Different people have different motivations for taking selfies, and most picture taking of this nature is harmless and meant to share their experience with others.
However, sometimes such selfies can rise to the level of a concern or problem in a person’s life. This is when it stops being something done out of fun, and starts becoming something that is a reflection of perhaps more serious issues in the person’s life.
I came across a client who wanted to work on their self-esteem and a relationship that was in trouble. He reported that his self-esteem lowered ever since he got into the relationship and they stopped being intimate 6 months into the relationship. He continued to state that he found himself looking in the mirror about two hours before going to bed to make sure that he looks “presentable” the next day for work. He focuses on his skin and picks out details about his eyebrows, skin and hair. He goes to the gym every day after work in order to maintain a perfect body shape.
He reported that he started taking selfies in order to look for any imperfections on his face and body. His obsession started off being borderline where he took pictures of himself 4-5 times a day but did not post any of them on social media. His obsession however intensified and became acute after his girlfriend made a comment about his body shape. He took about 10 selfies a day and posted each one on social media, several times a day. His postings of selfies increased when he kept receiving positive feedback from people he did not know.
I have come to realize that the need to be perfect is growing in the younger generation. As people obsess about their looks, it sends a message to the world that outer looks is more important than personality. It seems that focusing on the world is not important but instead fashion and looks have become more ideal.
People seem to have no perspective on things and try to get someone else’s approval instead. This digital age gives rise to narcissism, an obsession with vanity. The need to feel approved. People who take selfies also tend to alienate themselves. It is important to get in touch with your authentic self and to interact with supportive friends and family.
In the case above, my client did not feel approved and loved in his relationship and was searching to find it from others. He felt that he lost control over how he felt and believed that he found that control in taking the right selfie and getting more approval from others. Cognitive behavior therapy was provided to help him recognize the reasons behind the behavior of taking selfies and to moderate the behavior.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article mistakenly referenced a news parody website suggesting that the American Psychiatric Association had officially made “selfitis” an actual mental disorder. Mental disorder diagnoses are developed over usually more than a decade’s worth of time, reflecting a consensus about dozens of published, peer-reviewed research studies conducted on the proposed disorder. Today, there have been only a handful of studies mentioning “selfies” and none of them propose a new disorder called “selfitis.” The APA has never considered this a disorder, nor is it under consideration as a disorder. Psych Central sincerely regrets this error.
Image taken from humanipo.com