Dating with Depression: Are Dating Apps Bad for Your Mental Health?

Dating app usage on the rise during & after the pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on the world for the past year and a half, but it has brought some interesting social issues to light, including the importance of mental health and innovative uses for technology. As the world shifted online at the height of the pandemic, dating app usage skyrocketed:

  • Tinder recorded 300 billion swipes in 1 day
  • OKCupid reported 700% increase in dates
  • Bumble video call feature usage increased 70%

Even as society begins to reopen, there still seems to be a steady rise of dating app usage as vaccinations roll out. Most apps even promote for user's to update their vaccination status on their profile to encourage in-person dates.

While apps allow for a much more diverse dating experience, some users experience negative effects on their mental health. One survey shows that 49% of users with a pre-existing mood disorder report depressive symptoms triggered by online dating. Those who are more emotionally vulnerable and seeking external validation feel these impacts. Even if an individual is not exasperating pre-existing mental illness, these apps can potentially negatively impact anyone who's swiping.

Here are 3 common ways dating apps negatively impact mental health:
young woman using dating app

1. Cause Stress & Anxiety
Sometimes less is more when it comes to dating. With apps, you're given a wide pool of potential candidates that may end up overwhelming rather than intriguing you. You may feel pressure to respond to every match or visit the site every single day. It's reported that dating app users face three times the amount of stress compared to non-users.

2. Poor Body Image
Online dating is often associated with poor body image and body dysmorphia. Without that personal connection during a first impression, many view dating apps as putting your best face forward and believe matches are only made based upon physical attraction. This leads to self-judgment and comparison to others. A 2016 study found that Tinder users reported lower levels of self-esteem, especially focused on dissatisfaction with their physical looks and shame towards their body image.

3. Lower Self-Esteem
In essence, any dating app is bound to set you up for rejection. It's not possible to match with every single user. While rejection has always occurred, the world wide web allows for much more volume of potential dismissals and even created phenomena like "ghosting". Some users may engage in destructive thoughts and take each non-match very personally.

Tips for Navigating Dating Apps

1. Set a time limit. Social media fatigue is a real phenomenon, and this translates to dating app usage as well. Rather than mindlessly swiping for an hour, set aside a 15-minute break to truly engage in using the app correctly

2. Make sure you're in the right headspace before swiping. If you're already having a bad day, it may not be the best choice to use a dating app. Check in with yourself before opening the app to make sure you're mental health is at a place that can handle making these connections and navigating various potential relationships.

3. Set healthy boundaries and stick to them. Don't feel like you have to continue talking to every single match because you don't want to be rude. If someone begins to make you feel uncomfortable or ignores your boundaries, it's completely okay to cut off that conversation.

woman on couch using dating app

Overall, dating apps can be a great way to get back out there and meet people you normally wouldn't get the chance to interact with. However, taking into account your mental and emotional state prior to swiping is essential in maintaining your mental health.

If you or a loved one are experiencing struggles with mental health, clinicians in our Counseling & Wellness Centers are here to help.

Call our main number at 844-4-ACENDA (844-422-3632 X9500) for more information or to schedule an appointment.