Selfie craze? Doctors link smartphone snaps with mental illness

Obsessively taking self-portraits can be a sign of Body Dysmorphic Disorder, doctor says

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From celebs to charity workers, politicians to partygoers, the obsession with the ‘selfie’ spans far and wide.

Smartphone self-portraits are now fair game in high-level diplomatic meetings as well as college dorms, with snaps being shared widely on social media.

But the selfie phenomenon may be a craze in more ways than one.

Experts have linked taking selfies with mental illness, claiming that some people who obsessively take pictures of themselves may have a form of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).

Those with BDD typically have a preoccupation with one or more perceived flaws in their appearance, and tend to be excessively self-conscious.

As many of two thirds of patients with body-image disorders obsessively take photos of themselves, according to the Daily Mail.

“Taking selfies is not an addiction – it’s a symptom of Body Dysmorphic Disorder that involves checking one’s appearance,” Dr David Veale, a consultant psychiatrist in cognitive behaviour therapy at the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust and The Priory Hospital, told the newspaper.

Veale reportedly told another newspaper that two-out-of-three BDD patients he sees “have a compulsion to repeatedly take and post selfies on social media sites.”

“Selfie fans with BDD can spend hours trying to take pictures that do not show any defects or flaws in their appearance, which they are very aware of but which might be unnoticeable to others,” the Daily Mail reported.

Another expert said that a preoccupation with selfies could be an indicator of other mental problems in young people.

“Selfies frequently trigger perceptions of self-indulgence or attention seeking social dependence that raises the damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don’t spectre of either narcissism or very low self-esteem,” said Dr Pamela Rutledge, Director of the Media Psychology Research Centre in Boston Massachusetts, in an article for Psychology Today.

“Preoccupation with selfies can be a visible indicator of a young person with a lack of confidence or sense of self that might make him or her a victim of other problems as well.”

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