For Teen Girls, Rare Psychiatric Disorders Spread Like Viruses on Social Media

Researchers argue that a massive sudden spread of unusual psychiatric problems follows the pattern of ‘psychosomatic social contagion.’”

This report by Peter Simons has been published by Mad in America. It begins:

“TikTok’s ‘sick-role subculture’ leads to children taking on the characteristics of rare psychiatric diagnoses, according to an article in Comprehensive Psychiatry. Kids—especially teenage girls—are presenting with self-described Tourette’s, eating disorders, autism, and dissociative identity disorder (DID)—but suddenly, and in a way that doesn’t match how these diagnoses have previously been identified.

According to the researchers, identifying with and glamorizing rare disorders has become a way for teenage girls to express extreme negative emotions in a way that, rather than stigmatizing them, makes them feel part of a community and even feel unique and special. The researchers call it ‘psychosomatic social contagion’.

They write that the purpose ‘is to seek affirmation and/or draw attention to oneself to acquire social capital in online communities while simultaneously maintaining an unconventional peri-psychiatric identity that may mask feelings of anxiety, depression, and possibly lower self-esteem.

The authors of the paper were John D. Haltigan at the University of Toronto and the Child and Youth Psychiatry Department at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Canada; Tamara M. Pringsheim, Program Lead for the Tourette and Pediatric Movement Disorders Clinic at the University of Calgary; and Gayathiri Rajkumar at Western University …”

You can read more from here.

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