Social networking sites cause 'psychotic episodes' in patients, finds study

If you find yourself logging into social networking sites like Facebook for long hours and/or often, here's a little piece of information. 


A new research coming straight from Tel Aviv University says that psychotic episodes in patients are as a result of Internet addiction and delusions coming out of the virtual relationships that users develop on these sites, Daily Mail reports.


As part of the study, the lead researcher at the university's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Shalvata Mental Health Care Centre keenly studied three of his patients. Worryingly, the study led the researcher to find a "direct link between psychotic episodes and their Internet or Facebook communications". The research found that the patients looked at virtual relationships as an escape from their loneliness. As for these relationships, the study found that while they were "positive" at first, they went on to exude negative feelings of hurt, betrayal and invasion of privacy.   

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Causing them to be delusional? (Image credit: Getty Images)



The report quoted him as saying, "The patients shared some crucial characteristics, including loneliness or vulnerability due to the loss of or separation from a loved one, relative inexperience with technology, and no prior history of psychosis or substance abuse. In each case, a connection was found between the gradual development and exacerbation of psychotic symptoms, including delusions, anxiety, confusion, and intensified use of computer communications. The good news is that all of the patients, who willingly sought out treatment on their own, were able to make a full recovery with proper treatment and care."


He added further, "All of the patients developed psychotic symptoms related to the situation, including delusions regarding the person behind the screen and their connection through the computer."


Two of the patients being observed reportedly found themselves vulnerable after sharing their private details online. One even experienced "tactile hallucinations", believing that she was being physically touched by the person on the other side of the screen. "Some of the problematic features of the internet relate to issues of geographical and spatial distortion, the absence of non-verbal cues, and the tendency to idealise the person with whom someone is communicating, becoming intimate without ever meeting face-to-face," he added. 


Dr Nitzan stressed that it was important that mental health professionals considered the influence of Internet when interacting with their patients. 


The study, while not leaving out the benefits of social networking sites, noted that some patients "are harmed by these social networking sites". These, he said, caught the attention of those lonely or vulnerable. 


"All of these factors can contribute to a patient's break with reality, and the development of a psychotic state," it added. 

Published Date: May 06, 2013 16:27 PM | Updated Date: May 06, 2013 16:27 PM