THE BLOG
12/06/2013 10:18 am ET | Updated Feb 05, 2014

Online Dating Anxiety Disorder -- Is It Worse During the Holidays?

Oh the holidays. They're filled with excitement from party invitations, stress of extra expenses, and the questions we get from family and friends about our relationship status, which tugs at our emotions in a big way.

From "are you seeing anyone special?" to "how's your love life?" These are common questions that cause many singles to pull the covers over their heads. Others are being smart about it. They're logging on for love to find someone to keep them warm during the holidays, or perhaps even attend a holiday party with.

Still, I know how tough it is at the holidays being single. I've been there. I've watched the posts from others on Facebook who constantly share their coupledom with everyone. From kissing under the mistletoe to the eight gifts on Hanukkah, we look at our Instagram feed and it just magnifies how tough it is being single at the holidays.

Even my own mother has been known to ask me to log onto a dating site over the years, so she can view who was writing to me. While I valued her opinion and her unconditional support, it reminded me that yes, the holidays are emotional and rough when you're single.

Here's a survival guide to help you through the holidays, online and IRL.

Does Online Dating Anxiety Disorder Exist?

I'm here to tell you that relationship anxiety over the holidays is common. Add a digital element to it of being connected via email, Facebook, or Twitter and it's magnified big time. Online Dating Anxiety Disorder (ODAD) is overwhelming. While it isn't a clinical condition, most singles are now members of more than one dating site. Those who suffer from ODAD know that horrible feeling they get when they push the send button too fast to reply to his or her email, and then wait by their computer or mobile phone for the reply to come in. When you have ODAD, you're a member of so many sites, you can't remember where you met the date you're about to have dinner with. Text messages become a part of your dating regime and if the time in between the texts is over four hours, you start to feel anxious and catastrophize.

It can be confusing to hear someone say, "It's Doug from PlentyOfFish, um, no I mean Match; actually, it was eHarmony right?" This is not how you viewed your first conversation with your soul mate would be, right?

When you suffer from online dating anxiety disorder, you typically log on after a great date to see who else has written to you instead of going to sleep with a smile on your face from a fabulous date. It's a condition that many suffer from and don't know how to get out of the downward spiral, other than to unplug and deactivate for a day or two.

If you've recently ended a relationship with someone you've met online, it's more likely than not that you'll be taking a peek at his or her profile to see their online activity. It's natural to be curious, but it's a habit that I urge you to break.

Digital snooping is also on the rise. It brings out the worst in us. At Plenty of Fish, they surveyed over 9,000 of their users between the ages of 20-40 to find out what their holiday dating habits were. POF found that 82 percent of the women were actually checking the Facebook statuses of guys they were dating to see what they were doing when they weren't around. Their survey also found that 26 percent of singles slept with an ex over the holidays, because they just didn't want to be alone and single.

A few years ago, I wrote a post called Recycling an Ex at the Holidays about my own personal experience of being invited to my former Match.com boyfriend's holiday party after having had no contact for six months. While I did attend his company party with him, I made sure there were ground rules put in place; specifically, that we weren't getting back together and were going as friends. I'm happy to report that he's now happily married and realized it was time to move forward with his life and isn't looking back anymore.

While recycling an ex over the holidays is common, the feelings after the holiday party euphoria have worn off, or after the post-sex hormones diminish again, will leave you in a worse place emotionally than if you were spending time with friends or trying to cultivate a new relationship.

It's Peak Season for Online Daters

The good news is that more singles are signing up for dating sites between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day. Match.com reports they see a jump of about 25-30 percent in new members signing up between Christmas and Valentine's Day.

It's peak season in the internet dating business, which typically coincides with holiday breakup season. It's the perfect time to start filling your date card, but how do you coordinate holiday dating without feeling overwhelmed and a bit anxious? My biggest recommendation is to look at online dating and flirting on Facebook as ways to expand your social circle. Think of it as meeting new friends at the holidays and enjoying the company of someone you like, not necessarily someone you're about to fall in love with.

Online Love is a year-round event

People meet online and fall in love all year long. I know a couple that met online on Christmas Eve on Facebook who are now engaged. I know of another couple that met online on eHarmony on Valentine's Day who are now happily married. Just yesterday I learned of a couple fell in love at first sight that met on Match. She hadn't had a serious relationship in over 10 years and now they're smitten. Yes online dating is a numbers game. You'll be juggling dates, canceling dates, rescheduling dates, it's exhausting, but it can be so very rewarding as it has been for millions of others.

Stop Stalking Your Ex

I'm here to tell you that being single on the holidays is fine. The time will pass. Stalking an ex online or on Facebook isn't fine. You'll feel anxious if you see him or her logging on looking for your replacement. You'll feel anxious if you don't see him or her logging on assuming you've been replaced. Your heart will fall to the floor when they delete their profile, assuming they've ridden off into the sunset with someone else. You'll be burning up the phone lines if you see a Facebook relationship status change or a photo posted with someone else.

You really don't know what's going on in your ex's mind and it doesn't matter. All you can control is how you feel about it and what you'd like to do to add more positive people in your life. He or she is an ex for a reason, so please knock them off their pedestal.

Fall in love with you

At the holidays, please take a deep breath; log on to fill your date card if and when it feels good to you, not because you're feeling lonely. If you need to take a break from dating, that's fine. There are no rules, other than to fall in love with yourself first. It's the best place to be to start any new relationship.

Wishing you much love and joy in cyberspace this holiday season, or wherever you may roam.

Julie Spira is an online dating expert and was a very early adopter of Internet dating. She's the author of The Perils of Cyber-Dating: Confessions of a Hopeful Romantic Looking for Love Online and creates Irresistible Profiles for singles on the dating scene. For online dating advice follow @JulieSpira on Twitter and sign up for the free Weekly Flirt newsletter