Health
NIMHANS is counselling patients who take excessive selfies.

Is taking 100 selfies in 15 minutes excessive? For Rachna*, a teenager, such behaviour had become common over the last two years.

She would click almost 100 selfies, sometimes even more, in a quarter of an hour. Once she was satisfied with her photos, she would select the best one and upload it on social media. If she did not get enough likes or comments on her photo, she would repeat the exercise till she was satisfied with the response.

Rachna's was one of the two cases of persons who were obsessed with taking selfies, that counsellors at NIMHAN's Services for Healthy Use of Technology (SHUT) clinic, worked on recently. The SHUT programme was started in 2014 to counsel people to help them deal with the effects of excessive use of technology.

"She told us that she found it very difficult to control the urge of taking selfies. Only when she was happy with the photos did she stop. And her satisfaction was not related to numbers, but to her psychological satisfaction. It could be 100 selfies, or more sometimes," says Dr Manoj Kumar Sharma, a counsellor at SHUT and an assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Psychology in NIMHANS.

In both the cases, the patients were in their late teens. The counsellors have also observed that in such cases, patients usually also have other underlying psychological issues, which could possibly make the compulsion to take selfies a secondary issue.

"Both the individuals attributed their increased selfie use to the availability of free time and a smartphone. They said that it helped them overcome boredom or made them feel good. They also had psychological issues," Dr Manoj said.

The rise of the selfie trend has been nothing short of phenomenal. There have been debates and studies that have deemed selfies as being harmful for mental health and even fatal.

In India alone, there were 76 selfie deaths in a period of two years. However, some studies also state that posting selfies does wonders for our self-worth.

Good or bad, there is no denying that an increasing number of people are taking and uploading selfies today for whatever reasons. For instance, a staggering 24 billion selfies were uploaded to Google in 2015.

"The condition of taking excessive selfies is not yet classified as an addiction. But it is an emerging mental health issue," says Dr Manoj.

While a seemingly harmless activity when not knowingly putting our lives at risk, where do we draw the line? How many selfies are too many?

Dr Manoj lists a few indicators that could help people figure out if they are taking too many selfies a day.

  • Desire: If you have a continuous desire to take selfies and this desire persists throughout the day.
  • Loss of control: You find it difficult to exercise control over this behaviour.
  • Compulsion: Taking selfies has become a compulsion even though there is no need. This could be because of the appreciation one gets on social media or other psychological factors.
  • Method of coping: You take to selfies to feel good, or in order to work on your psychological issues, or for novelty. ("Some people go to certain places and take selfies because they have a high tendency for experience or novelty. So, they are satisfying their psychological needs. This could push the person in a dangerous situation where they underestimate health-related safety," says Dr Manoj.)
  • Consequences: Because of engaging in selfies excessively, you feel your day-to-day needs aren't being taken care of. (Rachna's study was being affected, so was her social interaction.)

"If someone says yes to any of the above five indicators, we could say they are excessive selfie users and require changes in their lifestyle," Dr Manoj says.

(*name changed)