Relaxation Ideas
29 Sep 2020
Breaking bad habits: Taking selfies

Selfies: you will either love or loathe them.

A term that originated in Australia in 2002 when first coined by a young drunkard in a forum post, the word "selfie" made its way into the Oxford Dictionaries in 2013 and was even named as the word of the year at that time.

Now a standard nomenclature for taking a self-photograph, the taking of a selfie is considered by many as an action that represents individuality and self-importance. That is all well and good, yet sometimes, we tend to take things a bit too much, which subsequently becomes a problem.

This overindulgence has turned into a real condition that health experts call a "selfie addiction" or "selfitis". Yes, surprisingly, your excessive selfie-taking is potentially a mental disorder with its own appellation that should be taken far more seriously than you think.

Selfitis initially came to light as an affliction when the American Psychiatric Association (APA) circulated a report online in 2014 that spawned its medical term and the condition itself.

In this document, it defined selfitis as "the obsessive-compulsive desire to take photos of one's self and post them on social media as a way to make up for the lack of self-esteem and to fill a gap in intimacy." It also outlined three levels of the disorder, which include borderline (take at least three photos a day but not post them on social media, acute (take at least three photos a day and post them on social media), and chronic (uncontrollable urge to take photos all the time and post them more than six times a day).

Although it turned out to be a hoax, the false report became a source of interest for psychology professionals and ignited a flurry of research due to its classification of the disorder.

An example would be a paper in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction called "An Exploratory Study of 'Selfitis' and the Development of the Selfitis Behaviour Scale", which dished out six main factors behind people taking selfies:

- Environmental enhancement
- Promotes a positive, feel-good feeling for a person and towards his or her environment.
- Social competition
- Increases one's social status amongst his or her peers.
- Attention seeking
- To become more popular and receive praise.
- Mood modification
- Improves one's mood and reduce stress levels.
- Self-confidence
- Serves as a confidence booster.
- Subjective conformity
- To feel a sense of belonging and acceptance.

From this study, it concluded that those who suffer from selfitis display symptoms that are consistent with other potentially addictive behaviours, which more or less confirms selfitis as a worrisome trend. It also links selfitis to narcissism and lack of consideration towards others.

And we have not touched upon other aspects of selfitis apart from the taking of self-photographs, such as the editing of the picture, addition of effects, caption writing, and the uploading process to social media. Imagine the amount of time you are wasting by focussing your mind on something so superficial in nature.

In essence, taking selfies can become a malaise when it grows into an addiction. When you are obsessively taking pictures of yourself multiple times a day, embellishing them with effects and filters, and posting them on various social media platforms, you may be a selfie addict.

And the mental repercussions can become a cause for concern as it can lead to physical distortion or misinterpretation of one's physical being. A study in the journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery noted that there has been an increase in demand for facial reconstruction in the United States just because more people are not happy with how they look in their selfies.

When your selfie-taking has affected your professionalism, social interaction, and relationships while also igniting an interest in plastic surgery, you clearly need help.

Like any addiction, one of the main treatments that one could undertake is a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT, which involves counselling sessions for the addict to help him or her in discovering their self-worth by helping others and finding intimacy and established relations by making real connections with people.

Other ways that selfie addicts can try to alleviate their addiction include:

- Paying more attention to the people, things, and events that are happening around them.
- Spend more time partaking in healthier activities with friends and family, such as exercise and travelling.
- Put down your smartphone and engage with people in real life.
- With a selfie addiction, it is important to realise that strict prohibition would be futile; what will work better is to minimise exposure, break down dependence, and find the right distractions that could fill the selfie-sized void.

Photo: Andy Falconer

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