What Your Facebook Profile Says About Your Mental Health

According to a study conducted by the University of Missouri, psychiatrists may be looking to social media to help mental health patients. Facebook, Twitter and other social networking outlets have become increasingly popular and, for many people, social media is a staple method for socialization and communication. Past studies indicate that individuals on the schizophrenias spectrum use Facebook and other social sites more that individuals who do not suffer from mental illness. However, researchers do not fully understand the implications of this information yet.

Even still, study leader E.M. (a University of Missouri doctoral student) believes that social media could be a helpful tool for therapists. She said, "Therapists could possibly use social media activity to create a more complete clinical picture of a patient. The beauty of social media activity as a tool in psychological diagnosis is that it removes some of the problems associated with patients' self-reporting." According to E.M., the information patients don't share on their Facebook pages could be as important as the information that they do provide.

She said, "By asking patients to share their Facebook activity, we were able to see how they expressed themselves naturally. Even the parts of their Facebook activities that they chose to conceal exposed information about their psychological state." In order to arrive at these conclusions, E.M. and her team of researchers reviewed information provided by a group of volunteers. After each volunteer provided a printed copy of their Facebook activity, researchers compared the level of the subjects' online activity to their level of schizotypy.

Several subjects demonstrated signs of a condition called "social anhedonia," which keeps the patient from experiencing happiness during enjoyable activities, like interacting with friends. Generally speaking, individuals who suffered from social anhedonia had fewer Facebook friends, communicated infrequently, shared relatively few pictures and had extensive profiles. Additionally, extroversion was directly related to individuals' number of friends and photos.

Before the study, some participants hid portions of their Facebook profiles form researchers. Generally speaking, these individuals demonstrated stronger schizotypy symptoms. These people also tended to demonstrate perceptual aberrations. In other words, they tended to believe that experiences with no real cause and effect were somehow linked. Individuals who concealed their Facebook information were also exhibited stronger signs of paranoia.

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