Ask The Therapist: “I get annoyed by people around me. I just want to watch TV, scroll on Instagram…”

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In 2016, the number of people estimated to be suffering from mental health issues like depression and anxiety amounted to roughly 1.1 billion. Since then, numbers have likely continued to rise. Moreover, studies have also shown women especially on average are a) more likely to suffer from mental health issues, and b) less likely to talk about them. The taboo in Pakistan surrounding depression and anxiety disorders only serve to aggravate the individuals suffering even more. For the women who cannot seek out full time therapy, or simply need advice about their problems, we’ve enlisted the help of a trained counsellor. You sent us in your questions – here are the answers!

“On some occasions, usually for a week to 10 days, I don’t feel like seeing anyone. It’s not that I’m sad. But I get annoyed by people being around me. I just want to watch TV, scroll on Instagram, and sometimes even complete my work. But I don’t want to do anything social. Am I depressed? Does social media, TV and technology affect your mental health?”

Haya’s Response:

Dear Anonymous,

What you’re describing is textbook avoiding feelings. You’re not sad, but there’s something else you’re feeling that you need to pay attention to. Being around people annoys you but what you really need to do is dive deeper with and see what’s lying beneath that irritation. Being annoyed is a surface-level emotion that’s usually disguising a whole range of emotions that are being avoided – such as loneliness or rejection.

I think you’re feeling a disconnect between your mind and body. Your body is giving you a signal which you are categorizing as being annoyed. The only way you can truly understand what is going on is through deep introspection.

Human beings are innately social animals. And while you may identify as an introvert, a certain amount of human interaction is essential for your well-being. It could be just talking to your family for a bit every day or having that one super close friend that you can pour your heart out to.

The fact that you don’t want to socialize could be attributed to a lot of things. It could just be your immune system telling you to recuperate. But there could also be a deeper issue at the core of this which is something you should explore. Bottling up your emotions is never a good idea. Find a close confidante and just vent to them – trust me, the conversation will be therapeutic.

When it comes to social media and technology affecting our mental health – it is very much possible. Social media has connected us as a global population in a way that’s never been done. But it has isolated us too. The average person checks their phones as much as 28 times a day! This increasing reliance on social media can have a huge detrimental effect on our mental health.

Such frequent use can make you feel increasingly unhappy and isolated. The constant barrage of perfectly filtered photos that appear on Instagram are bound to knock down your self-esteem, while obsessively checking your Twitter feed just before bed could contribute towards poor quality of sleep.

Here are 6 ways social media negatively affects your mental health and what you should do about it:

1. Self-esteem

Social media has a tendency to bring out our insecurities. When you’re scrolling through Instagram and see these perfectly curated pictures of your friends on holiday in Prague while you’re sitting at your cubicle at your dreary job, it’s obvious you’re going to feel horrible. Becoming more conscious of the amount of time you spend scrolling through other people’s feeds can help you focus more on yourself and boost your self-confidence. Remember, your self-worth is not derived from others.

2. Human connection

As human beings, it’s important for us to communicate and forge personal connections with each other. That’s not easy when we’re glued to our screens and know more about our friend’s profile picture than their personality. Social media prevents us from human interactions and building meaningful relationships. It’s what birthed FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) – where we feel left out when we see that our friend is living it up on Facebook. To avoid this, just reach out to your friend instead of silently stalking them. Make plans with them and force yourself to go even when the urge to cancel kicks in.

3. Memory

There’s no doubt that social media is great for looking back on memories, but it can also distort the way you remember certain tidbits from your life. Many of us are guilty of trying to get the perfect photo and forgetting to experience the moment in the process. How many of us have seen entire concerts through our phone screens? Let’s not do that anymore. Try to live in the moment and savor each experience.

4. Sleep

A good amount of sleep is the answer to many of life’s problems. Being well-rested is something your body literally needs. These days, though, it’s become routine to scroll through Instagram before going to bed. Not only does that activity keep your brain on high alert, but the blue light from those devices suppresses the release of melatonin, the hormone that helps us feel tired. Make sure to stay away from all devices at least an hour before bed and see the difference it’ll make in the quality of your sleep.

5. Attention span

Social media has made it possible for us to have to a plethora of information readily available at our fingertips – but it also has made us easily distracted. The ease of access has made us flit from app to app constantly. We no longer have the attention span to even read a full article or watch an entire video. Improve your attention span by not checking your phone every few minutes and try reading a book or watching a movie that will hold your attention for a longer time.

6. Mental health

Social media been proven to cause unhappiness and can also lead to mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. Many people, including celebrities, often take breaks from social media to prioritize their mental health – Selena Gomez being a recent example. There’s a constant pressure to perform a certain way on social media, which, understandably, causes anxiety. Taking a break from your social media apps – even as long as 3-6 months – will help reduce your dependency on them.

It’s not all bad though. Social media has brought the world closer and been a catalyst of many social movements across the world. It’s a great way to connect with people you wouldn’t have been able to at first. But if social media is beginning to bog you down, allocate time limits to yourself. Apps like Instagram and Facebook have this feature now purely for mental health purposes.

Try to live in the moment and surround yourself with people you connect with. I promise you, it’ll make a world of a difference.

Good luck!

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