Do We Need To Post That Photo?

‘Selfitis’ – the obsessive need to post selfies – is a genuine mental disorder, say psychologists

‘Selfitis’ is a genuine mental condition and people who feel compelled to continually post pictures of themselves on social media may need help, psychologists have warned.

The term was first coined in 2014 to describe obsessive selfie-taking in a spoof news story which suggested the American Psychiatric Association was considering classifying it as a disorder.

Following on from the hoax, researchers at Nottingham Trent University and Thiagarajar School of Management in India decided to investigate whether there was any truth in the phenomenon.

They have now confirmed the ‘selfitis’ does indeed exist and have even developed a ‘Selfitis Behaviour Scale’ which can be used to assess its severity.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Distinguished Professor of Behavioural Addiction in Nottingham Trent University’s Psychology Department, said: “A few years ago, stories appeared in the media claiming that the condition of selfitis was to be classed as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association.

“Whilst the story was revealed to be a hoax, it didn’t mean that the condition of selfitis didn’t exist. We have now appeared to confirm its existence and developed the world’s first Selfitis Behaviour Scale to assess the condition.”

The scale, which runs from one to 100 was developed using a large number of focus groups with 200 participants to determine what factors drove selfitis. It was scale tested using  a survey of 400 participants.

Participants were based in India because the country has the most users on Facebook, as well as the highest number of deaths as a result of trying to take selfies in dangerous locations.

The findings, published in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction confirmed that there are three levels of selfitis.

Borderline cases are people who take selfies at least three times a day, but do not post them on social media. Next is the ‘acute’ phase of the disorder where the pictures are posted. In the third ‘chronic’ stage, people feel an uncontrollable urge to take photos of one’s self round the clock, posting them more than six times a day.

Researchers found that typical ‘selfitis’ sufferers were attention seekers, often lacking in self confidence, who were hoping to boost their social standing and feel part of a group by constantly posting images of themselves.

The team developed 20 statements which could be used to determine the severity of ‘selfitis’ by rating how much an individual agreed with the sentiment. Examples include “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.”

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Dr Janarthanan Balakrishnan, a research associate from Nottingham Trent’s Department of Psychology, said: “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.

“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.”

An image released by Ellen DeGeneres shows actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie 
An image released by Ellen DeGeneres shows actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie  CREDIT: ELLEN DEGENERES 

Other technologically related mental health disorders which have been identified in recent years include ‘nomophobia’ the fear of not being near a mobile phone, ‘technoference’, the constant intrusion of technology in everyday life, and ‘cyberchondria’, feeling ill after searching online for symptoms of illness.

However Sir Simon Wessely, Professor of Psychological Medicine atKing’s College London, was more skeptical about the proposed new condition.

“The research suggests that  people take selfies to improve their mood, draw attention to themselves, increase their self confidence and connect with their environment.

“If that is true then this paper is itself an academic ‘selfie’.”

Dr Mark Salter, a spokesman for The Royal College of Psychiatrists, added: “Selfitis doesn’t exist, and it shouldn’t exist.

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

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