Social Media Anxiety Disorder

Social Media Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety is a feeling recognized by all and welcomed by none.  Today, social media anxiety seems to be weighing heavily on us all, but especially our children, as we are called to do more behind our devices.  

For the majority of today’s youth, anxiety disorders are increasingly becoming a norm.  If you’ve paid attention to recent headlines and a vast growing body of research, teens today have a huge disadvantage working against them.  If you’ve spent prolonged periods of time on social media, from the lens of a teenager, you may have an idea of what that is.

About Social Media Anxiety Disorder... 

Social Media Anxiety Disorder (SMAD) can be defined as a syndrome acquired by individuals who participate in social media to the extent that it affects their mental health and physical well-being.  This particular condition is a branch of Social Anxiety Disorder, also referred to as “Social Phobia,” which can be characterized as distress around social interaction or situations, and concern about being embarrassed and judged by others. 

While social media can build a sense of community for some, everyone responds to and interacts with social media differently.   Many of today’s youth recognize that while their intention is to use social media for good when you grow up with your life behind a screen, it’s hard to know how and when to hit the digital pause button.   

Today’s technologies were developed and provided to us without any prior research or education regarding the impact they would have on our daily lives.  It’s important to recognize the symptoms of Social Media Anxiety Disorder and understand that you are not alone. 

  • Signs of someone struggling with social media-related ailments may display some or all of the following behaviors:  
  • The inability or anxiety to be without an electronic device having access to a social site.
  • Placing more importance in the virtual world than the real one.
  • Preoccupation with the number of followers engagement on posts such as likes or comments.
  • Spending excessive time on social media more than anything else that takes out a daily routine.
  • Having a strong attachment to your digital world as if nothing else matters.
  • Forcing one’s self to be fake or out of character online to achieve engagement.
  • Creating a false online persona.
  • Going off-brand with the intention of gaining online popularity.
  • Excusing yourself from family or friends to check social media.
  • Adding strangers on socials to appear to have a larger following and obtain more engagement.
  • Extreme loneliness caused by the social isolation created by turning to these sites.

This disorder is going to mimic symptoms that would also be consistent with its sister’s disease, Social Anxiety Disorder. As stresses develop online, the feelings and behaviors can spread towards other parts of life. 

Those indications may include:

  • Persistent, intense fear or anxiety about specific social situations due to concern over being judged, embarrassed or humiliated.
  • Terror when faced with conversing with strangers.
  • Avoiding social situations that may invoke these feelings or enduring them with overwhelming distress.
  • Fear that others will notice anxiety.
  • Always expecting the worst possible outcome from a social gathering.
  • Analyzing “performance” and putting out flaws in interactions.
  • Worry that disrupts and interferes with day to day activities.
  • Low self-esteem or body image issues.
  • Clingy behavior, always seeking to please people.
  • Physical side effects such as rapid heart rate, facial blushing, trembling, sweating, upset stomach or nausea, trouble catching breath, dizziness or lightheadedness and changes in sleep pattern.

Resources for Social Media Anxiety Disorder 

If you or someone you love is struggling with a fixation on social media, displaying symptoms of social media anxiety or social anxiety of any kind, it is important to speak with a trusted adult or parent or guardian in your life to help develop a plan for safe and healthy digital media habits.   

As always, we are here to help if you need us…