Study Says Facebook Causes Psychotic Episodes and Delusions

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According to scientists in Israel, Facebook and other social networking sites are capable of making people go mad.

Tel Aviv University researchers have linked psychotic episodes in patients to Internet addiction and delusions caused by virtual relationships.

While the participants in the study had problems of loneliness, none of them had a history of psychosis or drug abuse.

Dr. Uri Nitzan, lead researcher, said, "As Internet access becomes increasingly widespread, so do related psychopathologies. Computer communications such as Facebook and chat groups are an important part of this story."

In the study, researchers analyzed the behavior of three of the doctor's patients.

They found there was a link between psychotic episodes and their communication with people online.

The patients tried to resolve their loneliness by finding solace in intense virtual relationships.

The relationships were mainly positive at first, but soon led to feelings of hurt, betrayal and invasion of privacy.

"The patients shared some crucial characteristics, including loneliness or vulnerability due to the loss of or separation from a loved one, relative inexperience with technology, and no prior history of psychosis or substance abuse," Dr. Nitzan said.

"In each case, a connection was found between the gradual development and exacerbation of psychotic symptoms, including delusions, anxiety, confusion, and intensified use of computer communications. The good news is that all of the patients, who willingly sought out treatment of their own, were able to make a full recovery with proper treatment and care."

Nitzan said all of his patients developed psychotic symptoms related to the situation, which included delusions about the person they were talking to online. 

"Two patients began to feel vulnerable as a result of sharing private information, and one even experienced tactile hallucinations, believing that the person beyond the screen was physically touching her," he said.

He said his findings should prompt mental health professionals to pay attention to Internet influence when diagnosing patients.

"When you ask somebody about their social life, it's very sensible to ask about Facebook and social networking habits, as well as Internet use," he said.

Sources: Daily Mail, Tel Aviv University