Selfie obsession leads to attempted teen suicide

March 24th 2014

A teenager from the North East attempted suicide after become a selfie addict.

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According to the Newcastle Chronicle, 19 year-old Danny Bowman from Alnwick, Northumberland, took up to 200 photos a day of himself on his iPhone in an attempt to find the perfect picture. He dropped out of school, did not leave his house in six months, lost two stone trying to 'improve' his looks for the camera and became aggressive with his parents when they tried to stop him. He finally took an overdose but was found by his mother and is recovering after intensive hospital therapy for technology addiction, OCD and Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

“I was constantly in search of taking the perfect selfie and when I realised I couldn’t I wanted to die. I lost my friends, my education, my health and almost my life," says Danny. "I finally realised I was never going to take a picture that made the craving go away and that was when I hit rock bottom. “People don’t realise when they post a picture of themselves on Facebook or Twitter it can so quickly spiral out of control. It becomes a mission to get approval and it can destroy anyone."

He added “It’s a real problem like drugs, alcohol or gambling. I don’t want anyone to go through what I’ve been through."

Dr David Veale, Consultant Psychiatrist In Cognitive Behaviour Therapy at the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust and The Priory Hospital North London, said that “Danny’s case is particularly extreme, but this is a serious problem. It’s not a vanity issue. It’s a mental health one which has an extremely high suicide rate.”

Posting his first selfies on Facebook when 15, the teenager admitted the only thing he cared about was having his phone on him so he could satisfy the urge to capture a picture of himself at any time of the day.
“People would comment on them, but children can be cruel,” he said. “One told me my nose was too big for my face and another picked on my skin. I started taking more and more to try to get the approval of my friends. I would be so high when someone wrote something nice but gutted when they wrote something unkind."

Body was the "wrong shape"

When he tried to realise his ambition to become a male model at a casting session in 2011, he was told that his body was the "wrong shape" and his skin not up to scratch. That evening he stood in front of the mirror and took photo after photo of himself, something which rapidly grew into an obsession. He was taking up to 80 photos before he left the house for school. The addiction led to Danny dropping out of school at 16 so that he could focus on his selfies, and desparately losing weight. His parents, both mental health nurses, tried to confiscate his phone but this only served to make him uncharacteristically aggressive. In December 2012 he took an overdose at his home.

“I’d taken over 200 pictures that day and looked at them over and over,” he told the Newcastle Chronicle. “I couldn’t see any that I liked. I couldn’t take any more and just started popping the pills.” He was found by his mother Penny and rushed to hospital before being referred to Dr Veale's clinic at London’s Maudsley Hospital.

Danny's father Robert said: “We are both qualified mental health nurses and this was always our worst nightmare. There is a huge lack of understanding about the dangers social networking and mobile technology can pose if a young person already has any insecurities – which most do." Robert added: “It’s important parents are aware of the dangers and keep a close eye on their children’s behaviour and seek help if they feel it is needed.”

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