Social media addiction is a form of psychological or behavioral dependence on social media platforms, similar to gaming disorder, Internet addiction disorder, and other forms of digital media overuse.\ It is generally defined as the problematic, compulsive use of social media platforms that results in significant impairment in an individual’s function in various life domains over a prolonged period of time. This and other relationships between digital media use and mental health have been considerably researched, debated, and discussed among experts in several disciplines, and have generated controversy in medical, scientific, and technological communities. Research suggests that it affects women and girls more than boys and men, and that it appears to affect individuals based on the social media platform used. Such disorders can be diagnosed when an individual engages in online activities at the cost of fulfilling daily responsibilities or pursuing other interests, and without regard for the negative consequences.

Excessive social media use has not been recognized as a disorder by the World Health Organization or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). However, the related diagnosis of gaming disorder has been included in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). Controversies around problematic social media use include whether the disorder is a separate clinical entity or a manifestation of underlying psychiatric disorders. Researchers have approached the question from a variety of viewpoints, with no universally standardized or agreed definitions. This has led to difficulties in developing evidence-based recommendations.


Seven different tools in research have been developed in an attempt to quantify or delineate social media addiction. However, none have been validated or universally accepted.

A scale developed by Andreasson and colleagues proposed the following potential factors indicating possible dependence on social media:

  1. Mood swings: the first stage, when a person feels more secure and satisfaction when using social media;
  2. Relevance: when social media starts to dominate a person’s thoughts to the detriment of other activities;
  3. Tolerance: increased time spent on social media, when a person is looking for feelings previously associated with social media, and is simultaneously losing control of the time spent
  4. Withdrawal: anxiety when a person is not connected to the Internet, with associated changes in sleeping or eating patterns, as well as signs of depression.

Griffiths developed six possible components in relation to social network sites and addiction:

  1. Salience: when social media becomes the most important part of a person’s life;
  2. Mood modification: when a person develops escapism, potentially feeling “high”, “buzzed”, or “numb” when using social media;
  3. Tolerance: when increased time spent on social media is required to develop the same moods the person experienced;
  4. Withdrawal symptoms: unpleasant feelings or physical sensations when the person is unable to use the media to the extent required;
  5. Conflict: when social media use causes conflict in interpersonal dynamics, takes away from other activities, and becomes pervasive;
  6. Relapse: the tendency for previously affected individuals to revert to previous patterns of excessive social media use.


No established treatments exist, but from research from the related entity of Internet addiction disorder, treatments have been considered, with further research needed. Screen time recommendations for children and families have been developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Possible therapeutic interventions published by Andreasson include:

  • Self-help interventions, including application-specific timers;
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy; and
  • Organizational and schooling support.

Medications have not been shown to be effective in randomized, controlled trials for the related conditions of Internet addiction disorder or gaming disorder.[