What typically started as a casual picture-taking trend of oneself now might have earned the title of ‘narcissism’ or ‘mental disorder’, at least in the eyes of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and numerous others.
Ever since the advent of numerous social media platforms like Facebook and Snapchat, the selfie-taking obsession has experienced a significant boom, where one can see people taking uncountable pictures of themselves from different angles and with different expressions.
While the term ‘selfie’ has officially made its way into the Oxford Dictionary, the particular act of taking selfies has lately been found paving its way into the list of mental disorders, which includes mixed dementia, personality disorder etc. According to experts, if you are posting more than three selfies per day on your social media accounts, you might be having some serious issues.
What is a Selfie?
Elected as the “Word of the Year 2013” by the Oxford English Dictionary, the term selfie can be defined as a photograph that one takes of oneself particularly with a smartphone or a webcam; it is then eventually uploaded onto a social media website if the person who took it is happy with it.
Over the years, selfie went from a general term, to more specific terms, where it disintegrated into various types and kinds. For example, there is a certain gym selfie, pet selfie, bathroom selfie, car selfie, shirtless selfie, etc.
However, APA coined the term “selfitis” for “selfies” and described it as “the obsessive compulsive desire to take photos of one’s self and post them on social media as a way to make up for the lack of self-esteem and fill a gap in intimacy.” It even went on to categorize the condition of taking selfies into three levels: borderline, acute, and chronic.
Is it a sign of mental illness?
Doctor David Veal, a UK psychiatrist, has said that there is quite a clear link between the act of constantly taking pictures and posting them on social media, and mental disorders. He further said that in this relation, people also have a certain obsession with their physical appearance where they have a distorted body image. This distortion is commonly referred to as the Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
According to his observations, the majority of patients who come to see him with Body Dysmorphic Disorder have this obsession and compulsion to constantly click pictures of themselves and post them on social media websites. And this has been observed ever since the rise of camera phones has come into play.
A study conducted by the Ohio State University found out that men who posted more photos of themselves online had really high scores in evaluations of psychopathy and narcissism. On the other hand, another study by the University of California on the craze of selfie addiction learned that taking selfies and then sharing them with friends resulted in quite a positive impact on people’s emotional and psychological states.
These researchers were able to gather around 2900 mood measurements during the course of this study and found out that the act of taking selfies had an increasingly positive correlation with self-confidence and happy moods.
Does it qualify as an addiction?
Research on the selfie-taking phenomenon has opened doors to numerous speculations, opinions, and beliefs, where many researchers have concluded their argument by qualifying it as an addiction. While it is still debatable, a majority of the research goes in favor of terming selfie-taking as an addiction.
Because it is not just limited to taking a selfie and posting it on social media, people have come to classify it as an addictive behavior. This is because once people post their selfie online, they wait for likes and comments from their peers and friends. This has led to a chain of reactions, which, in turn, results in a complex addiction disorder. This repetitive process, thus, turns into a well-defined addiction over time.
The case of Danny Bowman
Danny Bowman, a 19-year old British male teenager, tried to commit suicide because he was unable to take the perfect selfie. Without even realizing what he was doing, he became so obsessed with capturing the perfect shot that he ended up spending ten hours a day clicking up to 200 photos of himself. His inability to get the perfect selfie got him so frustrated that he ended up trying to take his life but was eventually saved by his mother.
During this entire selfie craze, he dropped out of school, didn’t leave his house for months, lost his friends, his health suffered, and he just “wanted to die.”
Danny is believed to be UK’s first selfie addict and was also diagnosed with OCD and Body Dysmorphic Disorder. After this incident, doctors have started believing that such behaviors could possibly give rise to brain problems in the future.
It is indeed a mental disorder
Doctor Pamela Rutledge said in an article for Psychology Today that taking selfies can take a toll on a person’s health and can be quite detrimental to their mental health as well. Furthermore, she stated that indulging in taking selfies is an indication of narcissism, low self-esteem, self-indulgence, and attention seeking behavior.
Perhaps, one couldn’t ask for greater validation when the APA itself officially confirmed, during its annual board of directors meeting in Chicago, that taking selfies is indeed a mental disorder. APA further stated there is currently no cure for this disorder and that cognitive therapies, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, might be the only temporary treatment available to deal with this disorder.
Academic studies conducted on the effects of social media and selfie-taking have also come to similar conclusions. One study published by Birmingham Business School concluded that this continuous selfie-taking and sharing photos online can also damage personal relationships and can lead to a decrease in intimacy.
While the intentions behind taking selfies may be naïve and harmless, the very act hasn’t taken long to develop into a mental illness and is something very serious that should be pondered over.
Photos are pixabay public domain
Guest Author Bio
Kamil Riaz Kara
Kamil Riaz Kara is an HR Professional and Inbound Marketer. He has completed his Masters in Administrative Science from the University of Karachi. Currently, he is writing on mental health, fitness and lifestyle. Visit his company blog and check the latest posts on Online Dementia Test. Connect with him on LinkedIn for more details.