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Can Social Media Cause PTSD?

Can Social Media Cause PTSD?

Author: Justin Mckibben

In case you were still skeptical, social media has become a significant element of our society… definitely. We have evolved into a culture that circulates information and cultivates emotional and ethical responses based on the shares, likes and comments associated with our tweets, posts and pics. Social media has been credited with being both helpful and detrimental to depression depending on the context, and now there is another aspect of mental health that some suspect is being threatened by our threads.

A new study is suggesting that observing violent news events via social media can actually cause people to experience symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How much of an impact can our videos have, and could this be the beginning of a whole new brand of stress and trauma diagnosis?

Sharing Our Stress

Dr. Pam Ramsden from the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Bradford presented this concept back on Thursday May 7th 2015 at the Annual Conference of the British Psychology Society being held in Liverpool. Here Dr. Ramsden explained:

“The negative effects of exposure to other people’s suffering have long been recognized in roles such as professional healthcare workers. Various studies have documented the negative psychological reactions following indirect exposure to traumatized people called vicarious traumatization.”

This refers to incidences where individuals in several fields including healthcare professionals experienced trauma through others and ultimately were affected by that shared experience. Someone reliving their trauma and expressing it to another person can take a toll on that person. Hearing the grotesque and gruesome details can create a kind of second-hand shock and stress. Ramsden went on to say,

“Social media has enabled violent stories and graphic images to be watched by the public in unedited horrific detail. Watching these events and feeling the anguish of those directly experiencing them may impact on our daily lives. In this study we wanted to see if people would experience longer lasting effects such as stress and anxiety, and in some cases post-traumatic stress disorders from viewing these images.”

So when we see something brutal or violent happen online through videos, images and dialog we can still feel that impact, even though some have suggested we become disconnected from the images and words on the screen and dehumanize the victims, it appears this is not always the case.

Assessing the Trauma

189 participants around the age of 37 years old with an almost even equal number of men and women completed a few tests for trauma including:

  • Clinical assessments for PTSD
  • A personality questionnaire
  • A vicarious trauma assessment
  • A questionnaire concerning different violent news events on social media or the internet

The violent events used for this test included the 9/11 Twin Tower attacks, school shootings and suicide bombings. The details of the examination indicated:

  • 22% of participants were significantly affected by the media events
  • 1/4 of those who viewed the intense internet images scored high on clinical measures of PTSD

The fact that these individuals scored high on clinical measures of PTSD was a very concerning development considering that they experienced this level of stress despite:

  • They did not have previous trauma
  • They were not present at the traumatic events
  • They had only watched them via social media

There was also an increased risk for those with outgoing, extroverted personalities. So those social butterflies that are more likely to share and comment were also those that could be more sensitive to the effects of being exposed to violent and graphic material on social media.

So by exposing ourselves to such extreme and foul content we are increasing the risks of PTSD, and possibly even creating a whole new brand of it. Extensive research into the trend of internet addiction and some kind of dependence on social media has already begun, as debates continue on the influence social media makes on depression.

So is it safe to assume that with all the sway social media has over us that we should be careful of all the distasteful and uncensored stories and depictions we take in?

Are we as a society overloading ourselves online with images and audio that intoxicate our anxiety and compound with our already rattled reasoning to create new levels of trauma?

What new methods of diagnosis and treatment could come from PTSD inspired by social media?

For now we should remember that the impressions these sites have are real for some people. Some have been oppressed by these unstable emotional ties to their online lives, while others have been liberated by the sense of connection. Whatever way you believe, your social media can change your mind if you let it.

An issue like PTSD is nothing to take likely, and mental health has a serious impact on the quality of life and possibility of recovery for anyone struggling with substance abuse issues. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Using Social Media to Treat Depression

Using Social Media to Treat Depression

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

I’m at it again! #cantstopwontstop

Back to talk about that strangely familiar topic of the connection between the ever present and expanding dominion of social media and depression. It may seem like these articles sometimes present conflicting opinions, and often times those thin lines between healthy and disparaging get skewed.

Let me be clear: social media is an incredible and vibrant format through which we experience things through the testimonies of others (be they true or just false advertising). We as individuals turn it into either an overwhelming obsession or tools for triumph in how we use social media.

Somebody out there is actually saying now that they have designed a way by which we can actually treat depression with social media. And strange enough what they describe actually uses some of the same elements that are credited with contributing to depression and puts just the right spin on it to be clinically advantageous.

The Power of Support

Now I have talked about how some suggest that social media can be dangerous for people with depression. I have stressed before that when respected it can be a beautiful and powerful thing, and when abuse it can become like an all-encompassing adversity. Social media has contributed to vast isolation and loneliness, which multiplied over ‘like’s and ‘share’s (or lack thereof) make a formula for depression. BUT it has also done its part in striking stigma out of some more serious connections to depression such as suicide or suicidal thoughts.

In one study researchers discovered while monitoring college students on social media who had made clear indications about experiencing depression that the most responses they received from their peers were expressions of sympathy and support. Many were met with compassion and stories of similar struggles that lead them away from those feelings of isolation, and researchers concluded that social media was helping to spread the understand about mental health and depression more than ever.

Panoply: New World Therapy

Based on this very same concept of peers supporting and nurturing each other with compassion, there is now a new mental health therapy through social media emerging that has so far yielded optimistically positive results.

A study of 166 people over a 3 week period using peer-to-peer social networking birthed a platform that developers are currently calling “Panoply”. So far the studies show that this new take on social media shaped significant benefits, particularly for depressed individuals.

Panoply uses self-guided, web-based interventions for depression that are focused on trying to calm anxiety and reverse the symptoms of depression. For the initial study participants posted descriptions of stressful thoughts and situations on the social media platform, and then the “crowd” replied to the post by offering contrasting outlooks or words of encouragement.

The platform is employing a practice that is called “cognitive appraisal”. This is a therapeutic tool used to inspire people to look at a problem from different perspectives. By seeing the situation beyond their immediate feelings someone can even identify what is making them feel that way, and take action to curb that feeling.

Using Panoply also allows people to practice objectively reviewing stressful situations submitted by other users. This also inspires them later to think more flexibly and objectively about the stressful events and thoughts that they themselves experience, teaching them how to cope and to relate to others. According to a paper published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research this feature proved to be especially helpful for individuals struggling with depression.

The next step is to test Panoply with a larger, more diverse audience. The researchers hope to repeat these results, and also to collect data concerning what any long term effects of this kind of treatment may be.

It seems that these researchers have attempted to treat depression and social media like any vaccine; use a strain of the sickness against itself to create an active acquired immunity. So while there are still concerns about obsessive social media compulsions and depression, by using the act of sharing and networking Panoply hopes to combat the feelings of isolation and despair with a sense of community and personal connection social media is meant to create.

So don’t delete your account just yet, give it another shot. Please post responsibly.

Depression is a very severe and sometimes subtle affliction. It can be manic and unpredictable, chronic and progressive, or sometimes it can almost seem comfortable. It is possible to escape the grips of depression, and it can be as simple as putting the right people in your life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Facebook Depression: Do You Has It?

Facebook Depression: Do You Has It?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

By Cheryl Steinberg

New technology is developing at an exponential rate and therefore our language as well as behavior has to “keep up” with the fast-paced trends. That said, there’s a new term floating around that’s being used to describe a new social phenomenon. Facebook depression is described as envy that develops into depression, which is something that heavy Facebook users experience.

Facebook Depression: Do You Has It?

Based on a survey of more than 700 students, researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia have found that users who engage in “surveillance use,” which is defined by browsing Facebook in order to see how their lives stack up against the lifestyles of their friends – as compared to simply using the social media site to stay in touch with friends and family – can experience symptoms of depression.

In other words, so-called ‘hate-viewing’ photos of your friend’s exotic vacation or their new car will bring you down.

“We found that if Facebook users experience envy of the activities and lifestyles of their friends on Facebook, they are much more likely to report feelings of depression,” said Margaret Duffy, a professor at the MU School of Journalism. “Facebook can be a very positive resource for many people, but if it is used as a way to size up one’s own accomplishments against others, it can have a negative effect. It is important for Facebook users to be aware of these risks so they can avoid this kind of behavior when using Facebook.”

Duffy added, “We found that if Facebook users experience envy of the activities and lifestyles of their friends on Facebook, they are much more likely to report feelings of depression.”

Facebook Depression: The Study

Duffy, a co-author of the study, set out to see how and why paying too much attention to your Facebook friends’ updates could be bad for your mental health.

The study surveyed 736 college students from a large Midwestern university who used Facebook for an average of two hours every day. 78% of the subjects identified as white Americans, and 68% identified as female. Their average age was 19.

The participants filled out a questionnaire indicating how much time they spend on Facebook as well as how they use the social network. The subjects were also asked to rate how much they agreed with statements linked to feelings of envy, such as, “I generally feel inferior to others,” or “It somehow doesn’t seem fair that some people seem to have all the fun.”

Then, participants rated how much they agreed with phrases that corresponded to depression, such as, “I was bothered by things that usually don’t bother me” and “I talked less than usual.”

Facebook Depression Survey: The Findings

The researchers found that, while heavy Facebook use was not directly linked to depression, frequent Facebook users who said they experienced feelings of envy were more likely to identify with those statements which corresponded to depression.

Therefore, these tended to be the users who compared their own lives to the lives of their friends, dwelling on aspects such as their photos of luxurious vacations and high-end purchases, good news status updates, and the like as a way of comparing themselves and feeling “less than” or inferior in some way.

This study is not the first to look at how Facebook impacts a person’s psyche; research conducted last year suggested that, the longer people spend on Facebook, the worse they feel.

The results from this new study aren’t necessarily only negative. The team found that users can avoid feeling bummed out by the social network as long as they’re mindful about how they consume information from it.

Another study, published earlier this year, found that time spent on Facebook might actually make people happier.

Duffy addressed this discrepancy, saying, “In social science, we build on each other’s work and findings and don’t claim that a single study can establish causal relationships.”

“Users should be self-aware that positive self-presentation is an important motivation in using social media, so it is to be expected that many users would only post positive things about themselves,” study co-author Edson Tandoc said in a press release. “This self-awareness, hopefully, can lessen feelings of envy.”

The research team published its new paper in the February edition of the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

Often times, substance abuse and behavioral disorders, such as compulsive gambling and internet addiction are co-occurring with a mental illness, such as depression. Highly-specialized treatment, known as dual diagnosis treatment, is designed to treat all co-occurring disorders simultaneously in order to achieve the best treatment outcomes. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist who can answer your questions day or night.

The New “Sober” Social Network App

The New "Sober" Social Network App

Author: Justin Mckibben

Sobriety sometimes seems to most addicts and alcoholics like an entire new plane of existence, and it can create some of the strangest and most exciting changes an individual has ever experienced. Being new to sobriety can also be a scary thing for some people, especially those who have a harder time developing new personal relationships among other sober individuals. One of the greatest aspects of being in active recovery, in my personal experience, is the opportunity to share all that you have learned, and all that you have come from to stimulate lasting and inspiring connections.

Figuring out how to live your life is hard enough, and sobriety for someone who only knows how to live using drugs or drinking is a whole other dimension of confusion for a lot of people making that transition. Moving away from your old friends, your old habitats, and reconstructing a sober life can seem like a daunting task. For this very reason Antoine Nauleau, who is in recovery himself, founded Sober, the new social network for recovery related friends to connect and share. As the CEO Antoine Nauleau has begun to establish what is the soon to be released social networking app for people in recovery or people wanting to meet people who choose not to use substances.

In a world that thrives with ever expanding brandings like Facebook, Twitter, and other world famous social media platforms, Sober aims to be a very similar social networking tool with features to help people stay connected to their recovery community, or to seek out others with the same interests and share experiences. While there is some relevance to the idea that social media itself is becoming a bit of an obsession, not just in the recovery community but in the world, it seems to be taking a fair shot at helping people who may feel isolated in recovery to slip past that sense of feeling left out, and discover a living breathing world of sobriety within it all.

The Sober CEO

When recently interviewed on a pod-cast about his growing site, Antoine Nauleau discussed a portion of his personal story. Nauleau talked about how he came up with the idea for Sober, and how that idea has evolved through his own evolution in recovery from addiction. The site as of now is and is currently working on the social media app.

Nauleau’s comes from a family with a technology background, and since a young age he stated he always had an interest in Software. Through struggles in his own life with addiction, his passion was put on hiatus while he dove into his own personal recovery. Having started to live a life of recovery, Nauleau says he found himself back on track in pursuit of his technological talents and began working for a software company. During which time he thought about the exciting new possibilities of bringing the social aspect of recovery to technology.

The Sober Mission Statement

During the interview, Nauleau talked about the sites ultimate purposes and goals, beginning with an admission of their mission statement:

“Addiction is one of the biggest struggles anyone can go through People die everyday, and don’t receive a second chance at life. Our dream is to create a community of people that are interconnected at all times. We want to guarantee success by helping people in recovery meet, socialize, and reach out for support when it’s needed.”

When asked about the “Dating” feature, and if Sober was a dating site, Antoine was very quick to say that he felt this was not the primary focus, but with dating as a part of life in sobriety he thought it was a crucial element to include, however the goal is to stay as true to the mission statement as possible.

What Does Sober App Offer?

So you may wonder what this kind of social media site can offer you, and Antoine was more than happy to share about the different essential aspects of the site and app.

For the first initial release of the application they have included the features:

  • Tweeting
  • Posting to a news feed a short statement
  • Friends- where you can search for people, friend request them, message them, etc.
  • Option of posting sobriety date
  • Option of posting if they are available for sponsorship

Sober has included a “Help” feature, which is designed to put people in contact with different recovery institutions directly, and a hotline that you can call in times of distress. The Sober CEO said that the company has partnered with some of the best recovery institutions, and that when someone accesses the “Help” page there a few icons present, such as:

  • “Doctor”
  • “Hospital”
  • “Detox”
  • “Rehabilitation”
  • “Sober Living”
  • “Other/Hotline”

The user can click these icons, and with a location sensitive algorithm, the user will be matched with the nearest institution to them that they have partnered with. The user will then be put into contact with this institution.

Social Media with Anonymity?

But is this based on a particular fellowship, such as 12 Steps? And if so, is this tool not built to destroy Anonymity? Well when asked about whether there was a 12 Step factor to this app, Antoine was very open about the sites standing stating,

“This is another topic that hinders a lot of peoples’ recovery. Some people do not manage to align with the principles and ideology of 12-Step programs, and therefore feel like they cannot get the help they need. There is not only one way to get sober, and we are trying to bring everyone together, whichever way you manage to recover.”

While the app inventor was not afraid to talk about his own recovery, it seems he respected the ideals of anonymity to a point by keeping the spectrum of social media users broad and non-specific to any fellowship. Not wanting to make people feel limited by the groups they attend or the individual program they work.

He even went on to say that Sober is open to everyone! He recognized that the common ideology is that people who do use the application are sober, but if you are not personally in recovery but have some interest in meeting people in recovery, or that are living a sober spiritual lifestyle, the app is open to you too. So this isn’t exactly a ‘closed meeting’ type of site.

While the application is still in the prototype phase of development, Antoine said people can expect to see it live this coming February. So just a few months away we may be seeing a stream of new online activity that is focused on uniting unique individuals from all over and giving them a place to share their experiences, meet other recovering addicts and alcoholics, and get in contact with help that might save their lives.

While some may dispute as to whether this idea is a virtuous one, or if social media is a place to be trusted with personal info, in essence this may be a tool that reaches out to a new demographic in a world full of smartphones and social networking to expose more people to a life they didn’t suspect was a mouse click or a tweet away.

What ever you experience, sharing that experience will always be a powerful tool. Whether it is face to face, over the phone, or via the internet. Raising awareness, spreading the message of recovery, all that is important to help those who don’t know the amazing life that is possible beyond drugs and alcohol. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

It’s No Accident You’re Addicted to Facebook and Candy Crush

It’s No Accident You’re Addicted to Facebook and Candy Crush


By Cheryl Steinberg

Just like with the food industry, the designers of social media and online games are very deliberate – and smart – about how they develop their products. So, it’s no accident you’re addicted to Facebook and Candy Crush Saga, among other games and apps.

Here’s the four-part strategy used to get you hooked, aptly named the Hook:


The process starts with a cue – or some kind of stimulation – and that is an external trigger. The most effective trigger is one that arrives just when the person – aka the target – is feeling some kind of discomfort (which Nir Eyal, a Bay Area entrepreneur-turned-desire-guru, calls an internal trigger), from which it promises relief. This could be something like a Facebook notification that pops up just when you’re feeling lonely.

“The more times users go through the Hook, the more the product forms an association with internal triggers like loneliness, boredom, or fear,” Eyal explains. “When we’re lonely, we turn to Facebook. When we’re feeling out of the loop, we turn to Twitter.”


Behavior theorist B.J. Fogg, who has a specific interest with human behavior with regards to technology, says that a behavior happens when the trigger coincides with both the motivation to take action and the ability to be able to do so.

So, when both your motivation and ability to answer a call, for example, this is ideal. However, when one is high and the other is low, the trigger fails to initiate the desired behavior – you answering the phone call. If this consistently happens, so-called habit designers aim to boost the user’s ability, which is easier to influence than motivation.


Rewards come in a virtually never-ending variety of formats, from receiving attention, acceptance, and appreciation – an obvious force in social networks – to gaining a sense of mastery and autonomy such as in video games, and specifically Words With Friends and Candy Crush Saga and even to earning prizes like money and gift cards.

B.F. Skinner, a famous behavioral psychologist, found that one of the most powerful methods to amp up the anticipation and ultimate effect of a reward is to make it unpredictable. A classic example of this is the popular and oh-so-addictive slot-machine. The reason it is so irresistible is that the player never knows whether the next pull will win them a mere $5 or a $50,000 jackpot. This unpredictability of the reward—as well as the randomness of if or when it will arrive—is a powerful motivator for the player to pull the lever again and again.


The last stage of the Hook closes the loop by “loading the next trigger,” Eyal says. The key to accomplishing this is to get the user to contribute something of their own, such as posting a status, tweet, comment or video. And, in turn, this will set in motion a chain of events resulting in the delivery of the next trigger. Like a never-ending cycle.

Take Facebook, for example: You make a contribution – or investment – by posting something as mentioned above. Then, when a friend or follower “likes” or comments on your contribution, the app sends a push notification, which, in turn, triggers you to take yet another spin through the Hook.

Hooked on a behavior or substance? Is it ruining your life? Help is available. Call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist. We are available around the clock to take your call.

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