Research Article: Social Media Negatively Effects Mental Illness

When it comes to every day life, mental health is extremely important in order to function properly. All over the world anxiety, body dysmorphia, and depression are huge areas in the mental health field that causes people to suffer each day without a physical clue as to what that individual is going through. Having so many people suffer from these mental illnesses raises the question as to what might cause, create, or enable these diseases to linger? One area that relates to all three mental illnesses is social media and the time spent using these platforms. Social media has a negative effect on anxiety, body, dysmorphia, and depression because of extreme usage and obsession people have which causes unhealthy brain activity and mental state. Social media can be used in positive ways, but in most ways it is taken advantage of negatively.  Research has shown strong correlations between mental illness and social media.

CC by 2.0 Kirsten Leishman Mental health

One of the biggest mental illnesses that is linked to social media usage is anxiety. Anxiety is a normal feeling to have in certain dosages, but it becomes a disorder when it is uncontrollable. Anxiety is defined as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure”(Adam Felman).  Symptoms may very from each patient but restlessness, uncontrollable feelings of worry, increased irritability, concentration difficulties, and sleep difficulties are all major concerns of this mental illness (Adam Felman). There are many causes to anxiety; such as genetics, medical factors, brain chemistry, and withdrawal from illicit substances, but one of them relates to social media greatly (Adam Felman). Felman expresses that one of the main causes for anxiety is environmental stressors. This could include family issues, relationship issues, or anything in surrounding. One of the platforms that environmental stressors thrive on is social media. For example, looking at figure 1, there is data that shows the average penetration, engagement, and sessions the average person uses. All of these platforms are used to share family information, relationship information, and other environmental aspects that cause high anxiety when used multiple times. Looking at Facebook data, 60% of users access the app or website more than 8 times a day (Adam Felman). For a platform that thrives off of environmental stressors, there is a lot of usage per day that will cause anxiety to rise greatly. According to Sarah Rocha, 95% of teens have access to a smartphone and 45% of teens say they are on the Internet constantly. These percentages came from a recent Pew Survey. “The rise in use of digital media is correlated with evidence of increasing rates of adolescent anxiety” (Sarah Rocha).  Not only in adults does social media cause anxiety, but also in adolescents. Anxiety is not the only mental illness that relates to social media.

Figure 1 (David Chaffey)

Body dysmorphia is a huge issue in the mental illness field. The majority of these issues come from comparing, studying, and obsessing over other peoples’ body image that misleads individual perception of their own image. “Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a distinct mental disorder in which a person is preoccupied with an imagined physical defect or a minor defect that others often cannot see. As a result, people with this disorder see themselves as “ugly” and often avoid social exposure or turn to plastic surgery to try to improve their appearance” (Webmd.com). This mental disorder connects to social media in many ways because of the constant comparison to others online. “Survey, correlational, randomized control, and covariance structure modeling investigations indicate that the media are a significant factor in the development and maintenance of eating and shape‐related disorders” (Thompson). Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all high photo using platforms that cause people to question their appearance in comparison to other body types, pressures, and judgments.  A study was done on American women ranging from ages 18-25 years of age that relates to body image. The study was done on their body dissatisfaction, mood, and perceptions of the target. “Viewing idealized images taken from social media had a negative influence on women’s body image, with or without the presence of disclaimers”(Fardouly). This explains the constant comparison that is taken place between users of social media platforms that negatively effect individuals. Mental illnesses linked to social media do not stop at body dysmorphia.

Social media negatively affects people struggling from the mental illness of depression. Depression is disease that affects serotonin levels in the body, causing individuals to have uncontrollable feelings of sadness. “Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act” (Sarah Rocha). Studies have been conducted that link depression to the social media. An interesting study was done on mothers who strive for perfection and compare themselves to the ideals on social media (Tricia Padoa). The present study examined the influence through the platforms of Facebook and Instagram. A sample size of 201 and one mothers completed the survey that included Self-Orientated Parenting Perfectionism and Societal-Prescribed Parenting Perfectionism. Padoa was interested in the relationship between perfectionism and maternal mental health. The results showed that the process of comparison with other mothers on social media contributed to symptoms of depression (Tricia Padoa). This shows that comparisons made through social media effect depression greatly. This relates to not being happy within and not satisfied because there are “better” accounts than the individual feeling down. Another study was done that linked social media to worsened well-being. Melissa Hunt conducted a study of 143 undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania. They were randomly picked to be either limited to time on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat for 10 minutes, per platform, per day for three weeks or to use social media as usual (Melissa Hunt). “The limited use group showed significant reductions in loneliness and depression over three weeks compared to the control group” (Melissa Hunt). The conclusion of this study strongly suggest that limiting social media to 30 minutes a day may lead to improvement of well-being (Melissa Hunt). These studies help support that social media effects depression greatly and should be used limitedly. Depression is a terrible mental illness that is negatively affected by social media and should be discussed more often in order to help the suffering individuals gain knowledge on the matter.

CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Change Photo By: Sebastien Wiertz

Anxiety, body dysmorphia, and depression are all strongly linked to the usage of social media platforms. Social media has a negative effect on anxiety, body dysmorphia, and depression because of extreme usage, obsession, and comparison people have which causes unhealthy brain activity and mental state. Mental health is extremely crucial to everyday activity and should not be undermined. Research supports that there is a correlation between mental illness and social media. This is something that society can help and change with the right knowledge in individuals as well as communities. There is time to catch and control anxiety, body dysmorphia, and depression if actions are taken to lower time spent on social media platforms as well as time spent in front of the screen.

Picture By: Mackenzie Palmer

Works Cited

Fardouly, Jasmine, and Elise Holland. “Social Media Is Not Real Life: The Effect of Attaching Disclaimer-Type Labels to Idealized Social Media Images on Women’s Body Image and Mood.” EBSCOHost, Nov. 2018, web.a.ebscohost.com.libproxy.plymouth.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=11&sid=5af4c828-c4cd-4b91-9ebb-93c956d08974%40sdc-v-sessmgr06&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=132694743&db=aph.

Felman, Adam. “Anxiety: Overview, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments.” Edited by Dillion Brown, Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 26 Oct. 2018, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323454.php.

Hunt, Melissa, et al. “No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression.” EBSCOHost, Dec. 2018, web.b.ebscohost.com.libproxy.plymouth.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=7&sid=d07b786b-8e0a-473b-ac74-35ffe9ea0c22%40pdc-v-sessmgr06&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=133426611&db=aph.

“Mental Health: Body Dysmorphic Disorder.” WebMD, WebMD, 4 Dec. 2017, www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-body-dysmorphic-disorder#1.

Padoa, Tricia, et al. “Comparative Social Media Use and the Mental Health of Mothers With High Levels of Perfectionism.” EBSCOHost, Sept. 2018, web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?vid=5&sid=a81502de-c094-4ec7-be48-03adcd058795%40pdc-v-sessmgr03&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=131587304&db=aph.

Rocha, Sarah. “Talking with Teens and Families about Digital Media Use.” EBSCOHost, Mar. 2019, web.b.ebscohost.com.libproxy.plymouth.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=4&sid=de15d041-3fc3-4d5f-b5ea-467f370e37fc%40sessionmgr104&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=134665366&db=aph.

Thompson, Kevin J, and Leslie J Heinburg. “The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.” Journal of Social Issues, vol. 2, no. 1, 1946, pp. i-i., doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.1946.tb00959.x.

“What Is Depression?” Edited by Ranna Parekh, What Is Depression?, www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression.

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