Social Media Anxiety Disorder (SMAD)

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder in the United States affecting 40 million adults or 18.1% of the population every year. As human beings acquire new forms of technology, it seems the more stressed and anxious we become. Many of us are constantly checking our phones and devices to see the next email, most recent Facebook post and latest Tweet. This constant need to be connected- to feel connected- is causing anxiety in many teens and young adults. Although Social Media Anxiety Disorder is not yet recognized as a psychiatric disorder, more and more therapists are seeing many cases in their offices around the country.

According to Anjhula Mya Singh Bais, Ph.D. International Psychology, trauma specialist and author, “Social media and the ‘likes,’ retweets, and other plaudits that it instantly generates mimics the same mechanisms in a drug habit. The kick, the high is not dissimilar to the reward areas that fire up in your brain — like the amygdala and striatum — when you [use a substance],” she says.

Dr. Bias continues, “In other words, an endless feedback loop is generated where one needs to post more and garner more likes in order to feel just as good as they did initially. It keeps taking more and more being out there, which explains why if you ride the subway or look around an airport, the majority are glued to their phone. Many adults, but adolescents especially, in my practice display fidgety, anxiety-ridden behavior in the one hour in therapy where they don’t have recourse to their phone.”

The anxiety surrounding social media is somewhat diverse. Some individuals worry that they didn’t chose the perfect words before posting, some instantly regret pictures they post because they fear it won’t get enough “likes.” Others report a general uneasiness of being without their phone, the feeling of being disconnected to social media and not getting notifications immediately. Many teens feel as if they need to “like” or comment on a friend’s post right away or their friend will see it as an insult or a slight.

Here is a list of common symptoms of social media anxiety disorder according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:

  • Interrupting conversations to check your social media accounts
  • Lying to others about how much time you spend on social media
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Trying to stop or reduce your use of social media more than once before without being successful
  • Loss of interest in other activities
  • Neglecting work or school to comment on Facebook or Twitter account
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you are not able to access social media
  • Spending over six hours per day on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram
  • Overwhelming need to share things with others on social media sites
  • Having your phone with you 24 hours a day to check your social media sites
  • Using social media more often than you planned
  • Severe nervousness or anxiety when you are not able to check your notifications
  • Negative impacts in your personal or professional life due to social media usage

At Project B3, we know that most people enjoy social media. Some of us find it fun, informative and a great way to connect. The above signs and behaviors are severe cases of anxiety and are not meant to frighten anyone or make you worry your teen is addicted to their iPhone. It is just more information on a disorder involving tweens, teens, young adults and technology that you may not even know existed, until now!