Kim Moore, Senior Lecturer in Mental Health, discusses selfies now being considered a psychological disorder

Are you kidding me? – taking selfies is now a psychological disorder and genuine medical condition!  Providing this is not a hoax (like 2014) I am shocked by the news. Seriously I can think of far more mental health conditions that warrant greater attention than posting a selfie. What does this say about how much we pathologise life or ignore the increasingly digital culture we live in?

Is it really a disorder (Urban Dictionary) if I have more than 10 selfies on my phone? Apparently so and this is supported by research examining ‘selfies’ in the wider context of personality disorders. Current media attention on extreme cases such as that of Danny Bowman (2018) lend an air of authenticity; potentially adding to the validity of such a claim, but individual cases need to be balanced by the millions of people taking selfies every day without issues.

How is this different from taking an old-fashioned photo of yourself? Really the major difference seems to be that we live out our lives more openly on social media when we put our images in our online photo albums instead of the physical ones in our homes. Any behaviour in its extreme form could be a mental health problem (NHS, 2016) or with positive reinforcement, addictive. Surely we are talking about the same types of behaviour; the only difference is they are acted out in the public domain using the internet as the re-enforcer. This does not mean we need a ‘new diagnosis’, but that we may need to rethink how we consider different types of ‘behaviour’.

Maybe what we really need to acknowledge are the new generations of ‘digitial natives’ who live their lives in cyberspace and have a clear ‘digital identities’ (van Donselaar et al, 2016).

So it’s OK to have our biometric data monitored using technology, or use new technologies that can confirm our unique identities but put a selfie (or 10) on Facebook and you have a mental illness?

I don’t think so…

Kim Moore is a Senior Lecturer in Mental Health. Find out more about our Mental Health Nursing course.

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