According to a new study done by the Shalvata Mental Health Care Center and the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, social media and psychotic episodes are in fact, connected.
Dr. Uri Nitzan, the author of the paper says that while social media can connect people across long distances and help foster online relationships, it poses a threat to people who are technologically naïve, vulnerable, or suffering from loneliness.
The study features three case studies – patients of Dr. Nitzan – who shared some similar characteristics. They are particularly vulnerable due to the loss or separation from a loved one, but have no history of substance abuse or psychosis. In each case, the patient had psychotic episodes, apparently caused by Internet communication. The paper was published in the Israel Journal of Psychiatry & Related Sciences.
Dependence on Online Relationships
Dr. Nitzan shares that each patient went online initially to find comfort through social media. In the beginning, they had positive relationships online; however, their feelings became negative after some time. The author notes that each patient started having psychotic symptoms, such as delusions about their online friends and their relationships.
The doctor is also quick to note that each patient did seek help, and have fully recovered. Still, their cases reveal issues pertaining to social media and Internet users who have low self-confidence, as they can easily fall prey to cyberbullies and other online predators.
Handling Cyber Relationships
Meanwhile, the study also stresses the importance of people being mature enough to handle cyber relationships. This includes the ability to discern whether a person is just joking or being serious. There is also the tendency to “exaggerate” facts because of the anonymity that being online brings. This also encourages Internet “trolls” to post offensive and negative messages because they are unseen.
Online Behavior & Psychiatric Treatment
Negative behavior conducted online will be part of Dr. Nitzan’s studies in the future, particularly in studying social media sites like Facebook. The doctor shares that learning about people’s online behavior is important, and something that psychiatrists should also take note of.