Being obsessed with taking selfies is a recognised mental condition "Selfitis": Study

The term was first coined in a hoax news article in 2014 but experts now say the phenomenon may be real.
By Kevin Eli,
If you are obsessed with taking selfies on your smartphone, then there are high chances that you might have “selfitis”.

Are you obsessed with taking selfies on your smartphone? Then there are high chances that you might have “selfitis” — a genuine disorder that requires treatment, according to a new study.

Researchers from Nottingham Trent University (NTU) in the United Kingdom and Thiagarajar School of Management (TSM) in India have revealed that “selfitis” is a mental condition that makes a person feel compelled to constantly take photos and post them on social media.

The researchers started investigating the phenomenon after a hoax story appeared in the media in 2014 claiming ‘selfitis’ had been classed as a genuine mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. Various researchers have now confirmed its existence and developed the ‘Selfitis Behaviour Scale’ which can be used to assess its severity.

Tourists posing for selifes overlooking the Arabian Sea at Reis Magos Fort in the former Portuguese colony Goa, India.

The scale was developed using a large number of focus groups with 200 participants and the scale was tested via a survey of 400 participants. Participants were based in India because the country has the most users on Facebook, as well as the highest number of deaths as a result of trying to take selfies in dangerous locations.

Six motivating factors were identified. Those who suffer from “selfitis” generally seek attention, improve their mood, boost their confidence, make memories and conform with their social group and be socially competitive. The prevalence of these factors determined the level of "selfitis" severity.

The findings, published in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction confirmed that there are three levels of selfitis.

  • Borderline: Taking photos of one’s self at least three times a day but not posting them on social media
  • Acute: Taking photos of one’s self at least three times a 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
The Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr. Lee Hsien Loongundefinedand the Prime Minister of India, Mr Narendra Modi taking a selfie at Komala Vilas Restaurant, Little India, Singapore on November 23, 2015.

“Typically, those with the condition suffer from a lack of self-confidence and are seeking to ‘fit in’ with those around them, and may display symptoms similar to other potentially addictive behaviours,” said Dr. Janarthanan Balakrishnan, assistant professor at TSM. “Now the existence of the condition appears to have been confirmed, it is hoped that further research will be carried out to understand more about how and why people develop this potentially obsessive behaviour, and what can be done to help people who are the most affected.” 

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