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Study: Twitter Has Potential To 'Induce Psychotic Symptoms'

LONDON (CBS Sacramento) - A new study finds that the downside to global social networks is the potential to ‟aggravate or even induce psychotic symptoms" in psychologically vulnerable patients.

Five doctors examined the real-life case of a 31-year-old woman the authors called ‟Mrs. C," who was admitted to the psychiatric ward of a hospital in Berlin.

Medical records showed "Mrs. C" had never shown signs of any kind of personality disorder until she was committed following a year-long obsession with Twitter.

‟Sometimes, she would spend several hours a day reading and writing messages, neglecting her social relationships and, sometimes, even meals and regular sleeping hours," said the study.

Under examination, Mrs. C. told the doctors she believed a famous actor was secretly responding to her tweets through coded messages, which she claimed to receive from lots of different sources on Twitter.

‟During the next couple of weeks, Mrs. C increasingly felt that the messages of other users were ‛meant in a symbolic way'' and that she had to react to these ‛tasks' in a certain manner," the doctors noted. ‟After approximately two months, she started to discover the same symbols in her real-world environment. She then began to feel that there ‛must be some organization behind these tasks' and started to suspect a sect, pointing to the development of systematized paranoid delusion."

Mrs. C. eventually recovered from her symptoms, losing all interest in Twitter in the process. The doctors declared her free of Internet addiction.

But they warn that other patients with similar psychological illnesses could respond the same way to social networks and perhaps create dangerous fixations for those already predisposed to psychosis.

The researchers say the unique nature of interactions on Twitter could make the social network a major draw to those already in peril0us psychological situations.

"The authors believe that the amount of symbolic language (caused by the limitation of 140 characters per Twitter message), the automated spam responses with seemingly related content, and the general interactive features of Twitter might combine several aspects that could induce or further aggravate psychosis," they wrote.

The article is published in the Journal of Nervous And Mental Disease.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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