Is it possible that selfies, the trend of taking pictures of oneself, could cause narcissism, addiction, mental illness and even suicide? That’s what seems to be suggested by expert opinion surrounding the phenomenon, and a man diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder says he grew suicidal due to his addiction to taking selfies. Danny Bowman says he became so obsessed with trying to take the “right” selfie that he ended up shooting about 200 pictures a day while trying desperately to capture the perfect image of himself.
When Bowman failed to take what he perceived to be the perfect selfie, he attempted suicide by taking an overdose of drugs. Prior to his suicide attempt, he says, he would spend about ten hours every day taking selfies. Dr. David Veal, a physician involved in caring for Bowman, says selfies may cause mental illness, including body dysmorphic disorder, which has “an extremely high suicide rate.”
Bowman’s parents are both mental health professionals, and they say that society has a “huge lack of understanding” about just how very dangerous electronic gadgets and social media can be to teens and adults alike. Experts say that while gadgets and social media cause addiction and other dangers, people are in extreme denial about the level of threat these types of communications pose, especially to impressionable teens.
Bowman’s parents recount how Bowman would spend many hours in his room taking selfies until his addiction culminated in not only a drastic weight loss, but also a terrifying suicide attempt. While Bowman’s case may sound unique and extreme, experts in psychology as well as medical doctors say this problem is far more widespread than is generally understood.
In an article for Psychology Today, doctor Pamela Rutledge says that taking selfies can be detrimental to a person’s mental health and that indulging in them is indicative of narcissism, low self esteem, attention seeking behavior and self-indulgence.
Most likely, the news that selfies might possibly cause a variety of troubling mental health issues is not going to be met with much acceptance by a society obsessed with the self-reflective nature of electronic gadgets. Some experts and physicians feel that society is collectively engaged in deep denial about how dangerous it is to interact with screens without setting limits on how much time is spent doing so.
Doctor Rutledge points out that while selfies raise the risk of narcissism, it may only be because there is not yet a widespread, well-established context for their use. She says that taking selfies may indeed be normal and natural, but because society has not yet collectively been able to contextualize the place selfies are supposed to hold, they have been labeled as being narcissistic and therefore can cause feelings of narcissism in those who take them.
However, it has been proven by multiple studies that interacting with other types of social media is definitively linked to narcissism, depression, low self esteem, addiction and a host of other negative effect. For example, Facebook use has been linked to depression while Twitter use has been linked to low self esteem and narcissism. If selfies, specifically, are proven in the future to cause these negative mental health issues, it would most likely come as no surprise to experts in the fields of psychology and medicine.
Is it possible that taking selfies causes mental illness, addiction, narcissism and suicide? Many psychologists say yes, and warn parents to pay close attention to what kids are doing online to avoid any future cases like what happened to Bowman. Thankfully, due to the diligence of his parents, he is alive today, but had his parents not gotten him help for his addiction to selfies, he may not have been as lucky.
By: Rebecca Savastio