Can Social Media Posts Help Diagnose Mental Health Disorders?

Written by: Melissa Maranzano, MA

Social media posts can serve as warning signs of a person in a mental health crisis. We have seen the stories of suicidal individuals posting feelings of sadness, loneliness, or even posting goodbye messages. We have also seen news stories where shortly before committing a violent crime, the perpetrator posted messages of hate or rage to their social media accounts. Facebook now utilizes algorithms to flag these posts and alert authorities to conduct wellness checks.

Until now though, the mental health indicators have been quite general and could not identify any specific diagnosis. A study published in Nature Partner Journals Schizophrenia found that we may be able to utilize social media algorithms to identify signs of schizophrenia or mood disorders as much as a year before a psychiatric hospitalization. The study found notable differences in the use of language and images in those with schizophrenia and mood disorders compared to a healthy population. Certainly, social media posts can not be a basis for such a diagnosis, but with additional research, these algorithms could possibly be used as supplemental data in making such a determination in the future.

If the posts of a friend or family member are concerning to you and you’re noticing a pattern of negative feelings, thoughts, and behaviors being shared, reach out and check in. While social media is not necessarily an accurate depiction of one’s life, for some, it is a way of reaching out when you are unable to ask for help more directly.

Link to Study: Click Here