Here’s What Taking Too Many Selfies Says About Your Mental Health

Selfies have become one of the most popular forms of social media posts. On any given day, social media users can scroll through their feeds and likely see more than one selfie from various users. The trend has led to a national holiday, National Selfie Day, which takes place on June 21 each year and gives social media users a chance to post their favorite close-up photo of themselves. But it begs the question: Is there such a thing as too many selfies? Psychologists say yes.

‘Selfitis’ is a documented mental disorder

A woman takes a selfie with her cat.

A woman takes a selfie with her cat. | iStock.com/Martinan

“Selfitis” is a genuine mental condition that makes someone feel compelled to take selfies and post them for others to see, such as on their social media accounts. In 2014, the term came about as a general way to describe people who take many selfies, but it was only recently backed by psychologists. The New York Post reported that experts even developed a scale of behavior to determine how serious a person’s “selfitis” actually is. According to the study done by Nottingham Trent University, there are three levels of selfitis:

Borderline: Taking photos of oneself at least three times per day but not posting them on social media.

Acute: Taking photos of oneself at least three time per day and posting each one on social media

Chronic: Uncontrollable urge to take photos of one’s self round the clock and posting the photos on social media more than six times a day

Six “motivators” were also identified to help understand why some people might become obsessed with taking selfies. Those with the disorder:

  • Want to increase their self confidence
  • Seek attention
  • Want to improve their mood
  • Want to connect with their surrounding environment
  • Want to increase their conformity with their social group
  • Are socially competitive

Too many selfies’ says a lot about a person’s mental health

A 2015 study published in an issue of Personality and Individual Differences looked at the relationship between selfies and four different traits: Narcisissm, psychopathy, manipulativeness, and self-objectification. The study involved 1,000 men between the ages of 18 and 40 and looked at their photo habits, including the number of selfies taken and the amount of retouching they did to their photos. The data revealed that there are two ends of the selfie spectrum. On one end, those with extremely high self-esteem, to the point of being deemed narcissists, were likely to post an ample amount of selfies. But those who use self-objectification — essentially viewing their bodies as objects based on sexual worth — also tended to post a lot of selfies.

The two opposite ends of the spectrum posted the highest number of selfies, which shows that mental health plays a strong role in how many photos of oneself a person posts. Those with higher psychopathic tendencies were also more likely to post selfies. People either want the attention (which was one motivating behavior from the Nottingham Trent study) or they want to increase their self-confidence (also a motivating behavior, according to the Nottingham Trent study). Regardless of which end they belonged to, those who have “selfitis” do not fall in a healthy region of the confidence spectrum, which shows their mental health is not what it should be.

Social media could be to blame for the disorder

Woman looking on social media applications

Social media apps | iStock.com/Anatolii Babii

Several studies have linked social media to higher levels of anxiety, depression, narcissism, loneliness, and envy. One behavioral scientist told Huffington Post that it’s because social media only shows the “highlight reels” of people’s lives, and we tend to compare our lowest points to everyone else’s seemingly perfect lifestyles. Great relationships, exotic vacations, and more have us thinking we’re the only ones who aren’t living the perfect life (although people’s lives are actually far less perfect than social media makes them seem). Plus, the gratification from selfies and other photos has played a role in self-confidence levels skyrocketing for some, leading to narcissistic qualities. Ultimately, social media has impacted self-esteem levels, which could be the reason selfitis was deemed an actual mental health condition.

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