Facebook can cause psychotic episodes, along with other social media, according to new research from Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, as well as the Shalvata Mental Health Care Center.
Dr. Uri Nitzan, the paper’s author, writes that social media’s ability to connect people who live far apart, along with its ability to foster and develop virtual relationships, can cause people to literally go crazy, reports The New York Daily News.
These people are usually already lonely, vulnerable, or technologically naive. The study was published in the Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Scientists and presents three in-depth case studies done by Dr. Nitzan on patients he treated.
He states that the three patients he treated share characteristics like vulnerability caused by loss or separation from a loved one.
They have no prior history of substance abuse or psychotic episodes, and all three experienced psychotic episodes, which were allegedly triggered by internet communications, according to The Sun. Dr. Nitzan wrote:
“All of the patients developed psychotic symptoms including delusions regarding the person behind the screen … their experiences underline issues relating to social media that can have a negative impact on less self-confident users — who can easily become the target of predators or cyberbullies.”
The study also highlights the emotional maturity that is often required to decode messages sent through Facebook and other social media. It is often difficult to tell if a message is a joke, or if the person who wrote it is serious, because of the lack of face-to-face communication.
Because of the ability for Facebook and other social media to cause a psychotic episode, Dr. Nitzan recommends asking every patient about their social media habits, as well as their general internet use.