Health Matters: Too much social media use can lead to anxiety, depression

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The Pew Research Center reports 69% of Americans use some type of social media. Millennials and younger age groups have really never lived without it.

Checking social media accounts is part of a daily routine for many. We spend our down-time, or maybe our work-time, seeing other peoples’ lives through updates, photos, and video. But some can put more emphasis on what’s happening on their phone, rather than what’s happening in real life.  

Holston Medical group family physician Dr. Mary McCormick says when it starts to interfere with your daily life and responsibilities, that is when it becomes more than just browsing.

“People feel anxious when they can’t get their notifications, when they can’t get online and see what other people are doing,” she says.  “And they also get anxious when they start comparing themselves to some of the other social media profiles that they see.”

Some signs of social media anxiety and depression are withdrawal from friends and family, interrupting conversations to check social media, and spending more than six hours a day on social media sites.

“When you start focusing on your social media profile,” McCormick says, “it’s very common to pull away from your actual social interactions, from your friends, your family, even sitting in the room with people.”

And if you don’t recognize it and stop it early, it could actually escalate into a disorder.  Especially with younger users whose brains aren’t fully developed.

“Social isolation, especially in teenagers, can lead to things even as severe a s suicide,” McCormick adds. “Comparing themselves to others, feeling like they’re not worth it, feeling like they don’t live up, and the other issue is online bullying can contribute to the mental health disorders.”

Along with physical effects, like eye and neck strain, social media anxiety has other lasting effects.

McCormick says, “One of the ways it affects ADHD, is that you are constantly looking for the next stimulus, you’re looking for the next update, who updated in the last five minutes, and when you’re out in your regular life, things don’t change quite as quickly.  So, you tend to be easily distracted, and wanting things to change as fast as it does on social media, and that’s just not how life works, in general.

The Anxiety And Depression Association of America says twenty percent of people with social media accounts cannot go more than three hours without checking them. To someone who has social media anxiety, even being away from social media for a few minutes can cause anxiety.

So, what can we do to prevent it, or lessen the negative impact?

Doctor McCormick recommends forcing yourself to put your phone or computer down more often.  Also, take the apps off of your phone or computer so it’s more difficult to get to them.  Talk to your doctor to get help, and ask your family and friends to hold you accountable — If they’re not busy looking at their phones, as well.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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