-wracking. Getty / Tim Robberts

First date anxiety can be difficult. If you suffer with social anxiety disorder (SAD) and have managed to meet someone that you feel comfortable going on a date with—congratulations! You have already taken a huge step in the right direction.

Chances are that you have already received treatment that has enabled you to move forward in other areas of your life. If, on the other hand, you are someone who is still suffering in silence without a diagnosis or treatment—now is the time to reach out for help.

Getting back to that first date, what should it involve?

Traditional Dinner and a Movie

While you may automatically think of going out for dinner, that might not be the best choice if you have social anxiety. The typical first date consisting of dinner and a movie can be anxiety-provoking for people who suffer from SAD. Dinner dates strike at many of the common fears of the person with SAD—making eye contact, keeping a conversation going, and eating in front of someone else.

If dinner must be part of the date, consider going to an offbeat restaurant or other establishment that will keep you entertained such as make-your-own pizza or Medieval Times.

Choose an Activity-Based Date

Instead of doing a typical dinner date,  plan a first date that is activity-based. Activities keep both you and your date busy, give you something to talk about, and bring you closer together.

Here are some great first date ideas to get you started:

1. Take a cooking class. Try your hand at Thai food or learn how to make a mean lasagna. There are even cooking classes where you just sit and watch and they serve you food. This takes the pressure off while still giving you the feeling of going out for dinner.

2. Attend a sporting event. Take in a football, baseball, or basketball game.

You'll be so busy cheering for the teams that you won't have to worry about carrying on a conversation.

3. Go to the planetarium. Look up at the stars together in the dark.

4. Volunteer together. Work at the local food bank sorting cans for an evening.

5. Go to the driving range. Hit some golf balls and laugh at the ones that you flub.

6. Race go-carts. You'll soon forget you are anxious when your go-karts start whizzing around the track.

7. Go ice skating. Even if you don't know how, you can help keep each other from falling down, and get some laughs out of it in the process.

8. Attend a play. Enjoy being an audience member and take in a play. Choose one that suits your mood, or try something offbeat that you can talk about afterward.

9. Go bowling. Bowling is great for those with a competitive streak. 

10. Visit a psychic (just for fun). Get a reading an compare notes. What does the future hold for each of you?

11. Attend a poetry reading. If you are both into books this can be a great relaxing choice. Or, choose a book signing event and you will both leave with a memento from your date.

12. Visit a winery. Just be sure to go easy on the wine. People with SAD are more prone to abusing alcohol as a way to cope with anxiety.

13. Walk a dog at the local shelter. Not only will you be enjoying each others' company, you'll also get exercise and help out a furry friend in need.

14. Go to a festival or carnival. The excitement of the event is sure to keep you both busy without having to worry about any awkward silences.

15. Go to the zoo or aquarium. This can be a great choice if you are an animal lover. Spend the afternoon wandering in amazement.

16. Attend an outdoor concert. Sit on the lawn and listen to good music with your new friend.

17. Visit a botanical garden. If you are into gardening, stroll through a botanical garden and talk about the plants.

18. Attend a comedy show. If you like to laugh, attend a comedy show and try to keep a straight face.

19. Tour an historical site. Choose a local landmark that you've always wanted to visit.

Tips for Managing Social Anxiety During First Dates

  • Decide on a set start and end time for the date to further allay your anxiety.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself if there are lulls in the conversation. Instead of beating yourself up, take the opportunity to ask a question about a topic you know the other person is interested in.
  • Before the date, do some reading and have in mind interesting facts or current events. Having these topics on hand helps to alleviate anxiety during silent moments.
  • If anxiety does get the better of you, excuse yourself and head to a quiet spot such as the restroom for a few minutes to regroup.