Is Psycho Content on Instagram Really Good for Us?

“7 Signs of an Anxiety Attack”, “5 Reflexes of Hypersensitive People”, “6 Symptoms of HPI (High Intellectual Potential)”… You have probably already discovered this type of title by leafing through your books feed Instagram. Alongside clumsy cats and beauty hacks, self-help content is enjoying unprecedented success on social media, where it’s growing more enthusiastically than a bamboo grove. They are also proving to be more and more visible since the beginning of 2022, Instagram has been sneakingly messing up our daily lives by changing its algorithm: the application now allows itself to propose a large number of publications that it deems relevant to us. . For example, it is enough how a photo of a hedgehog to be regularly confronted with images of the same species.

Nothing serious so far: Unless you have a phobia of prickly animals, the risks are limited to a certain degree of tiredness. However, the same phenomenon occurs when one is interested in health counseling or personal development. “I found two or three psychologist Instagram accounts that I like the content of,” Carine, 32, shares. And since then, the application has been bombarding me with posts focused on personal development. Titled Bonjour Anxiety, The Holistic Psychologist, Dose de Psy, Psychology Posts, or even Millennial Therapist, these reports share valuable tools, breathing exercises, or ways to feel understood. . And in itself, the accessibility of this information is of course very positive.

“It allows you to ask questions, raise awareness about mental health, not feel alone and sometimes find solutions,” summarizes Juliette Marty, a clinical psychologist based in Paris (@récits_dune_psy on Instagram). This dissemination of information also allows, I believe, to legitimize certain situations, emotions, sensations and, where appropriate, to encourage an appointment with a doctor, if necessary.

“The relationship to psychology and psychotherapy has changed significantly in recent years,” notes Lausanne-based FSP psychologist and psychotherapist Paul Jenny. Even if certain taboos and complexes regarding the fact of counseling may persist, we observe a greater openness towards so-called psychological care and easier access. For the specialist, the positive effect of the large amount of psychological information could be to free some people from their complexes about a possible request for help and possibly to find a reason for their request.

“Overdose” of information

But what happens when we are confronted with this information several times a day as soon as we open Instagram, and if we did not have to think about these issues in particular? “These posts are very interesting, but I feel like I recognize myself in a lot of this information, and I worry at times,” Carine continues. It’s a bit like discovering flaws in myself.” We find this indeed in the words of Paul Jenny: “As much as the nosographic label, or personality type, can sometimes eliminate guilt and allow one to do better understanding how one works, it can limit seeing at home or at another’s and lead to properties that would have no place and therefore could only be defined by the label,” he explains.

Note that the problem isn’t necessarily at the level of the content itself, as many psychology professionals use these platforms to share treasure troves of information. It is above all the accumulation that could bother us: “Everyone does personal development, with more or less skills, our expert notes. There is sometimes a strong generalization, particularly with regard to hypersensitivity and high intellectual or emotional potential, that people can overpathologize.

Depending on personality and sensitivity, this varied, constant and daily content can generate anxiety or hypochondria. Depending on each individual’s cognitive distortions, a person who tends to interpret everything personally will find himself in all contents of consciousness.

According to a French study published in 2019, we consult our phone more than 221 times a day. When a third of that number is dedicated to Instagram and even the smallest scroll presents us with mental health information, it can quickly become overwhelming. Especially when it seems that every post is dedicated to us!

Can we self-diagnose via Instagram?

Very popular, lists of symptoms or habits – potentially very useful – can also convince us that we are hypersensitive or HPI. And unless these lists are written by professionals, it can be misleading. “I think self-diagnosis is a real risk, especially when the posts aren’t published by people with psychological training,” says Juliette Marty. Sometimes self-diagnosis leads to self-therapy and can promote the occurrence of other disorders, such as anxiety disorders. When in doubt, I think it is important to check with a health specialist to answer all of our questions. This does not mean that there is a pathology if we find ourselves in certain criteria mentioned in these posts.

By way of illustration, the expert cites content aimed specifically at hypersensitivity: “’I am sensitive to noise’ is a very vague criterion that is not pathogenic for hypersensitivity or high intellectual aptitude – which, by the way, are not disorders in their own right, but operating modes.

In Paul Jenny’s eyes, it’s important to try to take a step back: “I would advise people who recognize themselves in the content they post to check with themselves if they need to experience suffering or better understand how they work. . If this is the case, an excellent option is to consult a psychologist, if only to discuss this and see if a claim could be underlying and therefore unrelated to the cause of the original complaint.”

Second advice: take the information shared on the networks with tweezers, “considering that it is only a way of seeing the world and psychic reality”. The specialist, in fact, reminds us that it is only a prism, among other readings: “So even if you recognize yourself, the label should not reduce or enclose you. It should aim to understand you better or find ways to help you.”

How to sort?

To take full advantage of the wealth of knowledge shared online, our two specialists recommend a few reflexes and attitudes should protect us. To begin with, Paul Jenny defines the subtle boundary to be respected when trying to assess the merits of the psychological reports we follow: “I think when what’s on offer on the networks allows us to give potential readings on the disorders and facilitating access to care, it can be interesting, but as long as it creates fear or creates tension aimed at self-diagnosis or diagnosis of those close to you, it becomes harmful.

The psychologist-psychotherapist also recalls that social networks in themselves can cause stress or anxiety: “Be careful not to mix the stress caused by the networks and that caused by the content published. I would advise stepping back and taking a break from using networks and not reading these types of posts at any point:

If you are already in an anxious state and are viewing these posts, it will only have the effect of increasing the anxiety and giving you a partial view of reality and your functioning.

For her part, Juliette Marty recommends choosing quality accounts run by professionals who offer methods and tools for well-being. “Try to remember that ‘just because it appeals to me doesn’t mean it’s a problem.’ The psychologist concludes with this simple but life-changing phrase: “Always remember, your thoughts are not facts.” All is said.

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