According to a recent study, dating apps may be as bad for emotional and mental wellbeing as they are good at helping people find a date. Per MDPI, people who make extensive use of dating apps like Tinder, Grindr, Bumble, OkCupid, and others are often prone to hypersexual behavior and to depression.
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And both of those tendencies can not only be bad for one’s mental health, but can ironically make a person a less eligible romantic partner, as well. Let’s define our terms, and then talk about why heavy users of dating apps may be at greater risk for certain mental health issues.
What Is Hypersexuality?
It’s no laughing matter, that’s for sure. And it’s not a tendency to act a bit more promiscuous than the other members of your social circle. Hypersexuality is a disorder that, left unchecked, can have myriad serious consequences in a person’s life. According to the Mayo Clinic: “Compulsive sexual behavior is sometimes called hypersexuality, hypersexuality disorder or sexual addiction. It’s an excessive preoccupation with sexual fantasies, urges or behaviors that is difficult to control, causes you distress, or negatively affects your health, job, relationships or other parts of your life.”
Note the three operative words in there: fantasies, urges, and behaviors. In other words, you don’t have to be actually engaging in sex acts with multiple partners – far and away the most risky and damaging type of hypersexual behavior – to be afflicted by compulsive sexual behavior. Spending hours looking at pornography is very well within the purview of the disorder, as is spending hours each week swiping through dating apps.
The danger is that the latter two can lead to the former, and that hypersexual behavior in all its forms can damage existing relationships (with friends and family as well as with romantic partners) as well as making it harder to form a new meaningful relationship with a potential significant other.
If you find yourself struggling as a result of persistent and pervasive sexual thoughts and urges or if you often engage in risky sexual behavior – especially behaviors enabled by connections you make via dating apps – then you should seek the help of a mental health professional. Remember, these professionals will keep what you share confidential; they are there to help, not to judge.
Common Signs of Depression
Depression is much more familiar to most people than is hypersexuality, and while the immediate deleterious effects of depression may not be as tangible as, say, an un wanted pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease, it too can be a serious mental disorder that merits treatment. If you are concerned you may be dealing with depression, first do a self-check for the most common symptoms.
The common symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness without a specific cause and emptiness when, objectively, you have plenty for which to feel grateful. Depression often manifests itself in the form of chronic fatigue and lethargy, yet also with sleep disturbance. A drop in appetite and an inability to concentrate are also common symptoms of depression, per the National Institute of Mental Health.
In severe cases, depression manifests itself in the form of ideation of self-harm or even suicide, and can lead to that worst outcome in the worst cases. If you feel you are in danger of any sort of self-harm, you can now simply call 988 for immediate assistance. And even if you are not in imminent danger of self-harm, if you are worried you are dealing with depression, seek help – things can and will get better with treatment. Just be sure to tell your mental health support person or team about your dating app use.
An Issue of Correlation, Not Causation
To be clear, using dating apps is not going to suddenly bring a case of hypersexuality disorder down upon you nor is it going to render you suddenly depressed. Many people make perfectly responsible, productive use of these platforms – indeed, dating app are the seed of countless relationships that have blossomed into marriage, family, and years and years spent in shared happiness.
However, people already more prone to compulsive sexual behavior and/or to depression may see these issues exacerbated by their use of dating apps. Like anything – and especially when it comes to things like social media platforms, a form of which dating apps are – it’s dangerously easy to begin using these apps too much and in a compulsive manner, developing a sense of addiction to the platforms themselves as well as to the potential for sexual liaison they promise. (Or simply to the fantasy of it, at any rate.)
If you are someone who is already prone to over use of pornography, if you are often consumed by sexual thoughts, fantasies, and urges, and/or if you have a history of risky sexual behavior, then you need to approach the use of dating apps with extreme caution. They won’t cause you to tip into hypersexual behavior, of course, but if you are already near that line, they may provide you the gateway to trouble.
Alternatives to Dating Apps
Yes, it can be hard to find a date these days if you eschew online dating, but it can be done – and after all, it worked for centuries, right? The easiest way to meet people without using dating apps is to rely on your network of friends, family, and colleagues. If you make it known you are actively hoping to meet someone special, anyone eligible that every one of those people in your network knows becomes a potential date.
You can also try things the classic way of going to coffee shops or bars and looking for singles there. But a better way to meet a good match is to engage in activities you most enjoy yourself that also offer the chance to meet someone new. If you love cycling, join a group of bikers or a spin class, e.g. If you love cooking, take a cooking class. If you love poetry, go to an open mike. By putting yourself out there via an activity or in an environment you already know you like, you make it more likely you’ll find someone with whom you match, no swiping right required.