Selfie addiction is a sign of mental health disorder – experts

Delegates at the recent Youth Connekt Africa Summit take a selfie after a session. Selfie addiction has been characterised as a mental health problem. Nadege Imbabazi.

Her love for selfies is way beyond imagination, it is something that gives her joy and relieves stress. She takes as many selfies as possible, regardless of the time, place and who is watching.

What wouldn’t miss in her bag is a kit of make-up, as she needs to look stunning in all her photos. This is none other than, a one Lina Mutesi (not real names), aged 24 and a resident of Gisozi.


When asked about her selfie obsession, she says that she needs to send photos to her boyfriend every day, since he needs to know how she is dressed, and what she is up to.


In her free time, she edits all her photos using editing apps like lidow, picsart, air brush, cymera among other apps. These improve the texture, colour, make-up and smoothens the skin, thus, making the photos more attractive. After editing, she posts the photos on her social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook.


In her view, if someone has a nice camera, why shouldn’t they use it? However, she disagrees with the idea of taking selfies when you have tight tasks, busy schedules and deadlines to meet, as this will hinder your concentration and morale.

Although Mutesi acknowledges that she is a selfie addict, she is also aware of the risks involved and doesn’t take selfies in risky places.

The word “selfie” which was even selected as the “Word of the Year” in 2013 by the Oxford English Dictionary, is defined as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a Smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

While some people take one or two selfies in their free time, others take as many as possible every day, anytime, anywhere, in various positions. When it is too much, it becomes a selfie addiction.

A selfie addiction is when a person is almost obsessively taking selfies, multiple times a day, and posting either on Snapchat, Facebook, or Instagram, such photos are edited using filters or other enhancements to make them look better.

A study by researchers at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, found 259 people died while trying to take a selfie between October 2011 and November 2017.

The research indicated that the results found that selfie deaths increased from two reported in 2011 to 98 in 2016. The number of selfie deaths last year reduced to 93, according to the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care.

The study also said that more than 72 per cent of the deaths were men, and drowning was the most common cause of death during a selfie-taking effort.

Research says that “selfitis” is a genuine mental condition of people who snap and post multiple selfies a week.

Selfitis is divided in to three levels which include; borderline, this is taking photos of one’s self at least three times a day but not posting them on social media. Acute is taking photos of one’s self at least three times a day and posting each one on social media, while chronic is the uncontrollable urge to take photos of one’s self round the clock and posting them on social media more than six times a day.

“Selfitis is a new form of mental health disorder which is being recognized by different mental health researchers and practitioners, some psychologists and psychiatrists have already started researching about its effects and some confirmation results are now observed, the consequences are behavioral oriented,” says Magnus GasanaUdahemuka, a psychologist at Kigali Teaching Hospital (CHUK).

He explains that social competition is a cause of selfie addictions as many people need positive comments and appreciation from the public and friends, but also to fit in a number of groups without isolation.

Sometimes, it is the mood of a person that pushes them in to a selfie moment, for instance, when someone is excited about something, or when they feel smart or during tough times, he says.

He notes that teenagers and young adults take selfies as a way of building their identity, and occupying themselves since they are jobless, however, low self-esteem and subjective conformity is too common where you find a number of people addicted to taking selfies in risky areas like the Airport, high building verandas, trains and others traffic roads, among others areas.

Gasana further says that, selfie addiction is real, as it makes one change the original background of the photo to different backgrounds by using phone edit apps like filters just to attract people’s attention and to make the photo like better.

“Sometimes taking a selfie in an extra manner can affect professionalism, social interaction and relationships with others since someone can spend most of his or her time editing photos, instead of working, thus failing to provide the required customer care to clients.”

Selfie addicts at times respond without paying attention to the clients, as all their focus is on visualizing photos, there are a lot of undisciplined people that are fond of this obsessive manner in the community, Gasana notes.

Dr Janarthanan Balakrishnan, a Research Associate from Nottingham Trent’s Department of Psychology, said: “Typically, those with the condition (selfitis) suffer from lack of self-confidence and are seeking to ‘fit in’ with those around them, and may display symptoms similar to other potentially addictive behaviors.

Damien Mouzoun, a counselor and founder of Ayina Think Tank, says that nowadays, digital media gives people, especially the youth, the time and tools to craft an attractive identity, as well as an audience to view and respond to it. It is for this reason therefore, that the think tank is now involved in research related to the side effects of addiction to selfies.

“Our center for students and youth advisory has been receiving cases of mainly the youth with social media and selfies addictions. We teach them the powers and the perils of the App generation and how they can navigate their identity, intimacy and imagination in this digital world,” he noted.

He added that they usually conduct classes to help people in understanding the changing world and how they can adapt for the better of their families and the society.

Explaining, that these are “digital natives” growing up immersed in the hardware and software of their time, thinking of the world as an ensemble of Apps, yet cannot be condemned for that, however, they can only be helped to be more responsible in their respective imagination, character and personality.

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