Is Your Smartwatch Hurting Your Mental Health?

If you're like most fitness enthusiasts, you probably have some form of a fitness tracker or smartwatch to help you reach your fitness goals. Research shows that one in five Americans use a fitness tracker to supplement their workouts. Smartwatches monitor our heart rates, keep track of our steps, and let us know when we need to push harder or slow down a bit. They are such a great addition to our health tool kit that many cannot remember life without them.


The sophistication of these devices has gotten so high level that they have been credited with saving lives. Certain models can track irregular heart rhythms and alert watch wearers when something seems off (via New York Post). There is, however, a dark side to these trackers that has been linked to mental health struggles. Although the purpose of the fitness tracker is to keep us moving physically, it could be taking a toll on us mentally.

Smart watches and mental health

Although most of us invested in our smartwatches to help with our health goals, some people are finding added stress brought on by these watches. Those who tend to pay more attention to the biodata their watches are giving them than their day-to-day activities struggle to find a balance. They find it hard to keep their focus on the present when they are constantly paying attention to updates that come through on their wrists. In this case, these trackers are doing more harm than we realize.


Thrive Works explains that some wearers develop a sort of health anxiety or hypochondria due to looking at their watches too often. Some watches may give false health alerts, since they aren't yet as advanced as professional equipment.

In addition to the anxiety brought on by this constant tracking, other stressors come in the form of goal setting. If the watch wearer is setting goals that aren't achievable, this can play a part in adding to the stress that surrounds these trackers.

Smartwatches can also negatively impact those struggling with an eating disorder. The Meadow Glade explains that while health trackers don't cause disordered eating, they can make recovery more difficult for someone who has an eating disorder. Technology like smartwatches can fuel unhealthy obsessions with health, because the pressure to close circles or hit your step minimum is constantly on your wrist.


How to tell if you need to step back

There are ways you can tell if your smartwatch use is harmful. If you find yourself checking your smartwatch multiple times in a short period, get anxious feelings if you're not meeting your goals, or let the tracker impact your mood in a negative way, you may want to reassess whether or not your watch is helping or hurting you (via Inspiration Feed). In addition, if you find yourself restricting meals, working out excessively, or engaging in any other obsessive behaviors, your smartwatch could be negatively impacting your mental health.


Like everything in our lives, smartwatches can help us stay healthy as long as we use them in moderation. Overuse and obsessive thoughts around fitness, food, and health may impact how you are able to go about your day-to-day activities.

Certain features on the smartwatch can be disabled, but for some people, it may be best to ditch the smartwatch altogether if it is causing unnecessary stress. Either way, if you feel like your use of your fitness tracker has become detrimental to your mental health, it's always a good idea to talk to a professional, and make sure your mental health is as much a priority as your physical health.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.