by Victoria Woollaston
3 May 2013
Israeli scientists find FaceBook can
cause 'hurt and betrayal'
None of those studied had any
history of psychosis or drug abuse
One patient thought their virtual
friend was reaching out of the screen and touching her
FaceBook and other social networking sites can actually send you mad,
according to scientists in Israel.
Researchers from Tel Aviv University have linked psychotic episodes in
patients to internet addiction and delusions caused by virtual relationships
cultivated on social networking sites.
Although all the participants had underlying problems of loneliness, none
had any history of psychosis or drug abuse, the team say.
Case studies from patients in
Israel have found that using FaceBook
and other social networking
sites can lead to psychotic episodes and delusions.
Lonely people are more likely
to rely on virtual relationships
and this can lead to hurt and
Lead researcher Doctor Uri Nitzan of Tel Aviv University's Sackler
Faculty of Medicine and the Shalvata Mental Health Care Centre said:
'As internet access becomes increasingly
widespread, so do related psychopathologies.
'Computer communications such as FaceBook and chat groups are an
important part of this story.'
The study took an in-depth look at three of Dr
The studies found a direct link between psychotic episodes and their
internet or FaceBook communications. All three of Dr Nitzan's patients
sought refuge from a lonely situation and found solace in intense virtual
Although these relationships were positive at first, they eventually led to
feelings of hurt, betrayal, and invasion of privacy.
Dr Nitzan said:
'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.'
A study in 2012 found that
women spend the most time on
FaceBook - 81 minutes per day - compared to 64 minutes for men.
The poorly educated are most
likely to be addicted to the site, too
...Most Likely to Be Addicted to
A study from the University of Gothenberg found that people with low
income and low-educated people spend the most time on FaceBook.
And within this group, those who spent the most time on the site
were less happy and less content with their lives.
Up to 85 percent of FaceBook users surveyed said they logged into
the social networking site on a daily basis.
And 26 percent of them felt 'uneasy' if they didn't log in
Women spend an average of 81 minutes per day on FaceBook.
Whereas men spend 64 minutes per day on the site.
Dr Nitzan said:
'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 patients began to feel vulnerable as a result of sharing private
information, and one even experienced tactile hallucinations, believing
that the person beyond the screen was physically touching her.
'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 idealize the person with whom someone is communicating,
becoming intimate without ever meeting face-to-face.'
He added that mental health professionals should
not overlook the internet's influence when speaking to patients.
'When you ask somebody about their social life, it's very sensible to ask
about FaceBook and social networking habits, as well as internet use.
ARE YOU HOOKED?
Simply Six Point Scale Separates Healthy
from FaceBook Addicts
Could you be addicted to FaceBook?
Here are six basic statements.
Choose from the following scale: 1 = Very rarely; 2 = Rarely; 3 =
Sometimes; 4 = Often and 5 = Very often.
You spend a lot of time thinking
about FaceBook or plan use of FaceBook.
You feel an urge to use FaceBook more and more.
You use FaceBook in order to forget about personal problems.
You have tried to cut down on the use of FaceBook without
You become restless or troubled if you are prohibited from using
You use FaceBook so much that it has had a negative impact on
If you score 4 (often) or 5 (always) on
at least four of these six points, then you could be addicted to
'How people conduct themselves on the internet is quite important to
psychiatrists, who shouldn't ignore this dimension of their patients'
Dr Nitzan said:
'Our study shows that while technologies
such as FaceBook have numerous advantages, some patients are harmed by
these social networking sites, which can attract those who are lonely or
vulnerable in their day-to-day lives or act as a platform for
cyber-bullying and other predatory behavior.
'All of these factors can contribute to a patient's break with reality,
and the development of a psychotic state.'
The paper was published in the Israel Journal
of Psychiatry and Related Sciences.
The authors plan to do more in-depth research on FaceBook, studying the
features and applications that have the potential to harm patients
emotionally or permit patients to cause emotional harm to others.