Can dating apps harm your mental health?

Katie Hoare
By Katie Hoare,
updated on Feb 10, 2021

Can dating apps harm your mental health?

Dating apps can provide a way to socialise and boost your confidence, particularly under current restrictions, but could they be doing more harm than good?

At this time, dating apps can bring about a direct line of communication, a means to socialise and meet new people without breaching pandemic restrictions or even your health. They can provide solace in a time of loneliness, and give your confidence a little boost when you might be feeling down.

Last year, searches on Google for ‘dating sites’ peaked at 74,000 a month and although dating apps may have some self-esteem boosting qualities, an unhealthy relationship with them could be taking its toll on your mental health, vulnerabilities and even exacerbate existing mental health conditions.

Traditional ‘swipe right’ dating apps can leave you on a high when you receive a flurry of matches, but how do you feel when you don’t match with anyone in a session?

Caroline Harper, Specialist Mental Health Nurse at Bupa UK says that having an unhealthy relationship with dating apps can lead to issues such as stress, low-body image and anxiety. “Rejection can also play a part in dating apps and these can leave you feeling low or anxious. They can wreak havoc on low self-esteem, too. Although having low self-esteem isn’t a mental health issue itself, it can increase feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety.”

Hope for the future of dating apps

Londoner Izzy has founded a new kind of dating app, one which rejects swiping at face level purely based on looks, and embraces authenticity and finding love through shared interests, in this case sport. Born from a dislike of traditional dating apps that prioritise face value, Izzy’s experience with dating apps in her uni days left her with a desire for change.

Izzy says, “I remember thinking in the first lockdown how lucky I was that I had found a partner who has the same passion that I do, running.” Izzy met her partner at her local running club, so she knew they had a shared passion from the get-go.

“A friend of mine has completed Bumble twice, because she just can’t find anyone. So I wanted to create an app that’s honest and human, it’s about the discovery of people and shared, authentic interactions.” In essence, Zeal - which launches next month - rejects the traditional unhealthy swiping culture based purely on looks, with the hope of changing the dating app game as we know it.

How can we have a healthy relationship with dating apps?

If you do struggle with your relationship towards dating apps, here Caroline shares four tips to help ease the pressure.

1. You are not your profile

A few images and captions do not show all your unique qualities. Be mindful that swiping left or a conversation fizzling out isn’t a rejection of your complete self.

Using dating apps can impact your body image, so take a minute to understand your attitude towards your body. For example, if you edit your profile photos before posting them, take a minute to reflect on why.

As a starting point, make a list of 10 qualities you like about yourself and read this often: especially if you’re experiencing low self-esteem.

2. Take a break

It’s really important to have a healthy relationship with dating apps and taking regular breaks away can help. Notice how your body changes physically when you use these apps: if your body feels tense or you experience a racing heart, it’s time to evaluate what you’re getting out of these experiences.

If you’re struggling to reduce your time on dating apps, why not temporarily disable your accounts, or set restrictions for accounts that fuel your anxiety? Taking regular breaks away can give you time to reflect and boost your mood, especially if instead you’re doing something you enjoy.

3. Be kind to yourself

Self-care is all about looking after yourself, both physically and mentally. Being kind to yourself can create happy and healthy relationships, too.

Firstly, think about how you speak to the people you care about, and then turn that voice on yourself. Your inner voice should be kind, forgiving and compassionate.

Secondly, make time every day to reflect on what’s going on in your everyday life and how you are feeling. It’s more important than ever to process our thoughts – you could begin a journal and write down each night what you’ve achieved?

Finally, maintain a healthy routine. Don’t underestimate the importance of regular exercise, a good night’s sleep and a well-balanced diet for your wellbeing. Exercising everyday can be a nice distraction away from your dating apps, too.

4. Unfollow and tune out

If you’ve had a negative experience with someone on a dating app or particular social media accounts are causing you anxiety, it’s time to switch-off. Block any negative conversations and distract yourself with a favourite hobby. Focus on an activity that boosts your mood, like catching up with a friend or reading your favourite book.

You might also find it helpful to only look at your apps at a certain time of day and for a limited amount of time. Always follow it up with a relaxing activity, too.

If you need to talk or find support, reach out to a professional therapist on Counselling Directory.

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