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HindustanTimes Sun,20 Apr 2014

Shrinks visit patients' Facebook profiles to assess mental health

Mugdha Variyar, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, March 11, 2013
First Published: 01:56 IST(11/3/2013) | Last Updated: 01:57 IST(11/3/2013)

Facebook is turning into a diagnostic tool for psychologists to assess patients' attitudes, with several city psychologists claiming that they use the social networking forum frequently for the purpose.

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"I get a case almost every fortnight where family members worried about a relative's mental health ask us to look on their Facebook profile for signs," said Dr AM Gabhrani, a counselor at Masina Hospital, Byculla. "Their Facebook profiles and activity do give us a lead on the case, since it helps us assess if the person has an extroverted personality or is an introvert," he said, adding that they seek permission from the patient beforehand.

Several psychologists said they used the site casually to assess their patients. "Facebook can be a tool to study human behaviour, and it often helps me assess the person's personality," said Seema Hingorrany, a clinical psychologist.

Hingorrany said one of the obvious psychological signs on the social networking site was the frequency with which people changed their profile photos. "People who are very enthusiastic on Facebook and change their photos every few hours, show a more extroverted personality, but may not necessarily be attention-seeking, while some are very guarded and don't change their photos for a very long time, and may fear being judged by others," she said.

Psychologists said that abusive or disturbing status updates can also reflect the person's state of mind. In October last year, a city student had committed suicide after putting up a suicide note on Facebook.

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