The “Selfie”: When Should Programs for Troubled Young Adults or Wilderness Therapy be Considered?

Why the Selfie May be More Dangerous Than You Think

The term “selfie addict” may seem a bit far-fetched, but mental health professionals are quickly beginning to realize that there is in fact some truth to it. Becoming increasingly popular among children and teens, for some, taking pictures of oneself has been shown to have serious negative impacts. For teens that already suffer from mental disorders related to self-image, excessive selfie taking can worsen these already serious conditions. The behavior resulting from obsessive selfie taking can impact a teen’s life negatively, and when this is the case and daily life has been impacted, treatment options including programs for troubled young adults such as wilderness therapy should be considered.

There is a link between “selfie addiction” and body image related disorders.

‘Selfie’, the Oxford Dictionary word of the year in 2013, is a photo that one has taken of oneself, usually with a smartphone or webcam, which is then shared on social media.

The selfie satisfies the desire to feel noticed, appreciated, recognized and socially accepted. A person may begin to judge his or her self-worth based on how many ‘likes’ their image receives on social media. This can become addictive. Selfies are also a narcissist’s best friend, and teens can become obsessed with capturing that “perfect” image.

For teens and young adults already battling body image issues and mental disorders, the selfie can actually become a very dangerous thing. Using the selfie to fill an intimacy gap or to boost self-esteem many indicate a much deeper emotional problem. For instance, for someone suffering from body dysmorphic disorder—the obsessive anxiety over one’s appearance—selfie taking can become fuel for the fire, driving one’s fixation over his or her perceived flaws and imperfections.

When a teen’s selfie taking begins to impact his or her life to the point of missing school, avoiding social interactions and generally interfering with daily functioning, it is time to seek treatment.

Cognitive behavior therapy works as a treatment for the disorders linked to “selfie addiction.”

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), a model utilized in wilderness therapy, helps a patient recognize the underlying issues that surround a particular behavioral disorder, and then helps patients to modify their thought patterns to manage their behavior better. CBT works to treat the root cause of a disorder by helping an individual to understand what prompts the negative behavior. Helping individuals to identify destructive patterns is the first step in providing them with the tools to overcome those patterns.

For excessive selfie takers, CBT can help to identify the underlying issues that fuel the compulsion to take self-images. For a person suffering from body dysmorphic disorder, excessive selfie taking is motivated by intense thoughts related to negative body image. CBT works to treat the behavior—the selfie addiction—by addressing those underlying negative thoughts in an introspective way. A patient is provided with the tools to manage the thoughts that control their behavior, and ultimately to modify that behavior for the better.

Parents need to take an active role in monitoring their child’s online presence.

Like them or not, selfies aren’t going anywhere. They are a part of the way we engage in social media and a main fixture in our online culture. As with almost anything, a healthy balance is key. Parents need to monitor their child’s social media profiles and be aware of the activities that they are engaging in online.

When children and teens begin to overstep the healthy limits of selfie taking, it is time for parents to intervene—before it gets out of control and develops into a more severe condition. Obsessive selfie takers require treatment. When daily life has been impacted and treatment is desired, contact Rites of Passage Wilderness at (800)794-0980 to learn more about our programs for troubled young adults through wilderness therapy.