Admit it. You can't stop. Morning, noon, night -- you're on Facebook. Now new research says excessive FBing may lead to anxiety and depression -- especially if you are a teenage girl.
Researchers at Stony Brook University in New York have found that too much Facebook usage leaves teen girls more prone to angst. The study, recently published in The Journal of Adolescence, found that teen girls who talked with their friends online had significantly higher levels of depression. One of the study's authors, psychology professor Dr. Joanne Davila, says "Texting, instant messaging and social networking make it very easy for adolescents to become even more anxious, which can lead to depression."
At issue is that social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace allow young girls to harp on their issues - over and over again ad nauseum. The study says this caused the participants to get stuck obsessing over a particular emotional setback, unable to move forward.
But isn't this all part of growing up -- especially for teen girls? Obsessing over a crush or an issue at school is part of life -- right? We all remember talking on the phone for hours about that boy in math class, agonizing when he asked Jennifer to the dance instead of us. Dr. Davila concedes that excessive commiseration is nothing new, but points out that it's the amount of the discussion that leads to the feelings of depression. She says, "[The girls] often don't realize that excessive talking is actually making them feel worse."
Is this something we moms should be concerned about? We talked to Dr. Lisa Boesky, psychologist and author of When to Worry: How to Tell if Your Teen Needs Help & What to Do About It for guidance.
"We need to be very careful about the conclusions we draw from this study," Dr. Boesky says. "Close friendships -- and talking about your problems with friends -- can be very helpful for teenage girls. There may be some girls who have other risk factors for depression and obsessing over their problems makes them feel worse."
She continues: "This is a small study of mostly Caucasian 13-year-olds. Friendships among teen girls, how they talk about their problems, and the manner in which today's technologically savvy teens communicate with each other is complex and more research is needed before we can apply these findings to adolescents as a whole."
If you DO think your teen is depressed, Dr. Lisa says to be on the lookout for the following signs and symptoms:
â€¢ Sadness, irritability, or having a short fuse
â€¢ Loss of interest in hobbies
â€¢ Weight loss or weight gain
â€¢ Sleeping too much or too little
â€¢ Moves more slowly or appears more restless than usual
â€¢ Repeated complaints of being tired, having no energy or aches/pains
â€¢ Always criticizing herself, pre-occupied with past mistakes and failures
â€¢ Distracted or forgetful
â€¢ Likes music, books or poetry with themes of death or destruction
â€¢ Has talked about wanting to be dead or being "unable to take it anymore"
If your teen has displayed several of the above symptoms for two weeks or more (especially if their schooling, relationships or family life are being affected), it is time to seek out a mental health professional who specializes in adolescents, says Dr. Boesky. "Your teen may or may not be depressed -- but you need to find out what is underlying their mood/behavior changes so you know what steps to take to help them," she says. "Any talk of suicide should be taken seriously and responded to immediately. Fortunately, most teens get bummed out or upset for a few days and then move on."
Does your teen spend too much time on the social networking sites? Are you concerned?