Examining the Correlation Between Instagram Use and Anxiety Disorders

The emergence of social media platforms over the last ten years has altered how we communicate with the internet community. Among these platforms, Meta Platforms’ Instagram has grown in popularity among younger users.

Alarmingly, 41% of teenagers who use social media the most describe their general mental health as very poor or poor. This resulted in a heavy concern over a potentially detrimental link between Instagram use and mental health problems—especially anxiety disorders.

Let us take a closer look at the relationship between Instagram use and anxiety disorders and other mental health issues.

The Creeping Effect of Instagram on Mental Health

An increasing amount of research indicates that excessive Instagram use may be harmful to the mental health of young people. Social comparison on social media can damage self-esteem and body image. Its addictive nature and idealized depictions exacerbate the issue.

In a recent exposé, The Wall Street Journal highlighted Meta Platforms’ in-house research. It acknowledged Instagram’s potential harm to young users’ mental health. The study indicates Instagram can trap impressionable teenagers in harmful comparisons, worsening mental health issues and encouraging self-harm or suicidal thoughts.

The Role of Tech Giants in the Algorithm of Harm

Despite CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s safety assurances, tech giants like Meta face criticism for their role in the youth mental health crisis. Executives have pledged to implement additional safeguards for juvenile users. Detractors argue these measures are insufficient and tardy, demanding more significant steps.

How Does the Meta Algorithm Cause Users’ Anxiety Disorders?

Instagram’s algorithm significantly influences user interaction and can potentially cause anxiety disorders in some users. Here’s how:


  • Addictive design: Instagram, like many tech platforms, is designed to be bottomless with infinite scrolling. This feature continually serves content, driving users back to the top. The absence of “stopping cues” may result in overuse, which heightens anxiety.
  • Variable rewards: Instagram’s algorithm employs the hook model to boost engagement using stimuli like hearts, comments, and reposts, keeping users engaged. It is called the variable reward effect. Not only does the “pleasure rush of the like” keep users habit-looped on Instagram, but the infrequent lack of likes also keeps them interested.
  • Social comparison: As a result of the algorithm’s curation of other people’s feeds, there is a high frequency of upward social comparison. Numerous detrimental side effects, including depression, a decline in self-worth, and a reduction in life satisfaction, may result from this.
  • Body image problems: Advancements in AI have led to questionable filters on image-based apps. These filters make users appear more slender using face tracking, facial recognition, and facial augmentation. These enhancements may also contribute to distortions in users’ perceptions of their bodies.
  • Harmful communities: Users may suffer as a result of these platforms’ easy access to a community of people with negative influence. It also frequently leads to cyberbullying, causing social anxiety and general anxiety disorders.

Legal Action and Lawsuit Against Instagram

Social media attorneys for US school districts have filed an Instagram lawsuit in response to the disclosures. According to the class action lawsuit, high school students have been seriously influenced by Instagram’s addictive and harmful algorithms. It is alleged that the defendants’ platforms failed to shield kids from offensive material. This comprises sexually graphic content and content encouraging eating disorders violating COPPA.

The lawsuit seeks reimbursement for the cost of establishing in-school youth mental health programs and medical expenses. TorHoerman Law reports that it urges tech companies to take more responsibility. This includes taking action against the negative effects of content and products on their platforms.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I tell if Instagram is negatively affecting my mental health?

Pay attention to your emotions after using Instagram. Anxiety, jealousy, and inadequacy can all be signs of declining mental health. Notice if you feel “addicted,” unable to stop scrolling even though it makes you feel worse.

What are some signs of healthy Instagram use?

Users should feel uplifted by their interactions on the platform and follow accounts that contribute positively to their well-being.


Positive interactions and moderate screen time are key components of healthy Instagram use. Do not let the platform lower your self-esteem, too.

How does Instagram affect mental health?

Instagram can foster a sense of belonging and support, but it can also cause anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. This is mostly because the content is curated irresponsibly with only user engagement in mind.

How can you use Instagram without feeling anxious?

To use Instagram without feeling anxious, it’s important to identify what aspects of the platform trigger your stress. It can be the pressure to maintain constant engagement or fear of negative feedback. Establishing a structured approach to your Instagram use can also help. This includes setting specific times for using the app and considering content planners to organize posts.

The relationship between young people’s use of Instagram and anxiety disorders is a complicated matter involving numerous variables. It’s clear social media significantly impacts our lives and our children’s. As a society, we need to closely examine this matter. It will be interesting to watch the Instagram lawsuit’s development and its future impact on public health and social media.