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The Selfie Trend Has Caused Serious Behavioral Health Issues

Justin Bieber takes them to show off his ink. Miley Cyrus takes them with her tongue sticking out. Mitt Romney takes them with fans in the first class of airplanes. President Obama controversially snaps them with the prime minister of Belgium at a funeral. Even Pope Francis has taken one with fans.

Selfies have permeated our culture and are everywhere you look on social media. Selfies seem to be just an innocent Internet trend, but snapping those pictures of yourself could lead to some bigger behavioral health problems.

According to some mental health experts, selfies have been linked to narcissism and body image issues. And according to London-based psychiatrist and mental-health researcher, David Veal, taking selfies with a smartphone and posting them to social media can be linked to a person’s unhealthy obsession with his or her looks.

"Two out of three of all the patients who come to see me with Body Dysmorphic Disorder since the rise of camera phones have a compulsion to repeatedly take selfies,” Veal told the Sunday Mirror.

Selfies Addiction

Veal also found that some people can actually become addicted to taking selfies.

In the United Kingdom, a teenage boy attempted to commit suicide, after not being able to achieve the perfect selfie. At the height of his addiction, Danny Bowman, 19, spent about 10 hours a day snapping selfies. Bowman dropped out of school and did not leave the house for six months. Eventually, Bowman’s addiction forced him to overdose — but his mother saved him.

“I was constantly in search of taking the perfect selfie and when I realized I couldn’t I wanted to die. I lost my friends, my education, my health and almost my life,” Bowman told the Daily Mirror.

Now, Bowman is working with Dr. Veal to treat his OCD and Body Dysmoprhic Disorder. Veal developed a cognitive behavioral therapy for selfie addicts, which involves weaning them off of their smartphones. This therapy helps the patients recognize their obsessive behavior and then helps them to moderate and alter it.

Bowman is still working to overcome his addiction, OCD and Body Dysmorphic Disorder, but he has not taken a selfie in seven months.

He has also begun working with Fixers, a charitable organization aimed at raising awareness of mental health issues in young people and he continues to speak out about his illness.

“People don’t realize when they post a picture of themselves on Facebook or Twitter it can so quickly spiral out of control,” Bowman warns. “It becomes a mission to get approval and it can destroy anyone.”

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If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a free, 24-hour hotline at 1.800.273.8255. If your issue is an emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.