New study shows ‘selfitis’ (obsessive selfie-taking) appears to be real

‘Selfitis’ – the obsessive taking of selfies on mobile phones – appears to be a real condition according to a new study.

Taking a selfie
Camera icon
Taking a selfie

‘Selfitis’ – the obsessive taking of selfies on mobile phones – appears to be a real condition according to a new study.

Researchers at Nottingham Trent University and the Thiagarajar School of Management in India began investigating the phenomenon after a hoax story appeared in the media in 2014 claiming ‘selfitis’ had been classed as a genuine mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association.

They have now confirmed its existence and developed the ‘Selfitis Behaviour Scale’ which can be used to assess its severity.

The scale was developed using a large number of focus groups with 200 participants and the scale was tested via a survey of 400 participants.

Participants were based in India because the country has the most users on Facebook, as well as the highest number of deaths as a result of trying to take selfies in dangerous locations.

The findings, published in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction confirmed that there are three levels of selfitis:

  • Borderline: Taking photos of one’s self at least three times a day but not posting them on social media
  • Acute: Taking photos of one’s self at least three times a day and posting each one on social media
  • Chronic: Uncontrollable urge to take photos of one’s self round the clock and posting the photos on social media more than six times a day

Six motivating factors were identified, with selfitis sufferers typically seeking to increase their self-confidence, seek attention, improve their mood, connect with the environment around them (to create a record of memories), increase their conformity with the social group around them, as well as being socially competitive.

The prevalence of these factors determined the level of selfitis severity.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Distinguished Professor of Behavioural Addiction in Nottingham Trent University’s Psychology Department, said: “A few years ago, stories appeared in the media claiming that the condition of selfitis was to be classed as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. Whilst the story was revealed to be a hoax, it didn’t mean that the condition of selfitis didn’t exist. We have now appeared to confirm its existence and developed the world’s first Selfitis Behaviour Scale to assess the condition.”

His research colleague Dr Janarthanan Balakrishnan said: “Typically, those with the condition suffer from a lack of self-confidence and are seeking to ‘fit in’ with those around them, and may display symptoms similar to other potentially addictive behaviours. Now the existence of the condition appears to have been confirmed, it is hoped that further research will be carried out to understand more about how and why people develop this potentially obsessive behaviour, and what can be done to help people who are the most affected.”

How to test for Selfitis using the Selfitis Behaviour Scale

Using the statements below, rate them 1-5, where 5 is strongly agree, and 1 is strongly disagree. The higher your score, the greater the likelihood is that you suffer from selfitis.

  1. Taking selfies gives me a good feeling to better enjoy my environment
  2. Sharing my selfies creates healthy competition with my friends and colleagues
  3. I gain enormous attention by sharing my selfies on social media
  4. I am able to reduce my stress level by taking selfies
  5. I feel confident when I take a selfie
  6. I gain more acceptance among my peer group when I take selfies and share them on social media
  7. I am able to express myself more in my environment through selfies
  8. Taking different selfie poses helps increase my social status
  9. I feel more popular when I post my selfies on social media
  10. Taking more selfies improves my mood and makes me feel happy
  11. I become more positive about myself when I take selfies
  12. I become a strong member of my peer group through selfie postings
  13. Taking selfies provides better memories about the occasion and the experience
  14. I post frequent selfies to get more ‘likes’ and comments on social media
  15. By posting selfies, I expect my friends to appraise me
  16. Taking selfies instantly modifies my mood
  17. I take more selfies and look at them privately to increase my confidence
  18. When I don’t take selfies, I feel detached from my peer group
  19. I take selfies as trophies for future memories
  20. I use photo editing tools to enhance my selfie to look better than others
  • Notes for editors

    Press enquiries please contact Sarah Mcleod, Press and Public Affairs Manager, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 8735, or via email; or Catherine Hancock, Junior Press Officer, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 8720, or via email.

    The Psychology Department is part of the School of Social Sciences.

    Nottingham Trent University was named University of the Year 2017 at the Times Higher Education Awards and Modern University of the Year in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018. The award recognises NTU for its strong student satisfaction, quality of teaching, overall student experience and engagement with employers.

    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) has been awarded the highest, gold, rating in the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework for its outstanding teaching and learning.

    NTU is one of the largest UK universities with nearly 28,000 students and more than 3,500 staff across four campuses, contributing £496m to the UK economy every year. It is one of the most environmentally-friendly universities, containing some of the country’s most inspiring and efficient award-winning buildings.

    The University is passionate about creating opportunities and its extensive outreach programme is designed to enable Nottingham Trent to be a vehicle for social mobility. NTU is the sixth biggest recruiter of students from disadvantaged backgrounds in the country and 95.6% of the its graduates go on to employment or further education within six months of leaving.

    NTU is home to world-class research, winning The Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2015 - the highest national honour for a UK university. It recognised the University’s pioneering projects to improve weapons and explosives detection in luggage, enable safer production of powdered infant formula and combat food fraud.

    With an international student population of approximately 2,600 from around 100 countries, the University prides itself on its global outlook.

New study shows ‘selfitis’ (obsessive selfie-taking) appears to be real

Published on 14 December 2017
  • Subject area: Psychology, sociology, health and social care
  • Category: Press office; School of Social Sciences

Still need help?

+44 (0)115 941 8418