Addiction to the internet has taken alarming proportions. While internet addiction is not recognised as a separate disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, countries like China, South Korea and Taiwan have taken the matter seriously. It cannot be disregarded that technology has made the world intolerant with students glued to mobile phones and addiction to dangerous online games spiralling. Depression, anxiety and mental trauma have increased severely.
BE’s Ayantika Halder spoke to Dr. Arghya Pal,Consultant Psychiatrist, IQ City Medical College & Narayana Multispeciality Hospital, Durgapur about internet addiction and preventive therapies.
Q. How can a person comprehend that he is threatened by online addiction?
A. According to psychiatric diagnosis, online addiction is an ill form entity. Till now, there has been no implementation of guidelines in regard to online addiction. Yet, the core reason that deciphers the disorder is excessive craving for online activity. When the person withdraws from such a craving, his peace of mind is jeopardised and he is eventually trapped in a state of restlessness and anxiety. He tends to become inattentive. He is induced by better and proving gadgets. He will seek better technological upgradation which we term as tolerance. Lastly, such disorders lead to negative consequences where the victim is unable to fulfil the basic drives. There are basically three kinds of internet disorder. One is gaming, online social interaction which is mainly related to chatting and the most destructive addiction is related to pornography.
Q. We are all quite familiar with addictions related to alcohol and drugs. Online addiction is a raging issue. Is it equally alarming?
A. It is more dangerous. Mostly, people are unwilling to accept online addiction as a disorder. Intervention should be at a primary stage. That intervention may be related to thermological management or non thermological management. First, we try to spot the real problem where the person develops symptoms of anxiety due to withdrawal from cell phones. This is where intervention is needed to overcome the physical distress associated with the withdrawal. Non thermological management includes abstaining from mobile phones when you are holidaying. There are many modes of relaxation other than gaming. Also switch off your phones while going to bed at night. This kind of boundaries allows one to strengthen family bonds. It must be noted that such addiction can inflict any age group and is not limited to adolescents.
Q. What are the effective therapies?
A. There are different kinds of therapies. We use the cognitive behavioural therapy most commonly. Here the idea is to understand the behaviour and the thoughts of the client. Behaviour and cognition are both maladaptive. So we identify where the deviation is taking place and eventually put in an effort to change that. For example, somebody may feel isolated for not having friends. To substitute the loneliness, he indulges in online games. We try to explain that to keep friends and sustain relationships, one need to put in an effort too. We try to intervene. This has proven to be quite successful. We are looking at to group therapy as well. In group therapy, a number of things are exposed, which one as an individual has been unable to express. With an increase in the number of patients, we can start with group therapies where a lot of unanswered issues come up. In Delhi, group therapy has already started. It is yet to be initiated in Kolkata. There is insight oriented therapy as well. Here the psychiatrist understands the real problem of the patient. Client spends time with the therapist expressing his fears, feelings and desires. The patient himself should realise the exact problem. There can be marital therapies where the couple is unhappy and not spending time due to internet addiction. Therapies are not structured. Therapies are planned according to the recognition of the problems.
Q. In 2016, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in Bengaluru released a mental health survey that said that the incidence of depression is roughly among 5% of the Indian population. Is online dependence responsible for it?
A. Both are co-related. Research has also informed that when someone is depressed, he might rely excessively on the internet. The blue whale game is an example. It is also the other way round. When someone is using internet in a maladaptive way, she is more susceptible to depression. Also a lot of inquisitiveness has drawn people towards gaming addiction.
This is known as loss of control. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders have mentioned online gambling as the only behavioural addiction. Gambling is a disorder which falls under impulse control disorder. Internet gaming disorder is included in a section of the DSM-5 recommending further study.
Q. What are your suggestions to prevent online addiction?
A. I will only suggest that we should put a limit to everything. Parents should be more alert now and teach their children to use the internet effectively.