We all know someone who is a chronic Facebook user. Perhaps you might even compulsively check status updates for “likes,” spend hours seeing what your friends are doing on the site or “Facebook stalk” an ex-lover. However, did you know that this compulsive behavior could also be a sign of depression?
Social Media and Depression
According to the findings of a new study published in the journal European Psychiatry, incessant use of Facebook can serve as a marker for depression.
Researchers examined questionnaire data from 672 Polish participants between the ages of 15-75, with the average being 28. The researchers were able to conclude that “Facebook intrusion” – or a level of involvement on Facebook that affected daily life and interpersonal relationships – was directly linked to an increased depression score.
But while an increased amount of time spent on the Internet was also linked to increased levels of Facebook use, higher levels of Internet time in the absence of Facebook were not linked to depression.
Additional Supporting Data
A separate research project released last January by California State University found that the brain activity of compulsive Facebook users was similar to those addicted to drugs or sex. This could be why scientists at the University of Albany reported last December that those who frequently use social media are more prone to substance abuse.
“The question of whether or not disordered online social networking use can be considered a ‘true’ addiction is a tough one,” said Albany study leader Julia Hormes. “Many people think of addiction as involving ingested substances. However, if we think about addiction more broadly as involving some kind of reward then it is easier to see how behaviors may be addictive.”
Do You Know the Warning Signs?
Here are some of the key warning signs and symptoms to help determine if you or a loved one has a social media addiction:
- Increased social isolation
- Regularly foregoing in-person interactions to chat with online friends
- Spending hours on social media in one sitting
- An obsession with one’s social media “image”
- An inability to go more than a couple of hours without logging onto social media sites
Treating a Digital Addiction
You may not know it, but there are hospital-based and inpatient treatment centers available for Internet and social media addiction. The first of these facilities in September 2013 and many others have sprouted up since then.
Similar to drug rehab, patients typically stay for 30 days. Because there is no drug or detoxification process to deal with, Internet addiction programs address the emotional bond that users have with these sites.
But similar to treatment for compulsive behaviors like sex addiction, patients aren’t advised to abstain from the Internet completely because that isn’t realistic. Instead, they are taught to use it in a healthy way that will lead to a more productive and regimented lifestyle.
Although it takes courage to ask for help with an Internet addiction, it’s important to know you’re not alone. Plenty of people have sought professional help for this problem and have gone to lead to happy, fulfilled lives. You can be one of them too.
Additional Reading: Emojis Spark a New Expressive Anti-Drug Language for Kids
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