Major depression, known formally as major depressive disorder, is a relatively common psychiatric condition characterized…
Signs of Mental Illness Could Be Revealed Through Facebook
“How are you feeling?” the Facebook status box kindly asks its users. And actually, most users feel comfortable enough to tell all their friends exactly how they feel. With a few keystrokes and a click, an individual releases their anger, joy, paranoia, hopes, or sadness.
Researchers from the University of Missouri decided to analyze how these candid posted emotions might predict signs of mental illness in the users. Their report, published in the Psychiatry Research journal, reveals that Facebook can indicate symptoms of depression, paranoia, social anhedonia, and other mental health disorders.
More Telling Than Self-Reporting
There are the Facebook users who post before they think things through. Lack of posts can also tell much about a person. Some individuals may be more private or more paranoid to offer up too information about their life.
The research team, led by psychology doctoral student Elizabeth Martin, found that Facebook helped reveal those instant emotions better than when a person was self-reporting their emotions during personal interviews or questionnaires. In the time lapse between heightened feelings and the questionnaire people had forgotten some of those strong emotions, whereas the instant reporting of Facebook had logged many varied events, actions, and emotions instantly.
Martin’s team questioned over 200 college students about their paranoia and extroversion, how much they enjoyed interacting socially, and how often they voiced unsubstantiated information based on their intuitive feelings.
Empty Status Boxes Might Actually Be Saying Something
Researchers not only analyzed what survey participants posted on their Facebook, but analyzed how little some participants put on their Facebook pages. The participants who showed characteristics of social anhedonia (not enjoying social interactions) also showed these characteristics on Facebook.
They seldom posted their status and did not have many pictures on their site. They also had a small number of Facebook friends and were not anxious to add to the total of friends.
Hiding Facebook Activity
Participants in the survey were given the opportunity to hide some of their Facebook activity and information before researchers observed their pages. Researchers found that those who most often hid their information were the most likely to show symptoms of perceptual aberrations, irregular experiences of their ideas and their senses. These individuals misperceived situations and believed there to be effects from certain causes, even when this was not true.
Protecting one’s privacy is one way to protect identity and personal information. However, in the study, researchers found that some of those who hid much of their Facebook information from researchers were more likely to exhibit high levels of paranoia.
Facebook can more than a place to catch up on the family celebrations and news of friends or to view the latest cute puppy or cat video. Posts can reveal a deeper pain inside some friends that may stem from mental illness. With awareness and sensitivity, family and friends may notice signs of abnormal thoughts or recurring negative thoughts that might signal that their friend needs help.