Health Care

Newest lifestyle disease- ‘internet addiction’ ails Bangalore’s young population

It isn’t just diabetes, hypertension and obesity cases that has been rising in city, but the IT capital of the country- ‘Bangalore’ of recent is ailing with the newest lifestyle disease – internet addiction. According to city based experts, it is the teenagers and young adults who are increasingly falling prey to the newest disease. Dr Manoj Kumar Sharma, Associate Professor, Department of Clinical Psychology, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience (NIMHANS) with over decades of practice relates that people between the ages of 14-35 years are the major chunk who are prone to internet addiction. As a result of which most of these youngsters are having falling academic grades, becoming violent if technology is withheld and deteriorating relationships with parents.

Four month old SHUT (Service for Healthy Use of Technology) Clinic, a unit of NIMHANS, where Dr Manoj has been the consultant ever since its inception says that he is been seeing about two new cases every weekend. Citing about the extreme cases which he had seen over the past couple of weeks, he said: “A 17 year old male who had excessive use of internet over the mobile and laptop for the past three and half years was brought to our clinic by his parents recently. Initially it was learnt that the family were not much concerned about it and thought it as a part of growing up. This continued for about a year, he was watching YouTube videos for hours about gadgets, new launches about computer hardwares, facebook and playing internet games. He used to be hooked this way for about 8-10 hours on device almost every day. He used to finish his work to save time for his device. At one time he had even developed eye devoid of tears because of excessive watching of YouTube on his small mobile phone screen. This had affected his studies and his grades slowly started coming down. He had started becoming very irritable and was losing his appetite. Teachers started complaining about his lack of interest in class. His friends too complained about his lack of energy. Meanwhile the addiction was turning severe day by day. He started using it even if he is in the company of relatives, friend or while watching TV.”

Yet another extreme case at SHUT clinic was of a 16 year old female. She was brought to the clinic by her parents with complaints of increase use of social networking sites for the last four years. She had been spending on an average 6-7 hours per day on social networking sites and started neglecting other works and academic works. Initially, it was used at home, subsequently on objections of family members, she started surfing at cyber café. Stealing and lying in form of excuse present to support her habit. The content shared on the social networking sites was to have chat with friends, shared experiences ,exchange of information, photograph to build up friendships, sometime meet them in real life. She was addicted as she was enjoying and also to manage her free time/boredom. On screening she meet the criteria of addictive use of social networking sites.

This apart, Dr Manoj who had led a one year long Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) funded study among adults in the age group of 18-65 years in Bangalore also found that the use of mobile phones and social networks were among the top addictions. A total of 2755 respondents were interviewed using door to door survey methodology from an urban locality in Bangalore. The study revealed addictive use of internet was found in 1.3% of them, 4.1 % for mobile phones and 3.5% for social networking sites. It was found that internet, face book addictions were more among single /nuclear families. Addictive use of video game/facebook was present among the age group of 13-17 years. Following which teenagers showed dysfunctions in area of academic, social life and losing out recreational activities. Parents were found to have shown lack of awareness about teenagers online behaviors. Those who get bored easily, peer pressure, feel the need /enjoy experimentation with new things and the need to be in touch with recent developments were among the ones to have excessive addiction for technology. Apparently, during the study it was also found that about 4% of them had extreme fear of losing their mobile phones.

Changing behavioral pattern among these youngsters might also be a result of the cultural change. There is no time for interactions among family members, the tea time and dinner time discussions among family members all seems to be lost. As outlined by Dr Manoj, understanding and becoming aware of the behavioral addictions is the first step towards managing such addictions. Bringing up alternative hobbies and structuring your free time would be few of the ways to deal with such addiction. If the cases are extreme it is always advisable to seek professional help.

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Luna Dewan

Luna Dewan

With six years of her journalism experience, Luna Dewan has worked for leading print media like the New Indian Express, Deccan Chronicle and DNA. She has been writing on healthcare, environment and various other civic issues. She is now with as the Assistant Editor.

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