SCHOOLBOY Danny Bowman turned up his collar, carefully positioned his iPhone and snapped his 200th selfie of the day, hoping this one would be the “perfect” shot.
The 15-year-old had ‘selfitis’ – the obsessive need to take pictures of yourself and post them on social media – one of a rising number of ’21st Century’ illnesses being identified as genuine by experts.
The modern world has given way to a host of new mental and physical health problems.
From text neck (neck pain or injury from looking down at your phone) to nomophobia (the fear of being without your mobile) and burnout (exhaustion caused by job stress) we are seemingly falling victim to some very modern maladies.
In extreme cases, these conditions can prove deadly. Danny, who also had Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), eventually tried to kill himself after repeatedly failing to capture the “perfect” selfie.
A rabbit hole of ‘comparisonitis’
Psychotherapist Claire Goodwin-Fee of The Therapy Couch tells Sun Online that soaring numbers of Brits are seeking help for health issues relating to technology and social media sites, which she says are “double-edged swords”.
“The more you use social media, the more you get sucked down the rabbit hole of ‘comparisonitis’,” she says, explaining how users are left racked with anxiety as they compare themselves to others.
“Social media has changed the way we connect. We can reach out to more people. But the downside is that taps into that inner perfectionist.
“It can be very, very bad for your mental health,”
After scientists created a grotesque dummy showing how 21st Century workers could look in 20 years’ time, we speak to three Sun readers who have battled VERY modern ailments..
“I spent 10 hours a day taking 200 selfies”
Danny Bowman, 24, is studying social policy at the University of York.
He also works with eating disorders charity MaleVoicED and youth think tank Parliament Street.
Danny says: “I had just started a new school and wanted to fit into that environment, but I felt I wasn’t meeting the standards academically or from a sports point of view.
“I thought the only way to fit in would be to perfect my appearance. IPhones were just coming out. I started taking pictures of myself and zooming in to find my imperfections.
“I was taking up to 200 selfies a day at one point.
“If I had a spot on my face I’d use a whole tube of spot cream to try to get rid of it.
“I also thought I was too big and reduced my food intake substantially. I dropped about 2st. I was having an apple a day and maybe a bowl of something, but I’d just get rid of that anyway.
“I never felt I could take that perfect shot. It was a vicious circle.
“I spent 10 hours a day doing these ritualistic behaviours.
“I was literally coming out of a lesson two or three times to take photos.
“I’d post the selfies online – I had around 1,500 followers on Facebook – and try to get the validation of others but the responses came in the form of abuse.
“I was just trying and trying and trying, and feeling like a failure.
“Unfortunately, because I was so focused on trying to perfect my appearance, I became housebound for six months and that led to crisis point.
“At 16, I took an overdose. The idea was to take my own life but I’m obviously glad I didn’t.
“My mum found me. My parents are actually mental health professionals, but the social media and iPhone elements were hard for them to understand.
“They were from a different generation.
“My illness was part of a wider mental health condition, Body Dysmorphic Disorder. But having the ability to take 200 photos then post them online and have people comment made it much worse.
“When I came out of hospital, I got treatment quickly and started to recover.
“I got my education and my health back. Now, I try to not take selfies but I do take photos with friends. It’s great to get up in the morning and not worry about how I look.
“There’s a lot of pressures these days.
“It can be a positive thing, but [companies] need to redirect their innovations to make them safer. People also need to change their habits, reduce their use.”
“WhatsApping pals made my neck lopsided”
Condition: Text neck (also known as tech neck)
Yasmin Hamilton, 28, works in marketing, attends classes at Raw Pilates and lives in north-west London.
Yasmin says: “I started having neck pain after uni, but it was only when I was getting married about a year and a half ago that I realised it was really getting bad.
“It was like a muscle ache. I could never keep my neck straight, it was lopsided. Sometimes people would be like, ‘OK what’s wrong with you? Your head’s on the side.
“Sometimes at night, the pain would keep me up. I’d struggle to get comfortable on my pillow.
“It came from constantly being on my phone, messaging on WhatsApp, and being sat at a desk on a laptop – but I never put two and two together at the time.
“At work, I’d be all day on the laptop, then all evening on my phone. WhatsApp was a huge one for me, chatting to friends. It was first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
“I went to the GP and they thought it might be muscle-related and suggested upping my magnesium. They said if I wanted they could run further tests.
“A friend had suggested trying some exercise, so instead I signed up to do a couple of pilates classes.
“I told the trainer ‘I have neck pain, I can’t shift it, it’s at any part of the day’. She did my whole upper body and told me she’d met a lot of people [with tech neck] as well.
“Now, I don’t suffer at all anymore. Alongside the pilates, I’ve taken measures to limit my screen time, but I’m still eight hours a day in front of my laptop at work.”
“When it started, I’d never heard of tech neck, but I hear about it a lot more now.
“Younger people are being affected by it too. It’s a bit worrying.”
How to prevent text neck
Online personal trainer Amy Elisabeth takes Sun Online through four exercises to help prevent text neck…
Chest Stretch (pictured)
Open your shoulders by placing your hand on the wall and turning your body away from the wall until you can feel a stretch. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Sit up straight then gently pull your head and chin back like you are trying to show off a double chin. Then gradually elongate your neck without clenching your jaw so you feel a stretch along the back of your neck. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat a few times.
This stretch can be done at your desk. Sit up tall then reach down and clutch the bottom of your chair while relaxing your shoulders and hold for 15 seconds. For an added neck stretch, you can slowly move your head down towards your shoulder and then swap sides.
Cat and Dog
Starting on your hands and knees, gently arch your back and look up towards the ceiling, then ‘dish’ your back and look to your tummy. Repeat a few times.
“Being separated from my phone is like the end of the world”
Rosie Brooks, 40, is a self-employed illustrator from London.
Rosie says: “I genuinely think I’m addicted to my phone.
“When I’m trying to work, I’m constantly checking it.
“My work is offline – it’s pen and ink and watercolour. There’s no need for technology at all. But I’m so twitchy now that if I don’t have my phone to hand I get worried.
“I mainly check Instagram under the guise it’s technically work-related but it’s not. I don’t have an addictive personality, I don’t smoke, so I wouldn’t have thought something like this would affect me.
“I lost my phone the other day and the stress levels were ridiculous.
“It really wasn’t that big a deal but it felt like the world had ended.
“My phone is the first thing I look at in the morning. I’m probably on it at least a quarter of the time. The average person spends just over three hours a day on their phone – I spent six.
“When I’m with people, I tend to put it away.
“I’m trying to regulate myself – I’ve taken apps off my phone to try to wean myself off it.
“I also might switch across to an old phone and use that as my main phone.”
Other 21st Century illnesses
Other modern maladies include…
Gaming addiction – prioritising video games like Fortnite over daily activities, relationships, education or work and your social life. It was officially recognised as a mental disorder by the World Health Organisation (WHO) earlier this year.
Hangovers – the outcome of a heavy night of drinking, often involving headaches, nausea and tiredness. Also something many Brits are familiar with. Last month, a German court ruled that hangovers are, in fact, an illness.
Eye strokes – severe vision loss caused by an eye clot. Doctors have warned that staring at your smartphone at night could trigger one of these “strokes” – after a man in China momentarily lost his sight after playing games on his phone in the dark.
Burnout – a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion that stems from “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. It has become such a serious issue in the modern age that the WHO has also recently classified it as a genuine condition.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123, or visit Mind’s website.