Twitter can trigger psychosis in users
140 characters or less leaves too much to symbolism, study finds
Twitter can trigger psychosis in predisposed users, according to a team of doctors from the Universitätsmedizin hospital in Berlin.
A study Twitter Psychosis A Rare Variation or a Distinct Syndrome? concluded that Twitter may have "a high potential to induce psychosis in predisposed users" based on the case of a 31 year-old woman who developed the condition from spending too much time reading and writing in 140 characters or less.
The unnamed woman named "Mrs C" imagined non-existent connections between tweets sent from random users that she during the time of her psychosis considered to be hidden messages from a celebrity.
Mrs C then saw these connections in the real world and began to follow what she considered tasks set by a organisation, likely a sect, for her to complete.
"Sometimes, she would spend several hours a day reading and writing messages, neglecting her social relationships and, sometimes, even meals and regular sleeping hours," the five doctors wrote in the paper.
"She finally felt increasingly desperate because she could not fulfill all of the tasks, became increasingly afraid of what would happen to her if she did not, and finally, developed intense suicidal thoughts."
The state of psychosis, defined as a state of mind in which conscious reality is distorted or lost, was aggregated by her highly specialised university studies and employment and relationship failures.
Mrs C did not have a history of psychosis in her family history and her occasional marijuana use was found to have not contributed to the condition.
Rather it could be, the authors suggested, that the ambiguity caused by abrupt tweets could itself trigger psychosis in predisposed users.
"The authors believe that the amount of symbolic language (caused by the limitation of 140 characters per Twitter message), the automated spam responses with seemingly related content, and the general interactive features of Twitter might combine several aspects that could induce or further aggravate psychosis," they wrote.
Twitter was one of many technology platform to cause mental health problems in users, often referred to internet addiction, internet gaming disorder or problematic internet use. English Professor Ryan van Cleave said in 2011 that addiction to World of Warcraft nearly cost him his job and family.
McLean Hospital psychologist Dr. Maressa Hecht-Orzack in the same year estimated that 40 percent of the game's players were addicted.®
Australian readers seeking support and information about suicide can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14
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