Are dating apps doing damage to our mental health?

WATCH: Dating apps may be harming your mental health.

Swiping on dating apps may bring you closer to a potential partner, but they may also be harming your mental health.

According to Dr. Natasha Sharma, a Toronto-based relationship expert and author of The Kindness Journal, dating apps can negatively impact your well-being if you don’t have realistic expectations or put too much stock in meeting people online.

“Our brains have the potential to be primed in more harmful ways when they constantly receive an influx of likes — or dislikes — to one’s online profile all day long,” she said.

Dating apps can hurt self-esteem

According to researchers at the University of North Texas who conducted a study about Tinder, those who use the dating app reported lower levels of satisfaction when it comes to their faces and bodies compared to non-Tinder users.

This is something Meaghan Wray, 27, has experienced. The Toronto-based writer says that dating apps have affected the way she thinks about portraying herself to strangers online. She’s currently taking a break from dating apps, but has used Tinder, Bumble, Hinge and Coffee Meets Bagel on and off since 2012.

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“The most obvious reason they’ve impacted my mental health is the emphasis that’s placed on looks,” she told Global News. “I feel like I have to be so vigilant about ‘accurately’ representing myself through the images I choose. … I have to show that I’m curvy.”

“I’ve heard horror stories from my bigger female friends that they’ve shown up to dates and been told they ‘weren’t expecting someone so fat.'”

Because dating apps are largely photo-based, Wray says she thinks they can cause people’s body insecurities to surface.

“When I meet someone on an app I think I’d actually like in person, I find myself going over and over all of my perceived flaws that they’d see, and typically I end up psyching myself out of following through with a date at all,” she said. “It’s a really anxiety-inducing cycle of self-sabotage.”

Dating apps are addictive

Phones are known to be addictive, and so is finding potential matches on dating apps — especially when it feels like there are endless options.

Recently, Bumble unveiled a “snooze” function which allows users to take a break from the dating app.

Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe told The Telegraph that the company plays a role in society’s “social media obsession” and introduced the function to encourage users “to focus on themselves and mental health and not trapped in this warp of a never ending stream of connection.”

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Like with social media, dating-app dependency can also have a negative impact on your well-being, Sharma says.

“I think the more we use technology, period, the more we experience increased tendencies toward feeling anxious and/or depressed,” she said. “There is a lot of research now in support of this strong correlation. Dating apps are no exception.”

Plus, if you have the mindset that “the grass is always greener” and seek out more and more matches, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment.

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“The digital age has provided a forum which can titillate and temp the mind, … if you let it,” Sharma said. “Endless options, content, information, photos, profiles … are available online, 24/7.”

In order to prevent yourself from constantly wanting more, Sharma said you need to be honest with yourself and what you’re looking for — whether that’s a hook-up or long-lasting love. “This is a process that requires self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and behaving in a way which stems from both.”

Dating apps can help you connect to others

Dating apps aren’t all bad. They can lead to meaningful relationships, and even start lasting friendships. Plus, if you live in a big city, they can help you meet people.

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Corinne Przybyslawski, 24, said that living in Toronto, one of North America’s most populous cities, can be isolating. She uses apps Bumble and Hinge to meet potential partners.

“I don’t really come in with any expectations,” she told Global News. “I’m open to whatever. That’s why meeting people this way works for me.”

“I don’t think you can expect to meet people any other way anymore.”

Keep your expectations realistic

The key to positive dating app experiences, Sharma said, is being up-front with the people you date about what you’re looking for.

“If you are looking for a deeper, more meaningful relationship in life, online options are certainly viable, but stick with sites or apps that have a reputation for providing those types of relationship experiences,” she said.

And, if a long-term relationship is what you’re looking for, it’s important to find ways to be happy in the meantime. “People don’t need relationships in order to be happy in life, but most of us have a strong innate desire for them,” she said.

“And that’s a different kind of feeling.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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