Official Partner The Royal Society of Medicine


Do You Have Selfitis?

Selfitis. The chances are that you either don’t know what it is, or if you are suffering from this relatively new illness, you don’t realise it.

Beyond a Joke

‘Selfitis’ began as somewhat of a joke about four years ago, but is now considered a mental illness according to psychiatric experts in several countries. Perhaps you find it funny that you can suffer from an obsession of taking selfies, but there is very much a darker side to it, that can turn something fun into something far more sinister. Psychiatrists in both the USA and India, where the condition is most prevalent, have produced scientific reports since 2014 concluding that selfitis is, in fact, a mental illness that can be dangerous as people search more and more to take photographs posing in risky locations.

So why does this supposedly innocent pastime become an obsession that can be a risk to life? Mental health experts believe that it stems from a desire to belong, to impress peers and to attract the maximum amount of attention possible. Before selfies, we merely exercised ‘attention seeking’ in a different manner, such as wearing outlandish clothes or show-stopping hair creations – anything that made an individual stand out from a crowd.

Dictionary Definition

With the advent of social media, selfies have become a way of self-promotion or publicity, to let people know that you are a ‘cool’ kind of person with an interesting social life. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but when it becomes an obsession to impress with more and more selfies on a daily basis, sometimes taken in potentially dangerous locations, it can quickly go too far. Wanting to belong is one element, but perpetual self-promotion is obsessive and ultimately could lead to a mental addiction. In the USA, if you are taking more than 3 selfies per day, you are considered to be suffering from the early stags of selfitis. Possibly more worrying is that Facebook are urging members to upload selfies (you in fact get a prompt if you don’t) to verify your identity when posting. Surely selfies should be a voluntary choice and we should not be all but forced into using them?

Without over-dramatising, selfitis became a recognised mental condition during 2017, so much so that it now appears in not just medical press or reports, but is now a registered word in both the Oxford English Dictionary and Collins dictionary. There is now a Selfitis Scale, whereby medical professionals can evaluate whether the obsession has reached critical levels, by using a question and answer method.

Out of Control

More extreme occurrences have been reported. There have been several cases of individuals undergoing surgery, to face and body, to ensure they look their best when taking selfies and so that they obtain more ‘likes’ on their Facebook or Instagram postings. Rather a frightening thought and definitely a sign of selfitis as a mental condition that has possibly spiralled out of control.

By all means use selfies as a memory of special occasions and fabulous locations to share with friends and families, but don’t let it become an addictive or obsessive behavioural pattern that can lead to mental illness. Best not to use is as a way of being ‘liked’.


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