Social Media and Social Anxiety Disorder

You’ve heard of social anxiety disorder, but did you know that social media use can also have negative effects on certain anxiety disorders?

What is an anxiety disorder?

According to The Mayo Clinic, an anxiety disorder is defined as having feelings of ‘intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations’.

These fears and thoughts often interfere with a person’s everyday life. They can be overwhelming and hard to control. There are many different kinds of anxiety disorders, from generalized anxiety to social anxiety. All of which can be very isolating.

Is there such thing as social media anxiety disorder?

As technology advances, there have been studies that show how the use of social media might play a role in social anxiety disorders. An article on Psychology Today talks about one of the defining characteristics of a social anxiety disorder, which is loneliness. As we age, feelings of loneliness can increase as close personal friendships decrease. Because social media is built on the notion that we are connecting with people, the more ‘friends’ or ‘connections’ you might have on social media the less lonely you are perceived to feel.

However, we know that’s not necessarily the case. Our connections via different technological platforms are often superficial. Yes, we keep in touch with friends and family. So in some cases, it can have a lot of positives. But when you are basing your worth off of others on these sites, anxiety, and depression can increase dramatically.

The use of social media can make social anxiety disorders worse.

Because the idea of social media is to be connected at the touch of our keyboards and smartphones, we don’t even need to interact with people in person. We are building friendships based on a profile we create and put out in the public. We can buy anything we ever wanted and have it shipped directly to our front door. If you suffer from social anxiety, this might seem like a blessing at first. But it can further alienate a person, actually causing real-life interactions that much more fearful and worrisome.

Common symptoms of social media addiction/anxiety disorder:

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, there are certain behaviors tied to what they call ‘Social Media Anxiety Disorder’;

  • Interrupting conversations to check your social media accounts
  • Lying to others about how much time you spend on social media
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Trying to stop or reduce your use of social media more than once before without being successful
  • Loss of interest in other activities
  • Neglecting work or school to comment on Facebook or Twitter account
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you are not able to access social media
  • Spending over six hours per day on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram
  • Overwhelming need to share things with others on social media sites
  • Having your phone with you 24 hours a day to check your social media sites
  • Using social media more often than you planned
  • Severe nervousness or anxiety when you are not able to check your notifications
  • Negative impacts in your personal or professional life due to social media usage

What can you do about it?

Understanding that everyone puts their best foot forward on social media. We post our most perfectly edited and staged photos and want the world to see how wonderful we are doing. This is not always the case. And every person who uses these sites are regular people as well. We all have ups and downs and have many things that we do not share for the public to see. Reminding yourself that can help curb the comparison trap.

Try limiting yourself to a certain amount of time on social media a day. Set a timer, and once that timer goes off put down your smartphone and get up to take a walk.

If you’re feeling like your anxiety is increasing because of social media and would like help, seek out a therapist. Having anxiety and even social media anxiety is not something you should have to suffer with alone. Seeking help by contacting a local therapist, or even someone who can do teletherapy could be the first step to getting some tools to help manage your anxiety.