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Three case studies done at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine have linked psychotic episodes to computer mediated communication. Dr. Uri Nitzan, who led the studies, said that in each case there was “gradual development and exacerbation of psychotic symptoms, including delusions, anxiety, confusion, and intensified use of computer communications.” All three of Dr. Nitzan’s patients sought refuge from a lonely situation and found solace in intense virtual relationships, but all patients who sought care on their own were able to recover.
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Although the three online relationships were initially positive, they eventually led to feelings of hurt, betrayal, and invasion of privacy. “All of the patients developed psychotic symptoms related to the situation, including delusions regarding the person behind the screen and their connection through the computer,” Dr. Nitzan said. Contributing factors to the patients’ psychosis were the absence of non-verbal cues and the tendency to idealize the person with whom someone is communicating, becoming intimate without ever meeting face-to-face.
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