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Introduction: In the last few years, there have been several public enquiries into the impact of social media on mental health. The discussion of how the use of social media can affect adolescents with current psychiatric diagnoses has become relevant to the public interest. This narrative review explores three common psychiatric illnesses in young people: depression, body dysmorphic disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and how adolescents with these diagnoses are affected by social media.
Methods: Initially, three searches were conducted in PubMed (2012-2018) for articles with 'social media', 'adolescent', or 'teenager' used alongside the three terms 'depression', 'body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)', or 'attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)' in the title or abstract; that were assessing the impact of social media on adolescent psychiatric disorders.
Results: The review shows that adolescents with psychiatric disorders are much more vulnerable to social media addiction and are more likely to partake in hazardous activities online. Adolescents with diagnosed depression who used social media excessively were more like to be affected by social isolation, altered sleep, and low mood than those who do not use social media excessively. The progression of body dysmorphic disorder was shown to be accelerated by highly-visual social media such as Snapchat and Instagram, with hashtags and filters currently allowing unrealistic comparisons with peers. Social media addiction was also shown to exacerbate traits of impulsivity and disinhibition that are common in adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder with violence as a potential consequence.
Conclusions: Social media use has been associated with negative effects in adolescents with three common psychiatric disorders. Nevertheless, punitive action and withholding access to social media from adolescents is not a feasible option to solve this issue. However, further investigation is required into methods of positive engagement that can increase help-seeking and provide healthcare professionals with therapeutic tools that the patient can use when accessing social media.
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