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Can Social Media Cause Anxiety

Mental Health Conditions Tied To Young Peoples Use Of Social Media

Does social media cause anxiety?

Most people young and old are able to moderate their use of social media so it doesnt take over their lives. However, 20% of people who have at least one social media account feel they have to check them at least once every three hours to avoid feeling anxious. This phenomenon goes beyond fear of missing out, or FOMO. In fact, it now has its own name: social media anxiety disorder, as reported by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America .

The condition is similar to social and other anxiety disorders, which the ADAA states are the most common mental illnesses in the U.S. The symptoms of social media anxiety disorder include the following:

  • Stopping to check social media in the middle of a conversation
  • Spending more than six hours each day using social media
  • Lying about the amount of time spent on social media
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Failing in attempts to cut back on social media use
  • Neglecting or losing interest in school, work and favorite activities
  • Experiencing severe nervousness, anxiety or withdrawal symptoms when not able to check social media
  • Having an overwhelming desire to share on social media feeds

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The three most popular social media platforms among teens are YouTube , Instagram and Snapchat . The percentage of teens who report using Facebook declined to 51% in 2018 from 71%, according to a 2014-2015 teen survey.

According to a 2018 report issued by GlobalWebIndex, people ages 16 to 24 spent an average of three hours and one minute using social media each day. However, research reported in the journal JAMA Psychiatry found that adolescents who use social media more than three hours per day may be at heightened risk of mental health problems, particularly internalizing problems.

Social media can and does have a positive effect on children and teens, whether by teaching social skills, strengthening relationships or just being fun. Persistent use of these social platforms can also have a negative impact, particularly on the mental health and well-being of young users.

Children, parents and teachers need to understand the full impact of social media use by adolescents and teens, especially the risks these services pose on their mental health. The tools, tips and resources in this guide can help ensure that the use of social media by young people strengthens their personal social network and improves their general mental wellness.

Anxiety is a psychological term that describes the unpleasant sensation that some of us experience when there is uncertainty about the future, and our expectations are not being met.

Factors That Trigger Anxiety When Using Social Media

For many, social media provides both a platform for communication and a self-preservation mechanism, to ensure privacy and a less intrusive online experience. Since the early years of social media in the 2000s, a new feature on many platforms was the prioritizing of image sharing.

This presents itself in a number of different ways: people can privately upload images and videos, or a network of friends can browse pictures on a shared network. Content such as photos and videos on social media can be shared to generate popularity, as well as make new connections or find other networks to network in.

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Reasons Why Social Media Feeds Anxiety

Many modern people cant imagine their lives without popular social networking sites.

Ordinary internet users spend at least 142 minutes a day on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Today, social media is an essential tool for communication and entertainment. But the question is whether intensive usage of this wonderful tool harms mental health.

This article will discuss how social media feeds anxiety.

Trends In Depression And Suicide: Adolescents And Young Adults

Saturday 9: Doris Day
  • 2005-2014:
  • Depression among girls 14-17 increased by 4 percentage points.
  • Depression among boys 14-17 increased by 1.2 percentage points.
  • 1999-2017:
  • Suicide among girls 10-14 increased fourfold
  • 2007-2017:
  • Suicide among people 10-24 increased 56% percent
  • 2018:
  • Over 1,400 girls 10-14 died by suicide
  • Over 5,000 boys 10-14 died by suicide
  • 2021:
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people 10-24.
  • Now lets have a look at the anxiety data.

    In addition, the Child Mind Institute reports that:

    • 19.3% of adolescents have a specific phobia
    • 9.1% have social anxiety disorder
    • 7.6% have separation anxiety
    • 2.3% have a panic disorder
    • 2.2% have generalized anxiety disorder

    The thing about those anxiety numbers is that theyve remained relatively stable since 2005. They skyrocketed in 2020 and 2021 but we all know why: the pandemic. Therefore, although the increase in anxiety among adolescents from 2019-2021 may be peripherally related to social media, social media is certainly not the main culprit.

    Lets sum up all this data:

  • Rates of mental health issues in teens increased over the past 20 years.
  • The most significant increases occurred in rates of depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide.
  • These increases coincide with the increase in social media use among teens.
  • Rates of anxiety among adolescents remained relatively stable from 2005-2019, then jumped in 2020-2021.
  • Lets focus on those at-risk teens now.

    Also Check: When To Get Help For Depression And Anxiety

    The Teen Brain And Social Media

    For many tweens and teens, social media can become almost addictive. In a study by researchers at the UCLA brain mapping center, they found that certain regions of teen brains became activated by “likes” on social media, sometimes causing them to want to use social media more.

    During the study, researchers used an fMRI scanner to image the brains of 32 teenagers as they used a fictitious social media app resembling Instagram. The teenagers were shown more than 140 images where “likes” were believed to be from their peers. However, the likes were actually assigned by the research team.

    As a result, the brain scans revealed that in addition to a number of regions, the nucleus accumbens, part of the brain’s reward circuitry, was especially active when they saw a large number of likes on their own photos. According to researchers, this area of the brain is the same region that responds when we see pictures of people we love or when we win money.

    Researchers say that this reward region of the brain is particularly sensitive during the teen years, which could explain why teens are so drawn to social media.

    In another part of the study, researchers could see a correlation between social media and peer influence. Participants in the study were shown both neutral photos and risky photos. What they found is that the type of image had no impact on the number of likes given by teens in the study.

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    “We were asking people who weren’t depressed about their social media use,” said Dr. Roy Perlis, one of the studys authors. “Then we came back later to see if the people who were using certain kinds of social media were more likely to be depressed.”

    Compared to adults who did not use social media, “people who were using Facebook, people who were using TikTok, and people who were using Snapchat were substantially more likely to come back and tell us they felt depressed the next time they filled out the survey,” said Perlis, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.

    The research does not prove social media causes depression. Indeed, it is possible that people already prone to feeling sad were more likely to log on to such sites.

    But it adds to evidence of a growing mental health crisis in the United States. Nearly one-third of American adults reported feeling depressed in an , up from 8.5 percent before the pandemic.

    Survey respondents who had minimal symptoms of depression early on were more likely to report an increase in symptoms in later surveys if they used social media.

    The research is limited in that it cannot tease out what kinds of content people were exposed to or sought out online. And previous research has shown an overall increase in social media use over the past year.

    Read Also: Is Anxiety Disorder A Disability

    Social Media And The Evolution Of Social Interactions

    If there is one thing the 21st century has brought more of into our lives, it is the enterprise known as social media. From things like Facebook to Twitter, or more picture oriented apps such as Instagram, the way people interact with each other has changed and evolved in ways our grandparents and even our parents could never have imagined in their youth. In years gone by, social interactions revolved around face-to-face interactions, although letter writing could also be a means of communication as well. The telephone has allowed one not see the face of the person one is talking to yet it was still in real-time and needed social awareness to navigate.

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    How To Reduce Social Media Anxiety

    Is social media causing more anxiety?

    Social media anxiety can be a more problematic expression of already existing mental health difficulties, and here is where it is important to make an assessment and speak to a professional. Taking the time to understand the scope of the issue is crucial particularly when it comes to young people.

    Of course, there are dangers of over-diagnosing and over-diagnosing, and young people can certainly be anxious about the majority of things that make them feel uncomfortable in life. However, looking closely at what actually feels stressful or stressful at the moment is essential, as part of an ongoing therapeutic conversation.

    There is no concrete answer to how we can reduce this anxiety. From individuals who need to make changes themselves, and also work with their peers and teachers in schools, to those who believe that some of the underlying causes of anxiety, such as modern communication or social networking sites, need to be addressed.

    Moving beyond simplistic questions such as, Is it social media or is it me? and more seriously, Can we feel this anxious about social media, or should it simply be the case that people are becoming more anxious?, can only lead to limited understanding of the problems and causes. Ultimately, the issue isnt so black and white and needs to be addressed on many levels.

    Recommended Reading: What Can You Give A Child For Anxiety

    How To Stop Comparing Yourself To People On Social Media According To An Expert

    Instead, the answer may lie in the relationship we have with social media and our phones. We can acknowledge that some social media usage is inevitable while still building a healthy relationship with the devices we know can have such a detrimental impact.

    So how can we build that relationship in order to reduce the amount of social media anxiety were feeling? And how can we tell when our anxiety is becoming a problem? We asked Chloe Brotheridge, a hypnotherapist, coach at and author of The Anxiety Solution and Brave New Girl for her advice.

    Is Social Media Related To Mental Health Problems

    Although social media can allow people to reach out and connect with others, it can also make some people feel worse.7 Almost 25% of adolescents believe that social media has a mostly negative effect.1

    With 13% of 12-17 year olds reporting depression and 32% reporting anxiety, mental illness is a concern for adolescent health.8 It is a concern for young adults as well, since 25% of 18-25 year olds report having some form of mental illness.9 Depression is particularly increasing among girls.10 Some researchers have suggested that this increase in mental illness is, at least in part, connected to the rise of social media use among adolescents and young adults.10

    In fact, teens and young adults often worry about what they call FoMO, which stands for fear of missing out, which is anxiety about missing out on experiences. Social media can worsen feelings of FoMO, for example, if someone sees posts about a party that they were not invited to. Adolescents may be particularly vulnerable to potential negative impacts of social media because social connectedness is important for their development. Browsing social media can lead to FoMO, and the feeling of being excluded can lead to negative feelings.15

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    Sleep Deprivation And Depression

    Some of the ways in which social media use impacts mood may be indirect. For instance, one of the most common contributors to depression in teenagers is sleep deprivation, which can be caused, or exacerbated, by social media.

    Research shows that 60 percent of adolescents are looking at their phones in the last hour before sleep, and that they get on average an hour less sleep than their peers who dont use their phones before bed. Blue light from electronic screens interferes with falling asleep on top of that, checking social media is not necessarily a relaxing or sleep-inducing activity. Scrolling on social media, notes Dr. Hamlet, can easily end up causing stress.

    Social media can have a profound effect on sleep, adds Dr. Bubrick. You have the intention to check Facebook or Instagram for 5 minutes, and the next thing you know 50 minutes are gone. Youre an hour behind in sleep, and more tired the next day. You find it harder to focus. Youre off your game, and it spirals from there.

    Social Media Anxiety Disorder

    How do social media cause anxiety and depression?

    Social media anxiety disorder also needs to be mentioned when talking about how can social media cause anxiety. This is a disorder that is linked to social anxiety which is a worry or a fear of embarrassing yourself or being judged by others. If you suffer from social media anxiety disorder then your usage of these platforms will impact your physical and mental health.

    In these cases, the person is likely to feel very self-conscious about what they are doing on these platforms and will constantly be worrying about how they come across. Will they be judged for what they have posted or look foolish? This can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.

    The pressure to be perfect on the platforms goes far beyond what we have already spoken about. Social media anxiety disorder can make people spend hours and hours a day trying to create perfect posts and responses. If the feedback they get is not what they expected it can create huge amounts of anxiety and worry. Social media starts to become an obsession which takes over their life. Usually in situations like this professional help from a therapist is needed to stop the negative patterns of behaviour.

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    Social Media And Mental Health

    While social media does appear to be an unalloyed benefit for many young people, it also comes with a risk of mental health implications, as many studies have found. The first of these comes from Facebooks own research, which found that using Facebook can lead to feelings of loneliness, particularly in its users aged 18 to 24 years. This is particularly pertinent in this group, given that it is the first age group to have come of age using social media.

    The use of social media has risen dramatically, particularly among young people, with around two-thirds of young people owning a social media account. For many young people, social media is a source of positive and social interaction.

    Indeed, one of the chief arguments put forward in the case for allowing teenagers to begin using social media is that they are socializing in the real world, but adding a new virtual dimension to that socializing allowing them to spend time with their friends, communicating, and sharing experiences. While the same could be said of any social activity, we now have data that indicates that there may be more drawbacks than positives.

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