This recap of a poster featured at the 2023 American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting dives into a patient case to explore how TikTok can influence children and adolescents with mental health disorders.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of the social media platform TikTok has grown exponentially among children and adolescents. And while it’s been well documented how social media platforms can have both positive and negative impacts on mental health, a new social contagion phenomenon is emerging where social mimicry occurs when a population overly identifies with shared content.
To further explore this phenomenon and the risks of social media use, a poster featured at the 2023 American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting presented the case of an adolescent male with major depressive disorder with psychotic features who was influenced by his TikTok use.
Patient Case Details
The case follows a 17-year-old male who was admitted to the child and adolescent psychiatric unit after a suicide attempt. His past psychiatric history included post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) secondary to chronic physical abuse by his father.
Before being admitted, he was experiencing worsening depression, anxiety, as well as auditory and visual hallucinations. These symptoms caused him to drop out of school, and so he spent a lot of time watching TikTok videos. It was during this time period that he developed 32 distinct personalities, which were reportedly influenced by the social media content he watched.
Since he was not experiencing recurrent memory gaps which would suggest dissociative identify disorder or dissociation associated with PTSD, his initial treatment in the inpatient unit targeted his depression and psychosis. However, he was then transferred to a residential treatment facility where his well-formed multiple identities could be deconstructed.
After 12 weeks of receiving pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy, the patient realized that the 32 distinct personalities he developed were elaborate coping mechanisms and not actual dissociative identities. He was then discharged home where he continued to receive care in an outpatient setting.
What This Case Means
Given the growing popularity of TikTok and the emerging social contagion phenomenon, the researchers conclude that it’s becoming increasingly important to screen and provide appropriate counseling to children and adolescents with mental health disorders who may be at higher risk of being negatively influenced by TikTok and other social media platforms.