Facebook and other social networking sites may affect your mental health
by causing psychotic episodes and delusions, researchers warn.
Internet access becomes increasingly widespread, so do related
psychopathologies such as Internet addiction and delusions related to
the technology and to virtual relationships, according to the study.
communications such as Facebook and chat groups are an important part
of this story, said Dr Uri Nitzan of Tel Aviv University's Sackler
Faculty of Medicine and the Shalvata Mental Health Care Center.
to Nitzan, patients shared some crucial characteristics, including
loneliness or vulnerability due to the loss of or separation from a
loved one, relative inexperience with technology, and no prior history
of psychosis or substance abuse.
In each case, a connection was
found between the gradual development and exacerbation of psychotic
symptoms, including delusions, anxiety, confusion, and intensified use
of computer communications.
The good news is that all of the
patients, who willingly sought out treatment on their own, were able to
make a full recovery with proper treatment and care, Nitzan said.
technologies such as Facebook have numerous advantages, some patients
are harmed by these social networking sites, which can attract those who
are lonely or vulnerable in their day-to-day lives or act as a platform
for cyber-bullying and other predatory behaviour, he said.
All three of Nitzan's patients sought refuge from a lonely situation and found solace in intense virtual relationships.
these relationships were positive at first, they eventually led to
feelings of hurt, betrayal, and invasion of privacy, said Nitzan.
of the patients developed psychotic symptoms related to the situation,
including delusions regarding the person behind the screen and their
connection through the computer," he said.
Two patients began to
feel vulnerable as a result of sharing private information, and one even
experienced tactile hallucinations, believing that the person beyond
the screen was physically touching her.
Some of the problematic
features of the Internet relate to issues of geographical and spatial
distortion, the absence of non-verbal cues, and the tendency to idealise
the person with whom someone is communicating, becoming intimate
without ever meeting face-to-face.
All of these factors can contribute to a patient's break with reality, and the development of a psychotic state.
The study was published in the Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences.