The Link Between Social Media and Mental Illness
Manhattan Mental Health Counseling, a psychotherapy private practice in New York that accepts insurance, has issued a warning about the potential health risks of using – and overusing – social media. There already exists a comprehensive body of research speaking to the impact social networks may have on one’s mental and emotional well-being, explains Natalie Buchwald, Founder of Manhattan Mental Health Counseling.
A 2014 experiment by California State University, for example, linked Facebook addiction to the same part of the brain associated with gambling and substance abuse. A study carried out over several years by professors Holly Shakya and Nicholas Christakis found a direct link between increased Facebook activity and decreased mental health. A 2017 survey by the Royal Society for Public Health found that most social networks appear to have a negative effect on the mental well-being of people aged 14 to 24.
Further, alongside smartphones and dating sites, social media has been linked on numerous other occasions to an upturn in major depression across multiple demographics.
“I want to make it clear that I am not demonizing social media,” explains Natalie Buchwald. “On the contrary, I think it’s a wonderful tool when used in moderation. It’s an excellent means of self-expression, an outlet for new modes of creativity, and a great way to network. That said, our society has never seen anything like it – which is precisely why we need to tread carefully.”
At this point, it is not clear whether social media causes conditions such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia, or simply exacerbates them. There can be no doubt that there is a link, notes Natalie. It’s the extent of that link that requires further research.
“In addition to feeling somewhat impersonal, social media can expose us to a range of negative thoughts and emotions,” says Natalie. “It can expose our insecurities, sap our attention, and lead to bouts of obsessive, anxious behavior. Anyone who is already prone to depression or any other form of mental illness could very well find their conditions worsened by extensive use.”
Natalie continues that the widespread lack of affordable mental health counseling creates even further problems. That is part of the reason she created Manhattan Mental Health Counseling, which allows New Yorkers to work with a dedicated psychotherapist and pay using their health insurance.
Natalie intends to do whatever she can to help New Yorkers achieve better overall mental health – whether their illness stems from an obsession over likes or something else altogether.