Is Selfitis (Selfie Craze) A Mental Disorder?

Is your child obsessed with posting a selfie online? Do you know that Selfitis, the addictive need to post selfies, could point to underlying mental health issues?

By Monali Bordoloi

Is Selfitis (Selfie Craze) A Mental Disorder?

17-year-old Saina Rajput has an obsession of late, she must click and share her selfie online to feel good. The number of likes and comments on her selfie can make or break her day. On some days, her selfie-posting reaches up to 10 clicks a day. Over time, her family began to take a note of it and had a chat with her regarding her selfie obsession. A visit to a doctor revealed that Saina had mental issues.

Sharing an innocent selfie or two with family and friends is okay but parents must know the warning signals and step in to see if the selfie-addicted person has other issues as well. Psychologists have warned that people who feel compelled to continually post pictures of themselves on social media may need help. Now, there is even a scale to access its severity. It is known as Selfitis Behaviour Scale.

In a recent study conducted at Thiagarajar School of Management, Madurai and Nottingham Trent University, researchers have confirmed that Selfitis does exist and it is indeed a psychological disorder.

The researchers here also developed the world's first Selfitis Behaviour Scale to assess the severity of the disorder. The behaviour scale, which runs from one to 100, was tested via a survey of 400 participants.

According to reports, India has the highest number of selfie-related deaths. The same study also divided Selfitis into three levels according to its severity. The findings from the study were published in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction.

1. Borderline Selfitis:

If you or your teenager take selfies three times in a day but do not post them on social media sites, you might be suffering from Borderline Selfitis.

2. Acute Selfitis:

If you or your teenage daughter take more than three selfies in a day and post each one of them on social media, it is a case of Acute Selfitis.

3. Chronic Selfitis:

This is the most severe form of the behavioural disorder. If one is suffering from it, there will be an uncontrollable urge to take photos of oneself all the time. Those with this condition feel compelled to post selfies on social media and end up posting more than six times in a day.

What goes into the mind of the person with Selfitis? Researchers have identified few factors which a Selfitis sufferer seeks to achieve with his act.

To boost self-confidence

Those who suffer from low self-esteem and confidence level also take help of selfies and social media to boost their confidence. However, sometimes it backfires, as experts have warned that selfies tend to create body image insecurities among young women, especially teenagers. Comparing their selfies with their peers can lead to low self-confidence.

Psychiatrist Dr Kunal Kala of a premium rehab centre, Mind Plus Retreat says such extreme craze for selfie could lead to a confused and complicated mental state. “The youth get so preoccupied with Selfie and social media that they get distracted from life goals,” Dr Kala adds.

To seek attention

With series of selfies on social media, youth generally try to seek attention. Decreasing family communication could be one of the reasons for it, where one seeks instant gratification on a public forum. Dr Kala says, “It's important for parents to have good communication with children on a regular basis. That keeps them grounded and they are less influenced by their peer group.” 

To improve their mood

For many, posting a selfie is a feel-good factor. The study reveals that many youngsters religiously post selfies just to uplift their mood. However, they suffer from mood swings if their posts are not liked and commented on by many. Dr Kala adds, “Various levels of selfie addiction are a part of emotional adjustment problems among young people. When they face academic problems and failures, for instance, then such an addiction gives them a temporary happy feeling.”

To increase their conformity with peers

The happiness that one gets with favourable comments and likes online is leading to emotional adjustment issues. Dr Devaki V, a Chennai-based Counsellor, says, “Posting selfies online can have a psychological effect on the children when their posts do not get any likes or comments. I've come across many such cases. It isn't bad to take selfies, just that we need to limit it when necessary.

To be socially competitive

People post selfies to be socially competitive and are seeking to fit in with those around them, to connect with the environment around them, while some others want to create a record of memories.

We are certainly taking the selfie-trend too far. There is a strong emotional need especially among the youth to be dramatic, to be different from others. Putting up selfies on Facebook and other social networking sites allows people to enjoy instant love. As they start comparing comments and likes on their pictures, the need to be unique and to be the most talked about increases.” Dr Kala added.

Generally, young people, in the age group of 16-20 are more prone to this obsessive behaviour. We need further research on the topic to understand more about Selfitis and to determine if this addictive behaviour can be classified as a mental health condition. Also, more studies are required on the role of parents and solutions to help people who are most affected.

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