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Mental Health Goes Viral: The Dangers of Entrusting it to Social Media

Today there is a lot of content on social media and the internet about how to improve mental health. However, being guided only by this type of content can be counterproductive when dealing with cases of anxiety, depression or other situations related to psychological disorders..

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LatinAmerican Post | Frannellys Medina

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Leer en español: La salud mental se viraliza: los peligros de confiarla a las redes sociales

Through social media, various users and recognized influencers have viralized a series of content alluding to mental health, revealing the symptoms, emotions, and feelings that a person goes through with anxiety. Thus, mental health has been positioning itself as a "fashion" and although it is vital to talk about it, doing it superficially and without having the appropriate knowledge can be harmful.

Today, some users consider that following someone who talks about anxiety on social networks can be equivalent to going to therapy, even to the point of self-medicating with the content available on the internet. Paul Sánchez, Psychiatrist, Medical Director of the “Alzaimer de Venezuela” Foundation and Postgraduate Professor at the Lisandro Alvarado National Experimental University (UCLA), explains that: “Many people can express personal opinions about anxiety. Although they are generally health professionals who have their own pages, if the sources are people who are not professionals, we should not take the information into account.

"Anxiety generates recurring functional limitation, patients stop doing things, stop leading a normal life, the part of social interaction is somehow deteriorating," says Sánchez. This symptomatology, added to the consumption of unreliable content, can go against their needs and well-being. It should be noted that the pandemic era brought with it a 25% increase in levels of bipolarity, anxiety and even depression, this according to a report from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Likewise, during the pandemic, excessive consumption of social networks increased. Now we see social networks with more and more explicit content than before the pandemic. This is how, due to the acuteness of the emotional discomfort, more users went to their internet search engine to ask themselves how to cure what they felt: chest pain, intrusive thoughts, insomnia, etc.

This generated that many influencers dedicated themselves to creating this type of content, telling their experiences and, sometimes, accompanied by sad stories. For its part, the PensarSalud portal ensures that anxiety brings more anxiety and that social networks often encourage this problem. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Bath in England compared two groups of people. One who freely used social networks and another forced to stop consuming Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok for 9 hours a week. This study included 154 people between the ages of 18 and 72, who were active consumers of social networks. A questionnaire was applied to the participants, where their state of mind was verified. Those who decreased their use had lower levels of anxiety and depression. In addition to a greater sense of well-being and satisfaction with life, in just one week.

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What are the dangers of not going to a psychologist in situations such as anxiety?

When anxiety is not treated professionally, the symptoms worsen over time, degenerating the individual's daily life, taking him away from the important surroundings of life, such as work, study or socializing. Among the most dangerous symptoms are:
• Excessive worry or fear.
• Obsessive thoughts or mental ruminations.
• Feeling that something bad is going to happen or hypervigilance.
• Fear of losing control.
• Feelings of tension or restlessness.
• Difficulty performing daily activities, such as work or study.
• Procrastination or postponement of tasks.
• Difficulty socializing or establishing interpersonal relationships.
• Use of substance to relieve anxiety
• Diarrhea or constipation.
• Headache or muscle pain.

Treatment for anxiety

People with anxiety may begin to present limitations in their daily lives. However, it is a state of mental health that can be treated, and its causes can be addressed by a professional. Doctor Paul Sánchez points out that there are two ways: pharmacological treatment, to increase serotonin or other components that intervene in the brain, as well as to regulate neurotransmitters. "They must be handled with caution and for a certain time to avoid indiscriminate or abusive use." Likewise, the specialist points out the importance of psychotherapeutic treatment. This will be aimed at treating the origin of anxiety, which is the way in which the individual thinks and resolves many situations. In the same way, it highlights that the individual must go to the psychiatrist's office when he is being affected by the limitation in his functioning and his emotional discomfort, as well as the interruption of his interpersonal relationships. He also points out that the stigma, seen on social networks, that you only go to a psychiatrist when you are "crazy" does not help patients with anxiety.

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