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Depression and social networks Is there a relationship?

On World Depression Day, experts in psychiatry and clinical psychology, as well as characters such as comedian Ángel Martín, talk to EFEsalut about this disorder, which affects 5% of adults in the world, and its relationship with social networks .

It is not possible to make a strong statement about the goodness or badness of the networks because so far experts urge caution because there is no clear data in this regard.

However, they warn that both the creation of a falsified or exaggerated image in the aspects of success and comparison with others can be factors of frustration and deepen a feeling of emptiness that is indeed a risk for suffering from depression.

This disorder affects, according to the World Health Organization (WHO)to 3.8% of the world’s population, including 5% of adults, which means about 280 million people, and it is the main cause of disability on the planet.

Symptoms: Prolonged sadness and anhedonia

From the Spanish Society of Psychiatry and Mental Health, its president, Manuel Martín Carrascoexplains that depression is a syndrome made up of several symptoms, but the fundamental ones are the presence of sadness, “but not the kind we can have on a one-off basis, but prolonged and intense” and anhedonia, that is, “the inability to enjoy and experience pleasure”.

“Then there are other symptoms, which are also important, but which can be present with less importance”, adds Martín Carrasco.

There are, among others, sleep disorders, lack of appetite with weight loss (or conversely, an increase in them), fatigue, loss of energy, feelings of uselessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt, or decreased concentration loss.

And it is a characteristic trait of people with depression to feel unwell at times when there is a social tendency towards enjoyment or collective joy, such as Christmas or popular holidays, such as Sanfermines, for example, points out the expert

Deepen the feeling of emptiness

When it seems that everyone is having a great time, which is not true, of course… and social networks offer this type of situation on a daily basis, the person is constantly comparing themselves”, reflects Martín Carrasco.

In this regard, he warns that on the one hand, the “falsified” image or the one that excessively highlights success and, on the other, comparison with others can be harmful: “They are factors, I’m not saying that they directly cause depression however, they may be factors of frustration and of deepening a feeling of emptiness which is indeed a risk factor for depression”.

Depression social networks
EFE/André Coelho

And posturing can influence the lowering of self-esteem but in people who already had low self-esteem.

In this sense, the psychiatrist emphasizes that there will always be someone who has the biggest Christmas tree or who goes to a more exotic place, so you should not fixate on it, because it is a “source of “personal esteem” wrong and very fragile”.


On the dangers of social media, the member of the Spanish Society of Clinical Psychology-ANPIR Carlos Losada he emphasizes that we must not forget that these have been created by private companies “that are interested in making money, and for this reason they need us to consume the maximum amount of advertising time and give them as much personal data as possible”.

“I think that the current situation gives us a good metaphor for the dangers of the networks, just as microtargeting allows bulls to be spread without being detected, we don’t know what the most vulnerable people are seeing, for example young people or lonely people”, says Losada.

He assures that there is no clear data in the sense that the networks can generate or accelerate depression and that it is necessary to “be cautious”.

He does remember that diagnoses of depression have not stopped increasing in recent decades, in parallel with the increase in the use of smartphones and social networks, but he insists that “it would be wrong to draw the conclusion that this relationship is the cause -effect, at least with the current data”.

“Rather, it seems that both the use we make of the networks (with the high presence of luxury content, fantasies of financial success and hypersexualization) and the rise of depression tell us about a series of underlying problems that they affect our Western societies”, he emphasizes.

They can be useful tools but beware!

In his opinion, networks as tools can be useful to combat loneliness or anxiety “to a certain extent”, the problem is that being designed “to promote compulsive use”, this “is always harmful in the medium term “.

“If possible, a phone call or a conversation over a cup of coffee probably far outweighs any benefit in this regard that social networks can provide,” concludes Losada.

We lack information about its use

The presenter and comedian Ángel Martínwho starts a tour of Spain this year with his new monologue “Punt for the crazy”, in which he addresses in a comedic tone his admission due to a psychotic outbreak, which he collected in his book “Per si les veus turnen”, he thinks that we haven’t learned to use social networks, “we don’t understand their purpose” and each one is different.

Martín says that people are very concerned about the impact of his publication, but “he doesn’t really know why”.

“I think people don’t know that and live totally worried or waiting for the repercussion of what they share and in a competition without knowing very well what they are competing in and that’s a problem because you’re all the time seeing what others are doing and see what you do, but you don’t know why”, he comments.

In the comedian’s opinion, there are many people “slaves” to the networks because it is “a way to spend time”, as his generation used to do with television. The networks are fast and every two seconds offers different impacts and “emotionally they are a roller coaster”.

“You can go from seeing people taking refugees out of jungles to a cat slapping a crocodile in a tenth of a second. emotionally, it’s a very big spiral through your head”, concludes Martín.

The recipe: balance

And what tools are needed so that networks do not become a lurking danger? The recipe is “balance”, according to the president of the Spanish Society of Psychiatry and Mental Health.

Martín Carrasco reiterates that social networks are good and can play a “very interesting” role, at the same time that they are a means to achieve many things.

But, be careful: “if it is magnified and the most important source of personal assessment is placed there and this does not come from more internal sources but depends on what others think, on the ‘likes’, on what they gratify us, we are building a building with very fragile foundations, which can fall immediately”.

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