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Social Media, Anxiety and Stress.

on 15 January 2019

How Social Media can be Affecting Your Levels of Anxiety and Stress

by Patrick Bailey

From the time that you wake up until you go to sleep at night, every aspect of our daily lives—our jobs, our finances, our relationships, our health—can contribute to our anxiety levels. In fact,there are more chances to add stress throughout the day than there are to relieve it. 


If things that are on our minds constantly affect stress, it is only natural that social media may be one of our biggest triggers for anxiety.

The average internet user spends a total of 116 minutes a day online. That’s nearly 10 percent of your day. And most ofthat time is typically spent on one or another social media platform. It might not seem like a lot of time because the time we don’t usually spendall that timeonsocial media at once. Nevertheless, even if we justdon’t want to admit how much time we spent on social media, it is something that can directly affect our mental well-being.

Facts about Social Media Use

  1. The current worldwide population is 7.6 billion people
  2. There are 4.2 billion active internet users
  3. 3.3 billion people use social media, andthe average internet user has more than seven social media accounts
  4. In 2017, 121 million social media accounts were activatedin just the second quarter of the year.
  5. One new account is activated every 15 seconds
  6. There are more than 60 billion WhatsApp and Facebook messages a day
For a complete, comprehensive look at the internet and social media usage, read the report here.

How Social Media Affects Your Stress and Anxiety

study conducted by UCLA analyzed brain activity while using social media, showed that there is noticeable activity in a part of the brain governing rewards processing and social cognition. Lead research author Lauren Sherman notes that when the half of the users “saw their ownphotos with a large number of like, we saw activity across a wide variety of regions in the brain.”

The half that was shown photos with a lot of likes were more likely to accept or like the images and photos themselves. The other half of the group was shown the same photos with a lower number of likes and were more likely to ignore the photo or avoid liking it themselves. 

The results of the study suggest that social media can affect our emotional well-being and even lead to developing a mental illness.

Social Media Can Cause Depression

The number of users on social media has been growing rapidly, but it is only recently that a link between social media and depression have arisen. Users can become overstimulated and grow dependent on the instant gratification from the number of likes on posts. If a user gets used to that sort of reward or feels it indicates acceptance, they will typically continue to post more to achieve the same result. It is much like developing a tolerance to a controlled substance.

In some cases, if the number of likes or comments begins to fall off, symptoms of depression have been noticed. These symptoms stem from a prolongeduse of social media platforms.

The most common symptoms include:

     Social isolation

     Development of a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders

     Loneliness

     Low self-esteem

     Reduction in social activity

What is Social Media Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), users cannot go more than three hours without checking their social media accounts. Thisis what is known as social media anxiety disorder. In fact,more than 30% of social media users spend more than 15 hours a week checking their post status, sending tweets, or liking photos. The more time users spend on social media, the more disruption it causes to their daily lives. 

Social media addicts:

     Avoid or interrupt conversations with friends to log in to social media accounts

     Socially isolate themselves or withdraw from interacting with friends and family

     Unsuccessfully try to delete or close social media accounts

     Neglect responsibilities at work or school

     Lose interest in hobbies or sports

     Withdraw when they are unable to access their accounts

     Spend an unhealthy amount of time online in a day

     Grow nervous or worried if they have unchecked post notifications

     Constantly have their phone or access to their phone 24 hours a day

According to Anxiety.org one reason that social media anxiety disorder has become such a big problem, mainly among teens and young adults, is due to FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. The constant need to share on social media fuels a dependency that they claim is more addictive than tobacco and smoking cigarettes.

Social Media Use, ADHD, and Substance Abuse

Some research suggests that social media use also can lead to attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD), a behavioral disorder where people find it difficult to focus on one thing for very long and act impulsively. 

Thisalso can lead to depression and negative or suicidal thoughts when users are being floodedwith images of people’s lives that appear to them to be perfect. Envy, jealousy, and anger— toward those images or themselves—may occur. 

In some extreme cases, social media anxiety disorder can lead to substance abuse. A person may develop a dual diagnosis: when a person is diagnosed witoone or more mental health or substance abuse  disorder at the same time. Substance abuse sometimes starts as an attempt to self-medicate for an undiagnosed mental health issue.

How to Avoid Social Media Anxiety Disorder

If you fear you are currently addicted to social media or might be suffering from social media anxiety disorder, the first thing to do is analyze your symptoms. If you do, then, as with any addiction, you need to identify why you use. Once you identify your triggers, you are better equipped to address the mental illness and/orsubstance abuse problem. 

Here are some ways to get clear of your social media addiction and avoid developing social media anxiety disorder:

     Turn off all notifications on your phone

     Limit your phone use altogether

     Avoid taking your phone with you all the time

     Go outside

     Hang out with your friends

     Start a new hobby or rekindle an old one

     Go to the gym

     Read more books (note-books or blogs)

     Spend time with your family



For a complete consultation on mental illness or substance abuse, talk to your family doctor.