While social networking is a great way to keep in touch with friends, family members and colleagues, it also comes with drawbacks. According to an article in The Nation's Health, a publication by the American Public Health Association, young people, particularly young women and teen girls who frequently use social media, are at highest risk for depression.
Women are the most common users of social media networks, including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and others, reports Sprout Social. But women are also twice as likely to suffer from depression than men, which makes this new research timely and thought-provoking.
A study by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine says depression from social media could develop from:
- Seeing your peers posting idealized representations of themselves, fostering feelings of jealousy and low self-confidence
- Engaging in meaningless social media activities that produce feelings of wasted time and guilt
- An emerging internet addiction
- Cyberbullying or other negative interactions
Social media also can contribute to depression by increasing feelings of isolation and decreasing face-to-face interactions.
Smiling Depression: Things Aren't Always What They Seem
Women are also at higher risk for "smiling depression," a form of depression in which the woman doesn't look or act like she's depressed.
"Unfortunately, due to social stigmas surrounding depression and mental illness, many people suffer in silence," said Joseph Niezer, MD, a Franciscan Physician Network psychiatrist in Indianapolis. "Women with smiling depression mask their inner struggles with happy pictures of themselves on social media and forced smiles at parties. That's what makes this form of depression so dangerous - family members and friends are often completely unaware."
Know the Symptoms of Depression
Whether you are concerned that you or a loved one could be struggling with depression, it's important to know the signs, which can include:
- Withdrawing from social interactions (canceling engagements, not answering calls, etc.)
- Having trouble focusing on tasks
- A change in sleeping or eating habits
- Irritability or sudden mood changes
- Sudden changes in weight
If you're experiencing symptoms of depression, you are not alone. Ask your primary care physician for a referral, or ask a trusted friend or family member if he or she has experience with helpful providers. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, successfully treating depression may require therapy, medication, real-life social support (not including social media), involvement in hobbies or social activities, exercise and a healthier diet.
Read: Social Media: How is It Affecting Your Children?