Social media has taken over our lives, leading the way to new behavioral addictions. Facebook addiction disorder (FAD), a relatively new condition not yet officially classified as a mental illness, is one prime example.
In a new study, researchers found that narcissism, a personality trait common in excessive digital use, may be linked to FAD. The findings were published in the journal PLOS One.
“The main aim of the present study was to investigate the epidemiology of FAD over the course of one year (two measurement time points) in a German sample,” the study reads.
Researchers analyzed 179 students over a one year period who attended Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany. All participants received surveys to assess factors such as physical health, social support, anxiety, depression, narcissism, and media use. They were also given a test to measure online-based compulsive behavior called the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale (BFAS), created by Dr. Cecilie Andraessen of Norway.
When assessing narcissism in participants, researchers kept in mind a hypothesis which suggests that FAD works as a mediator between narcissism and stress symptoms.
“Our current results reveal that while the mean FAD level did not increase during the investigation period of one year, a significant increase was shown in the number of participants reaching the critical cutoff score and in the values of withdrawal, which belongs to one of the six core characteristics of FAD,” one of the study’s lead researcher told PsyPost.
The findings revealed that narcissism was significantly associated with FAD and individuals with such traits might be at a higher risk of developing the disorder.
“FAD fully mediated the significant positive relationship between narcissism and stress symptoms, which demonstrates that narcissistic people can be specifically at risk to develop FAD.”
Negative mental health symptoms like depression and anxiety were also linked to FAD, researchers found.
The study was the first of its kind in Germany. Researchers say much more work needs to be done in better understanding the illness.
“Our present study is one of the first steps of this investigation. We are further working on this topic and would be glad to find other researchers, in Germany and other countries, who are interested in a cooperation to extend our research.”