Wellbeing and Mental Health

Psychologists think taking selfies all the time could be a sign of a mental illness

A man takes a selfie as a rainbow appears in the mist of a public fountain in Vienna, Austria, August 9, 2017. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader - RC19D1E1F4A0

Psychologists claim that obsessively taking selfies could have serious mental health effects Image: REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

Lindsay Dodgson
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We all have a friend whose Instagram feed is filled with pictures of themselves. Selfies are so ingrained in our lives now that we don't really see them as any sort of issue. But according to two psychologists, snapping selfies all the time could have a negative impact on our mental health.

In 2014, a spoof news article coined the term "selfitis," saying that the American Psychiatric Association was going to start recognising it as a real disorder.

Three years on, two researchers have looked at the term and have decided there could be some truth to it.

Psychologists Mark D. Griffiths and Janarthanan Balakrishnan have published a paper in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, in which they argue that selfitis is a real condition, and can be diagnosed as excessive selfie taking.

They also developed a "Selfitis Behaviour Scale" by surveying the selfie behaviour of 400 participants from India. The scale assesses the severity of the condition, of which there are three levels.

There are borderline cases, which is when someone takes selfies at least three times a day, but they don't post them on any social media. The next level is "acute," which means they post the selfies, and the "chronic" stage after that is people who cannot control the urge to take photos of themselves all the time — racking up at least six selfie posts a day.

Participants were asked questions like "I feel more popular when I post my selfies on social media," or "When I don’t take selfies, I feel detached from my peer group."

"Typically, those with the condition suffer from a lack of self-confidence and are seeking to 'fit in' with those around them, and may display symptoms similar to other potentially addictive behaviours," said Balakrishnan.

"Now the existence of the condition appears to have been confirmed, it is hoped that further research will be carried out to understand more about how and why people develop this potentially obsessive behaviour, and what can be done to help people who are the most affected."

However, not everyone in the field is convinced. Talking to The Telegraph, Mark Salter, a spokesman for The Royal College of Psychiatrists, said that selfitis doesn't exist, and suggested it is irresponsible to try and label human behaviour in this way.

"There is a tendency to try and label a whole range of complicated and complex human behaviours with a single word," he said. "But that is dangerous because it can give something reality where it really has none."

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