Psychiatrists now consider selfie addiction a mental illness

Jun 17, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. ET

Maybe you're feeling particularly confident on a Wednesday and decide you are your own woman crush and snap a selfie. You may be a sweaty mess after a hard workout, but if you don't have picture proof of your rock-solid abs, did you really work out today? Most of us are guilty of taking the occasional selfie, but are these somewhat vain photos having an effect on our mental health?


Russian psychiatrists have reason to believe that our heavy obsession with the internet could soon be classified as a mental illness, specifically the act of taking and publicly posting multiple self portraits to social media.

According to senior researcher at the Federal Medical Research Center of Psychiatry and Addiction at the Ministry of Health of Russia Lev Perezhogin, "A selfie is essentially a self-portrait. Self-portraits were present in the work of almost every artist, this is self-expression." Basically, at face value there is no harm, no foul in taking the occasional selfie. This phenomenon becomes an issue when taking and documenting one's self portrait becomes a daily routine.

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Perezhogin tells Russia Beyond the Headlines, "Selfies manifest themselves as a form of dependence on electronic devices. For example, a person cannot post photos when there is no internet and starts to experience withdrawal symptoms like they would with heroin. Of course, this is an addiction, and it should be treated, including with medication."

The truth is, especially in regard to millennials, phone addiction is a thing. I know myself, I check my phone a few times an hour, and the addiction only became worse once I bought a smartphone and downloaded Instagram. Throughout my education as a creative writer I was always instructed to show, not tell, and with Instagram that literary philosophy has become a life mantra. Why post a status when I can actually show my friends and family what I'm wearing, eating, doing, etc.?


It does not come as a surprise that the majority of selfie addicts are female. Women do not only dress for other women, we also take selfies for other women. Sure, male attention is flattering, but there is no denying women like to show off their new hairdo or outfit, their fitness progress and glorious life experiences simply to revel in the satisfaction that our lives look better than the next woman's.

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When it comes down to it, women and men alike are obsessed with the selfie craze because it can often give us the reassurance that we have other people's stamp of approval. "In the course of the search for identity," Perezhogin explains, "narcissism arises — the desire to look at ourselves, to put ourselves on display and get the approval of others."

Whether we're taking a romantic shot on the beach with our spouse, showing off our first home-cooked meal, debuting a new hair color or showing off our monthly progress at the gym, selfie-takers measure our social acceptance by the number of "likes" our photos receive. This, I do agree, is an issue.

Life should not be measured by the number of selfies we take, but the spectacular moments we are in amidst these self portraits. There is life beyond the selfie, my friends.