'Twitter Psychosis': Can Too Much Social Media Drive You Crazy?

Can an overdose of Twitter drive you psychotic? Maybe, but that’s yet to be proven, says an author of an article published in a medical journal that detailed the case of “Mrs. C,” a 31-year-old heavy Twitter user who was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Germany because of intensive suicidal thoughts. The article noted that Mrs. C’s development of psychotic symptoms coincided with her “excessive” use of Twitter — up to several hours a day reading and posting tweets. "The first symptoms were that she believed a "famous actor" was responding to her tweets through symbols in his messages or through retweets by others, doctors said. The woman recovered after treatment and lost interest in Twitter.

But does this case prove "Twitter psychosis" is a distinct psychiatric syndrome? "No, at this point Twitter psychosis is not 'real,'" Dr. Jan Kalbitzer of Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin told NBC News. "This is a single case which we presented to the medical community to discuss with colleagues if they have made similar experiences." Kalbitzer added: "It makes a difference whether one explains unusual experiences in a delusional way by ascribing them to a television program or a newspaper, on the one hand, and being involved in an interactive way of communication with a high amount of symbolic content and automated spam responses, on the other hand. We are wondering if this is a new risk that comes with social media or just a change of form and content of delusional beliefs." The article, "Twitter Psychosis: A Rare Variation or a Distinct Syndrome?" was published in the August issue of The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.




— James Eng