Being single now isn’t like back when your parents were dating. At that point in time, they were limited to hooking up with classmates, colleagues, or friends of friends. Now, you can date pretty much anyone, anywhere thanks to a slew of dating websites and apps like Tinder. And, it turns out, that’s creating legit dating addicts.
According to Match’s new Singles in America survey, which polled 5,000 people on a variety of dating habits, one in six singles say they feel addicted to the process of looking for a date. Men are apparently bigger addicts than women: A whopping 20 percent of single dudes say they’re hooked on dating.
And yup, this is a newer thing: According to the survey data, millennials are 125 percent more likely to say they feel addicted to going on dates with new people than older generations.
It sounds crazy, but Helen Fisher, Ph.D., biological anthropologist and chief scientific advisor to Match, says she’s not shocked by the findings. “Looking for love is the most important thing we do in our lives,” she says. “You’re trying to win love’s greatest prize, a mating partner. I’m not surprised that people become addicted trying.”
It makes sense that millennials in particular would become addicted to dating because they’re in the prime dating years, she says. During this time, “the body and brain is built to fall in love and have babies,” Fisher says.
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And it's actually pretty easy to know if you’re a dating addict—you just go on first dates constantly. “I’ve heard of people dating every night for three months,” Fisher says. Of course, you don’t need to be that extreme to be hooked on finding love—even 15 dates in 30 days is pretty extreme, says Fisher. And while it seems impressive to go on that many first dates, it actually works against you.
Fisher says there’s a sweet spot in the human brain where you can only handle five to nine things at once. So after you've gone out with nine people, you’re less likely to end up having a second date with any of them than if you were dating less people. “Your brain is just overloaded, so you become paralyzed and do nothing,” Fisher says. “From there, you cycle on and on in this addictive mode.”
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If you feel like you’re falling into addictive dating behavior, try this strategy to break the cycle, says Fisher: After you’ve met nine new people, stop putting out feelers and get to know at least one of them better. That means going on at least two more dates with him or her. “All of the data show that the more you get to know somebody, the better you will like them,” she says. After all, how well can you really get to know someone if you can't get past the first-date small talk.
Try to go on dates where you do something exciting and new to get dopamine flowing and really take a good look at that person.
If they’re not for you, that’s OK, but at least then you’ll know that you tried…and kept yourself out of full-blown dating addiction in the process.