Love or loathe them, selfies are everywhere. Whether it is celebrities taking them to show off their lavish lifestyles or your average Joe on the street using them to share their movements on social media, you just can’t seem to avoid them. It is estimated that 93 million selfies are taken each day. Selfie was Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2013.
Experts have now linked selfies with mental illness, suggesting that people who find themselves regularly searching for the perfect angle from which to portray themselves could in some cases be ill.
A leading psychiatrist has said that the majority of patients he sees with Body Dysmorphic Disorder take a lot of selfies. Dr David Veale, a consultant psychiatrist at the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust and The Priory Hospital, has been quoted as saying.
‘Two out of three of all the patients who come to see me with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) since the rise of camera phones have a compulsion to repeatedly take and post selfies on social media sites. Taking selfies is not an addiction – it’s a symptom of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) that involves checking one’s appearance.”
Cognitive behavioural therapy is often used to help patients moderate their obsessive behaviour relating to their appearance. Sufferers of 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.
In an extreme case of the disorder, a British teenager, Danny Bowman, tried to commit suicide because he was unhappy with his appearance in the selfies he took. He was so keen to attract girls, he spent 10 hours a day taking more than 200 selfies trying to find the perfect image, but his habit, which began at the age of 15, caused him to drop out of school and lose almost two stone in weight.
He did not leave his house in Newcastle-upon-Tyne for six months, and when he failed to take a flawless shot, he tattempted suicide by taking an overdose. His mother managed to save him, but he was forced to seek medical help after his habit had gotten out of control.
Danny told The Sunday Mirror
‘I was constantly in search of taking the perfect selfie and when I realised I couldn’t, I wanted to die. I lost my friends, my education, my health and almost my life. The only thing I cared about was having my phone with me so I could satisfy the urge to capture a picture of myself at any time of the day.’
Danny’s case is extreme. But with selfies becoming increasingly regular in our everyday lives, appearance gains extra significance. Whilst selfies are often a focal point of well meaning fun, for some it does have a more serious side.
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