A bad case of Facebook

Here is your chance to become a medical detective based on the case of an asthmatic young man as reported in the medical journal The Lancet. The man in question, aged eighteen, experienced several severe asthma attacks and the task of his doctors was to establish what may be triggering these episodes all of a sudden.

Upon investigation they were able to rule out infectious and environmental factors. A thorough physical exam of the young man and his family revealed nothing that could be causing the bouts of asthma. Then a vital piece of information was uncovered: the man had a broken heart.

A few months earlier the man had been dumped by a girlfriend who had also erased all details of him from her pages on the social networking site Facebook. Unable to keep contact with her the man assumed a new Facebook identity and in this disguise managed to become her online “friend”. He eventually was able to view her photographs and found that she was developing relationships with other young men.

Having found this vital information the doctors asked the man’s mother to measure his “peak airflow” (capacity to breathe out) before and after internet sessions. The results showed that after viewing Facebook the man’s airflow was reduced by up to twenty per cent. After some convincing the man agreed not to log on to Facebook and his attacks ceased.

This case reminds us that physicians need to be aware that Facebook and online social networking sites in general can be a source of psychological stress which may be a trigger for a variety of disorders including asthma.

There is nothing inherently evil or unhealthy about Facebook itself. However, the online realm is another facet of life and we all need to acknowledge its power and make decisions as to how we use it accordingly.

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The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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