" ITREALMS: Selfie: A medical disorder in Nigeria?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Selfie: A medical disorder in Nigeria?

Recently news item had it that selfie has been declared a medical disorder. REMMY NWEKE x-rayed the truth and extent of implication of using selfie in Nigeria in this report.



NOWADAYS, people especially the youth and youth at heart are known to have always taking their own pictures through mobile devices as a way of showing off to their friends on social media.

One unique thing about selfie is that it has become recognized that there is now tripod stand that could be used by individuals who are engrossed with taking their own picture and sharing it along as story line. This has gained recognition to the extent that the President of United States, Barack Obama was reportedly took some selfies.

Then, recently a news item was making the rounds online purportedlysaying that the American Psychiatric Association classified taking too many selfies as a new mental disorder, hence DigitalSENSE Business News went to town to see what experts have to say.


The online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, defined selfie as a self-portrait photograph featuring the photographer, typically taken with either a hand-held digital camera or camera phone. Selfies are often shared on social networking services such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They are usually flattering and made to appear casual. Most selfies are taken with a camera held at arm’s length or pointed at a mirror, rather than by using a self-timer.

The Oxford dictionary defined selfie as a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media: occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself every day is not necessary.

Onlineslang.com equally defined SELFIE as a “Picture of yourself, usually taken by yourself.”

Selfie disorder, a hoax:

Expert in online psychology and behavior, Dr. John M. Grohol, noted that the problem with such rumour of selfie disorder, is that it was not the truth, pointing out that the challenge here is that too many people do not bother to check to see what kind of website they are on, and quicklytweeted and retweeted the posted links to the fake news article.

“Nobody stopped for a minute to ask, “Hey, is this true? How come no other news website is reporting it?” he lamented.

Grohol explained that selfies are photographs a person takes of oneself, usually with one’s mobile phone, which have become a rave of the moment since the advent of smartphones which often have a camera facing the user also known as second camera. Thus makes taking a self-portrait in-the-moment easy to do.

Selfie not in DMS:

According to Grohol, “The fake news article was published to a parody news website ala “The Onion” based in the Philippines called the Adobo Chronicles at the end of March 2014. It began:

“The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has officially confirmed what many people thought all along: taking ‘selfies’ is a mental disorder.

“The APA made this classification during its annual board of directors meeting in Chicago. The disorder is called selfitis, and is defined as the obsessive compulsive desire to take photos of one’s self and post them on social media as a way to make up for the lack of self-esteem and to fill a gap in intimacy.”

Lack of crosschecking by thousands of people who read the article, and sharing effect on social led to the level of hysterical that ensued. Groholemphasised that very few of those people ever got the update or news that the article and its claim about selfies was false.

As said by him, regular readers of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) website should by now know that APA only updates its list of official diagnoses in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) once every decade or two. Stressing that it is a lengthy process and certainly isnot something decided at a “board of directors meeting.”

Future of Selfies:

Dr. Grohol went on to state thatthere is no known research so far, as the PsycINFO, the psychology research database, returned zero results for the term “selfie,” meaning not a single research study has been published yet on this phenomenon. Hence, he argued that since the DSM is updated upon evidence of a large and confirmatory research base, it’s highly unlikely that we will see a disorder about selfies or called selfitis in the next few decades.

He said that there is no known harm in taking too many photographs of oneself, but cautioned that if, however, it’s eating into one’s pre-existing narcissism or narcissistic tendencies, then yes, it may be only reinforcing those kinds of negative traits. 

What is Narcissism?

Narcissism, according to Psycho expertsat Wikipedia, is the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes, which experts say must not be confused with egocentrism. The term originated from the Greek mythology, where the young Narcissus fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water.

Narcissism is a concept in psychoanalytic theory, which was introduced in Sigmund Freud’s On Narcissism. The American Psychiatric Association has the classification narcissistic personality disorder in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Also, Narcissism is considered a social or cultural problem and in fact a factor in trait theory used in some self-report inventories of personality such as the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory. It is one of the three dark triadic personality traits (the others being psychopathy and Machiavellianism).

Except in the sense of primary narcissism or healthy self-love, narcissism is usually considered a problem in a person’s or group’s relationships with self and others. Narcissism is not the same as egocentrism.

Selfie, attention seeking:

Nigerian Clinical Psychologist, Prof Andrew Zamani told DigitalSENSE Business News that Selfie is first an adventure by a novice to the use of digital camera but soon transmutes into a psychological disorder when used for the purposes of attention seeking and self-advertisement.

Zamani also noted that a selfie need not end up in the hospital, stressing that when it turns out to be a psychological disorder; psychologists could handle it wherever they are, insisting that Nigeria has qualified clinical psychologists across the country to handle such case.

“Yes, there are qualified clinical psychologists all over the country to handle the condition either as a tendency or disorder,” Zamani said, pointing out that right now, there is no data on the prevalence of this tendency. Therefore, it is even impossible to draw conclusions from counts in the social media that counted selfies are abnormal.

“A selfies would normally be a manifestation of psychological disorders such as hysteric disturbance, narcissism,depression, and body image disorders,” he said.

A selfie, Prof. Zamani said, has to be evaluated by a psychologist before a diagnosis is made, while its demography is uncertain, just as a sponsored study will definitely address your concerns. 

Self-image boosts image on cosmetic level:

Forensic and clinical psychologist, Dr. John Egbeazien Oshodi, told DigitalSENSE Business News that at this time‘Selfie’ has not been classified by any authoritative professional body like the American Psychiatric Association or the American Psychological Association as mental disorder or medical disorder.

Dr. Oshodi who is the former Secretary General, Nigeria Psychological Association (NPA), noted that on a theoretical level and for the purpose of loose definition, Selfie which involves taking photos of one’s self is simply a social behavior among youths across the globe and Nigeria included.

“It remains an acceptable way of socialization,” he said.

Dr. Oshodi also pointed out that like all behaviors should the individual involved in the social act becomes so overconsumed with this behavior to the extent that it becomes clinically significant, causing distress or impairment in his or her social or occupational areas of functioning, or it is impairing the person’s ability to pursue other areas of daily functioning then it could lead to an addiction.

“That is to say that individual may be developing obsessive (over/repeated thinking) and compulsive (over/repeated behaviors) type condition,” he said, stressing that such diagnosis could only be made on that person by a competent psychologist or psychiatrist for the purpose of counseling or hospitalization.

He believes that presently, selfie remain a social trend among youths globally, maintaining that the desire to take photos of one’s self  and post them on social media, somehow boost their self-image but on a cosmetic level.

The former NPA scribe assured of his readiness to join any group interested in future study of this development, which he hypothetically viewed as Oshodi Selfie Self Image Disorder (OSSID). 


The take home from this emerging social behavior spurred by Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) tools, is that those taking selfies have to be wary of its implication, especially by not getting too attached to the extent of a day without selfie, leaves such an individual feeling demoralized.

Once such traits begin to manifest, it is important they should waste no time but consult a clinical psychologist for counselling so as to get out of the wood as soon as possible.

Until the study on selfie takes place ICT industry observers hope selfie will not become another disadvantage like nomophobia syndrome, even though both selfie and nomophobia are yet to make the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which only the future apps and usage can tell.

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