Ex-girlfriend on Facebook triggers asthma attacks

By Gurmukh Singh, IANS
Friday, November 19, 2010

NEW YORK - Facebook is fast becoming another source of real-life psychological stress, according to an interesting case study by Italian doctors.

Carried in The Lancet this week, the study involved an 18-year-old asthmatic young man who had just been dumped by his girlfriend.

When the girlfriend deleted him from her friends’ list on Facebook, he assumed a new name and became friendly with her again.

But his asthma got worse every time he accessed his ex’s online Facebook profile and found her making new boyfriends.

Initially, his worried mother had no clues as the young man was taking his medicine regularly. But soon she learned that his girlfriend had broken up with him, leaving him in a depressive state.

“The girl had erased him from her list of Facebook friends, while “friending” many new young men. With a new nickname on Facebook, our patient succeeded in becoming her friend once again and finally in seeing her picture on her Facebook profile. The sight of this seemed to induce dyspnoea, which happened repeatedly on the patient accessing her profile,” said Dr Gennaro D’Amato and his team in the study report.

To know whether his ex-girlfriend was the real cause of his deteriorating asthma, the doctors advised his mother to ask him to measure his breath before and after internet login.

To their surprise, they found that his breathing showed more than 20 percent reduction in ‘post-Facebook’ measurements and that his asthma worsened after log-out.

With the help of a psychiatrist, the doctors managed to get the young man not to login to Facebook any longer and his asthma attacks stopped.

It is a clear-cut case of online social networking triggering tensions and exacerbating his asthma, the study said.

“This case indicates that Facebook, and social networks in general, could be a new source of psychological stress, representing a triggering factor for exacerbations in depressed asthmatic individuals,” the Lancet report said.

Facebook is the world’s biggest social networking site with over 500 million users.

(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at gurmukh.s@ians.in)

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