Is that Selfie you Just Took Killing You?

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Is it possible that the picture you just took of yourself could cause narcissism, addiction and even thoughts of suicide? The Merrimam-Webster diction defines a selfie as “”an image of oneself taken by oneself using a digital camera especially for posting on social networks””. Should they add Highly Addicting?

I decided to look into the connection between taking “”selfies”” and our brain after reading an article about a young man who attempted suicide because he could not take the perfect “”selfie””. Fortunately he did not succeed. This young man dropped out of school, didn’t leave his house for six months, lost weight trying to take the perfect picture and became aggressive when his parents tried to stop him. Eventually he received help and is on his way to recovery

And, even though this young man’s experience is extreme he is not the exception. We are now discovering that we are living in a world where social media and smart phone obsession is spiraling upward. It is no longer a vanity issue. It’s a mental health one which has an extremely high suicide rate. Especially in young adults.

We all know that someone who is intent on capturing every waking moment with a selfie. They even have that one specific expression set aside, ready to plaster iton in a whim the very second an iPhone is pulled out.

Recently, the American Psychiatric Association actually confirmed that taking selfies is a mental disorder, going as far as to term the condition “”selfitis””. The APA has defines 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 to fill a gap in intimacy””. “”Selfitis”” is categorized it into three levels: borderline, acute, and chronic.

It starts with our brain. The Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) of the brain is a group of neurons that monitors our release of dopamine. Dopamine helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. When something we perceive to be good is generated in our systems, dopamine neurons are activated. Different people need different pleasures and rewards to get enough dopamine. When the brain gets over-stimulated with a certain pleasure it releases dopamine, which produces a euphoric effect that rewards and reinforces our need for more.

Dopamine gets released when we’re anticipating something good coming our way, and when it doesn’t come our brains compel us to do it again, hoping that the next time it will. In simple terms we become addicted to the “”likes”” our selfies generate. We spend more and more time on our social platform reaching for our next “”high””. It feels good to know your picture of yourself is resonating with your friends. The irony is that selfies may actually make you less likable and less relatable, especially in regard to close family and friends who may know a different person than the one in the selfies.

An article in Psychology Today states “”that both narcissism and self-objectification were associated with spending more time on social networking sites, and with more photo-editing. Posting numerous selfies was related to both higher narcissism and psychopathy, controlling for the overall number of other types of photos posted””. In addition, Psychology Today also states “”The life of the typical narcissist is, indeed, punctuated with recurrent bouts of dysphoria (ubiquitous sadness and hopelessness)””. Someone who posts too many selfies may, in fact, have low self esteem.

Even viewing selfies can have have harmful effects on our psyche. The filters made available to users and invisible to viewers are creating an even less realistic portrait of what other people and their lives looks like, to the detriment of some. With the increase and availability of filters, the selfies to which people are comparing themselves to are not a reflection of reality. Taking, looking at and sharing edited images of ourselves is fostering a fixation on how we look to others, to the point where it’s a mental health crisis unfolding before us.

Research has suggested a link between spending extended time on social media and experiencing negative mental health outcomes. This is especially harmful to our youth. And it is not just one platform. We no longer just use Facebook. We have Twitter, Snapchat, messenger and Instagram to name a few.

A study published online in Computers in Human Behavior on December 10, 2016, found that the use of multiple social media platforms is more strongly associated with depression and anxiety among young adults than time spent online. Our younger generation uses multiple platforms when using social media. Switching between devices and media outlets. The studies found that this multitasking is related to poorer attention, cognition, and mood. In addition, The American Academy of Pediatrics has has also warned us about the potential for negative effects of social media in young kids and teens, including cyber-bullying and “”Facebook Depression.”” It is named “”Facebook Depression “” because addiction criteria, such as neglect of personal life, mental preoccupation, escapism, mood modifying experiences appear to be present in some people who use social media.

First try minimizing exposure to the addiction and breaking down the dependence on it. Livewith social media rather than livingthroughsocial media. Step away from social media a little at a time. 10 minutes a day, then 30 minutes. It may seem simple, but when was the last time you went an hour or two without looking at your phone.

We are never going to stop taking selfies. Taking selfies is not only an art form, but a form of documentation. The trouble with over-documenting your life, however, is that doing so can often take you out of it. We need to stop trying to thrive on the constant encouragement of our social media circles. This especially important for our youth. Limit their time online and encourage other creative outlets. Never hesitate to seek professional services. Remember there is hope. Check out MedCircle to view the informative videos from credentialed doctors who talk all things mental health.

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Is That Selfie You Just Took Killing You?. (2019, Jan 04). Retrieved from

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