We are soon going to need dedicated clinics for Internet addiction disorders

In a study done by the Indian Council for Medical Research in 2013, it was found that the age group of 18-40 years in select urban communities across India had showed an alarming rate of technology dependence

internet-deaddictionDoes Mumbai need an Internet de-addiction clinic? With growing number of overuse of Internet by Mumbaikars, psychiatrists say it is high time that the city hospitals get a dedicated clinic for Internet addiction disorders.

The National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans) in Bangalore was the first to recognise the need to have a clinic to treat tech addiction. Last week, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi too started a special psychiatric OPD for people who are hooked to social media, online games or the Internet in general.

“Teenagers are more prone to the Internet addiction and awareness is only sinking in that such technology craving is abnormal. We often get worried when parents complain that their son/daughter are spending too much time online resulting in decline in academic performance, withdrawal from family and social interactions,” said Dr Heena Merchant, general secretary, Bombay Psychiatric Society (BPS).

Mumbai psychiatrists are already treating Internet addiction disorders that include medication and psychotherapy. “We treated two women in their early 20s who were addicted to online shopping. This is one of the several types of Internet addiction disorder. They confessed to it to their family, felt guilty and underwent depression. It is important for everyone to understand that Internet addiction disorder is a reality. Instead of ignoring it, psychiatric help should be taken,” said Dr Sagar Mundada, psychiatrist, KEM hospital.

A study done by the Indian Council for Medical Research in 2013 said those in the age group of 18-40 years in select urban communities across India, too, had showed an alarming rate of technology dependence.

internet-deadiction“Internet addiction disorder is an umbrella term for many issues like online shopping addiction, overuse of social networking sites among others. Repeated, unsuccessful efforts to control cut back or stop Internet use is one of the warning signs of being Internet addiction disorder,” said Dr Harish Shetty, psychiatrist, Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital.

He added that an Internet addict can feel restlessness, moodiness, depression, or irritability when attempting to cut down use of the Internet.

Psychiatrists say jeopardising or risking loss of significant relationships, job, educational or career opportunities because of Internet use are common aftermath seen in people suffering from internet addiction.

Dr Avinash Desousa, research associate in LTMG Sion hospital and a psychiatrist, said they have observed that relying too much on digital gadgets have led to mental cognitive operations like mental mathematics, learning, concentration, ability to focus for a long time etc.

“People are multi-tasking with their phone which is leading to dip in concentration, ability to remember day to day things. They are unable to function without their smartphones,” said D’Souza.

He added that school children using smartphones and other digital gadgets are hit the most. “We are seeing low retention and poor memory levels in children. Parents should see to it that their child does not get into smartphone addiction as it can affect their studies too,” said D’Souza.

Psychiatrists also say the use of the internet is a way to escape from problems or to relieve a dysphoric mood (for example feelings of hopelessness, guilt, anxiety or depression). Prolonged Internet addiction can also lead to digital amnesia.

Dr Yusuf Matcheswalla, a psychiatrist with Masina Hospital, said digital amnesia is becoming a big problem especially in youngsters. “We are seeing digital amnesia as a secondary problem in youngsters coming to us for internet addiction treatment. Extensive use of smartphones numbs the mind. A person loses touch with reality. In youngsters it can lead to learning disability,” added Dr Matcheswalla.

What is an Internet or computer addiction? 

An Internet or computer addiction is the excessive use of the former or the latter. The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) actually includes it as a disorder that needs further study and research. In a publication on the National Centre for Biotechnology Information website, the study, which was conducted by the Department of Adult Psychiatry in the Poland Medical University, showed that Internet addiction was seen to be quite popular and common among young people, especially those who were only children. In fact, every fourth child is addicted to the Internet. This is an alarming statistic that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.