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http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/health ... 6686381155
SUFFERERS from "Facebook depression" are seeking treatment in spa retreats in a desperate bid to wean themselves off social networking.
The new mental health phenomenon, caused by spending too much time on Facebook, is seeing patients some as young as 12 booking into rehab.
Queensland therapists said increasing numbers of youngsters were suffering self-esteem issues, stress, and depression after they had become addicted to Facebook and started to measure their self-worth by the success of their online profile, including the number of "likes'' they receive and their friend tallies.
In some of the most extreme cases, Facebook depression has led to alcohol abuse, self-harming, and eating disorders.
At Fountainhead Organic Health Retreat on the Sunshine Coast, patients book in for sessions with life coaches and enjoy a range of spa treatments including Swedish massage and the use of a Himalayan rock pool.
There are scheduled exercise work-outs, fruit picking and platypus spotting.
Packages cost between $4550 for a seven-day stay to $15,750 for 28 days. There are also more intensive programs costing $31,000 for 28 days and increasing to $55,000 for a 56-day plan.
Fountainhead consultant Paul Francis said the first step in treatment was to ban IT equipment and mobile phones.
"The problem is these people are playing out their lives on the computer or the phone, and they can get stressed from the comments made on these sites and take status updates personally," he said.
"As a result, some of them can't even get out of bed.
"We introduce them to organic food and they get to pick their own fruit from our organic farm. It's a very nurturing experience."
Greg Doney, head of admissions at the retreat, said it was becoming increasingly difficult to get people to "disconnect".
"They honestly believe if they don't go on Facebook they will be forgotten," he said.
At the Sunshine Coast's Integrated Life Centre staff specialise in treating Facebook depression in teenagers.
A 10-day stay at the resort costs $9500. As well as psychotherapy sessions, patients enjoy massages, facials and manicures, colonic hydrotherapy, yoga, surfing, and trips to Australia Zoo and Eumundi market.
The retreat's psychotherapist Pettina Stanghon said there was evidence to show Facebook users experience a release of adrenalin and serotonin when they are alerted to an update on the site.
"These are dangerous addictions," she said.
"The number of Facebook friends a person has, the number of likes they receive, is directly related to his or her value system. I've seen a 16-year-old girl who was so addicted to social networking that she dropped the charges against an alleged sexual abuser because it meant she would have to surrender her phone to the police for five days. She felt she would cease to exist without Facebook."