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Facebook and other social media are unmatched methods for keeping in touch with friends, both real-world and virtual. But constant use of Facebook is not without psychological consequences.

Over a billion people worldwide use Facebook. It was only a matter of time, however, become psychological disturbances associated with overuse of and dependency on Facebook began to emerge, the most recent of them colloquially termed "Facebook Affective Disorder" or FAD, a term that seems to have originated with Dr. Nathan Daley.

What Is An Affective Disorder?

An affective disorder is a mental disorder characterized by drastic changes in mood. There may be elevated, expansive mood with excessive self-esteem accompanied by hyperactivity, high-pressure speech, and episodes of poor judgment known as mania or hypomania.

There may be depressed, dejected mood with disinterest in life or even suicidal thoughts, accompanied by insomnia, agitation, and lack of energy known as depression. Mania or hypomania and depression may alternate, although depression is a more common symptom of affective disorders.

What Is Facebook Affective Disorder?

The term "Facebook Affective Disorder" is used informally to describe changes in mood that are triggered by use of Facebook. Neurological researchers have found that, at least in teens and young adults, Facebook triggers a psychological condition that is neither stressful nor relaxing. People who need their daily fix of Facebook experience what psychologists call a "core flow state." 

Facebook users are mentally aroused. Because the news feed is constantly changing, they have a sense of being "in the flow." Normally, a feeling of being in the flow is a good thing. When we are writing an article or an essay easily, or when we are cooking without having to interpret a recipe, or when we are swimming or climbing or biking or running without feeling tired, our brains achieve a positive valence state, a state in which we value the activity we are doing.

"Liking" the reports of life events of our Facebook friends also generates a positive valence state. Our friend posts that she is eating a baloney sandwich for lunch, we join 37 mutual friends in clicking "like," and we ask "With mayo or mustard." Then we like "Mayo. Also with a pickle." If we have enough Facebook friends, there is a constant stream of posts for us to like, so many that our brains do not have time to monitor our more immediate surroundings. We just feel in the flow, and we can ignore what is bothering us in the present moment.

What Happens When We Log Off Facebook Determines Whether There Is a Disorder

When we log off Facebook, however, we are back in the real world where we have real problems and real pain. Researchers at the University of Chicago Booth Business School even found that Facebook was more addictive than either cigarettes or alcohol--because Facebook is free, usually has very little of an obvious downside, and logging in multiple times per day keeps us from "losing it" as we deal with life issues. It's the "losing it" that identifies Facebook Affective Disorder.

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