Using the social media network can help people overcome mental health problems, however, it needs to be used strategically for it could also worsen the situation. Dr. Keelin Howard of Buckinghamshire New University carried out research with 20 people aged 23-68 who had experienced conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety, and found that the paranoid, maniac and depressive symptoms could worsen as well as improve.
She said that social media like Facebook could provide a source of social support and connection that were important for recovery. Some participants were positive about Facebook, saying it helped them recover by making them feel less alone, allowing them to express themselves and be part of an online community.
But some participants also said it had worsened their condition, with some becoming distressed that others' posts that were aimed at them, whilst others feeling paranoid about how others would react to their posts. All participants with diagnoses of schizophrenia felt that Facebook was harmful when they were unwell, she added.
Dr. Howard said that users could mistake the tone of written comments on their page and feel rejected, or that their privacy had been invaded. Some had experienced online bullying.
However, over time many learnt how to use Facebook wisely, and had developed a variety of protective strategies, such as only "friending" close and trusted friends and taking Facebook breaks.
Dr. Howard said that the effects of Facebook on "severe and enduring" mental health conditions had not been studied in depth before and hence she plans further research with a larger sample.
The study was presented at British Sociological Association's annual conference in Glasgow.