Here's Why Being a 'Bachelor' Contestant Could Be Bad for Your Mental Health
If you haven’t seen Monday night’s episode of The Bachelor and Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Google hasn’t ruined it for you yet, do not read further. Spoilers abound!
The Bachelor’s season 22 finale. Need I say more? You’ve probably seen the countless hate-tweets about Arie, how women are blowing up Becca’s Venmo account so she can buy wine, and all of the predictions about how this love triangle will come together (or break apart!) on tonight’s final episode. Cameras got far too close during the tearful breakup between Arie Luyendyk and Becca Kufrin (Why didn’t he just leave?!); exposing such an intimate moment got us thinking about reality TV's effect on contestants' mental health.
“It’s an artificial environment,” says Rachel Sussman, a New York City-based psychotherapist and relationship expert. “Everyone’s nervous, it’s in the public eye, cortisol levels are high. That’s not a recipe for success to get to know someone and see if it could be a deeply intimate relationship.”
Clearly, moving into a mansion and jet-setting to foreign countries to date a guy is far from normal. But that’s just the beginning. As we (thankfully) bid farewell to this season, Health decided to unpack five reasons we think competing for love on national television is not recommended for your health and happiness.
All that anxiety makes intimacy a challenge
Thinking they will not make the “right” rose-earning impression can easily instill fear, anxiety, and panic among Bachelor contestants. Or worse: Some may grow convinced they'll never find love. The result? Trouble sharing your wants and needs. When you have anxiety, self-consciousness is heightened, Laurel Steinberg, PhD, a New York-based sex and relationship therapist and professor of psychology at Columbia University, previously told Health. Perhaps that's why Lauren Burnham was constantly asking Luyendyk for reassurance, which inhibited them from having more intimate conversations.
The social isolation breeds loneliness
When you're a contestant on The Bachelor, you leave your family, friends, and home to pursue a relationship with someone you’ve never met. Thanks to limited communication with the outside world, you're essentially stuck in a house with a bunch of strangers who are also into the guy you're dating. This can breed a sense of loneliness that leaves contestants feeling down and possibly more likely to have depressive symptoms.
“When you’re lonely, brain hormones associated with stress such as cortisol become active, which can cause depression,” Bruce Rabin, MD, director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Healthy Lifestyle Program, told Health in a prior interview. “In fact, for mild and moderate depression, social interaction is even more effective at alleviating symptoms than a prescription antidepressant.”
You’re probably bottling up anger
You’re there to win–er, fall in love. Because you want to put your best foot (in a bedazzled pump, of course) forward, you’re likely to present yourself differently than you would on a typical date. If you love watching, you know contestants often have issues sharing their concerns about other competitors for fear of looking like the “bad guy.” No one wants to be the villain, and time is precious. However, closing yourself off can make it harder to connect.
“One of my clients told me, ‘I find myself having a hard time opening up to a new person,'" says Sussman. “Magnify that comment by a thousand, and I’m sure that’s what those women go through.”
Without an outlet for how you really feel, you're more likely to mistakenly go off on your potential future spouse on the show. “Bottling up anger is like bottling up stress," adds Sussman. "If you’re not dealing with it or processing it ... usually what happens is your anger comes out someplace else.”
Jealousy is unavoidable
It’s one thing to feel insecure about your partner’s past relationships. But to know full well that he's dating up to 28 other women currently? That’s uncharted territory. Throw in a camera crew and ball gowns, and you’re inevitably going to start comparing yourself to others.
“Everyone thinks about random old girlfriends, but imagine this guy has to really pick you over someone else,” says Sussman. “Even if you meet someone on a dating app, it’s rare that guy is seeing a different woman [every] night.”
Even if you're the lucky winner who makes it to the proposal and a monogamous relationship, how do you move forward? “How can you ever trust them?” Sussman says, noting that you might be more likely to worry about your partner leaving you for another person if you met on reality TV.
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Your social media interactions will be out of control
As if all that weren't bad enough, the effects linger after the cameras are gone. Long-lasting relationship insecurity can lead to physical health problems like poorer sleep and anxiety, and once you're back in the real world, you're suddenly catapulted into social media fame.
Spending more time on social media–whether you're obsessively monitoring your mentions or defending yourself against Bachelor trolls–has been linked to a higher chance of developing depression as you compare yourself to others online. "People who engage in a lot of social media use may feel they are not living up to the idealized portraits of life that other people tend to present in their profiles," Brian Primack, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health at the University of Pittsburgh told HealthDay. "This phenomenon has sometimes been called 'Facebook depression.'"
No matter how things shake out tonight, we think it's pretty clear things are less than rosy when you enter (and leave) the mansion.