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What is Sadfishing? A Parent’s Guide


sadfishing on social media

Rebecca Reid coined the term sadfishing in January 2019. It was first used in an article she had written for the UK newspaper, Metro. As Reid explains in her article, “sadfishing is when someone uses their emotional problems to hook an audience on the Internet.” In other words, sadfishing is the act of posting sensitive, emotional and/ or sad content on social media platforms that has been fabricated or exaggerated in attempt to fish for sympathy and/ or to get attention, not for genuine help. 

How To Distinguish Sadfishing From Sadness

The UK psychologist, Jo Hemming asserts his expert opinion in The Sun: “Sadfishing posts are more likely to touch you, draw empathy from you or even resonate with you. But they can also be quite enigmatic, purposefully lacking a full explanation, drawing out or need to know more, show support or just acknowledge in some way.” Hence, teens that post about genuine sadness are not written as a means to attract curiosity. It is important to bear in mind that adolescence is an incredibly complicated and challenging time in a young person’s life, and as such, even with sadfishing there may be an element of truth. 

How To Tell If Your Child Is Sadfishing

The most effective way of telling whether or not your child is sadfishing is to monitor their social media activity. Check out what your teen may be talking about online. For example, if your teenager posts online about how they are constantly discouraged and unproductive, but in reality display a great level of confidence and are highly productive, they may be exaggerating the severity of what they are feeling. It may also be beneficial to follow your teen’s social media accounts across all platforms with which they are active. In order to ensure full transparency, there are certain apps, such as Bark, that can alert parents whenever their child creates a new social media account. 

What Do You Do?

If you are concerned that your teenager may be sadfishing it should not be ignored. While a parent’s first instinct may be to reprimand their child, it is best to start a conversation from a place of deep love and concern for your child’s mental wellbeing. Explain that you are there to provide support and remind them that you are always available to help them if they are having a hard time. You can also let them know that if they are uncomfortable talking about something with you, there are other trusted adults to whom they can turn (e.g. family friend, school counselor, teacher, etc.). This can also be an excellent time to broach the topic of whether your teen may be interested in speaking with a therapist.

For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at

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