By N. Lothungbeni Humtsoe
New Delhi, Dec 9 (IANSlife): Without self-control, cyber addiction is a problem that is only going to get worse. Regardless of age, a large number of us are addicted to the internet and constantly looking forward, which is bad for both our physical and mental health. The fact that the majority of us are unaware of the consequences one experiences is also one of the riskier aspects of this.
Cyber addiction affects grades, careers, jobs, and relationships because it is not just focused on browsing or spending excessive amounts of time on social media. It also includes time spent playing games, gambling, compulsively checking phones, or simply hanging out with online friends rather than real friends.
IANSlife chats with Dr Paula Goel, Consultant Pediatrician, Adolescent Physician, and the Founder of Fayth Clinic, and she says, "Cyber addiction has been included in Section 3 of the DSM-V, which is reserved for medical conditions that require further investigation prior to being designated as a separate category of disorder. Recommends the following diagnostic criteria that are required for a diagnosis of Cyber Addiction:
Spends too much time online (thinks about the previous online activity or anticipates the next online session).
In order to be satisfied, they must spend more time using the internet.
Has made fruitless attempts to regulate, curtail, or stop Internet use.
When trying to reduce or stop using the internet, becomes agitated, moody, melancholy, or irritable.
Has been online longer than anticipated. In addition, at least one of the following requirements must be met.
Has endangered or run the risk of losing a significant relationship, job, the opportunity for education, or career because of the internet
Has lied to relatives, a therapist, or others to hide how often they use the internet.
Uses the internet to get away from issues or to lift a depressing mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)
Is any particular age group more prone to cyber addiction?
Dr Paula: Can occur in any age group but is more common in male adolescents 15-16 years of age
What may be the probable cause of cyber addiction?
Dr Paula: There are different causes, the comprehensive model of the development and maintenance of internet addiction by Winkler and Dörsing takes into account
Socio-cultural factors (e.g., demographic factors, access to and acceptance of the Internet), Neuro-anatomical factors Research suggests that people with Internet addiction have alterations in the brain similar to those individuals with an addiction to drugs or gambling habit. There are changes in the prefrontal cortex of the brain which is associated with attention, planning, and prioritizing. Hence people with addictions place their addictions before basic everyday things, like eating or sleeping.
Biological vulnerabilities.g., genetic factors, and abnormalities in neurochemical processes decrease the levels of the dopamine and serotonin transmitters in the brain more than that of the general population. Addictions would increase the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain.
Psychological predispositions (e.g., personality characteristics, negative effects)
Specific attributes of the Internet-excessive engagement in Internet activities especially on social media platforms
What are the effects of cyber addiction – on health, social life, career, and academics?
Dr Paula: Spending long hours leads to losing track of time online and staying longer than intended. This can also cause physical discomfort, such as carpal tunnel syndrome (pain and numbness in hands and wrists); Dry eyes or strained vision; Backaches, neck aches, or severe headaches; Sleep disturbances; Pronounced weight gain or weight loss Depression and anxiety Mood swings with Guilt feelings and also feelings of euphoria while using the Internet as an outlet when stressed or sad, or for sexual gratification or excitement.
It also gets affected social life, as the individual gets isolated from family and friends leading to more friends online rather than real-life friends. The individual may suffer from loneliness, and inability to have close personal relationships and may develop poor self-esteem and low self-confidence.
Spending long hours on social media platforms and compulsive checking of gadgets may lead to loss of concentration, poor focus, and lack of commitment and dedication at work and this would affect academics and career. They will unable to complete their academic or work assignments
Is there any connection between cyber addiction and sleep?
Dr Paula: Cyber addiction interferes with sleep and invariably leads to insomnia. The blue light from the gadget suppresses melatonin (sleep hormone). Decreased levels of melatonin affect sleep and the individual may suffer from hormonal imbalance, high blood sugar, and insulin resistance and may develop diabetes, heart disease, obesity, PCOS, and other non-communicable diseases, all occurring as a result of faulty sleep patterns. Lack of sleep also stimulates the hunger hormone ghrelin which causes increased appetite and leads to overweight and obesity.
Does cyber addiction affect relationships?
Dr Paula: Cyber Addiction affects relationships. Relationships can be formed online. Cybersex and social networking can go unnoticed until it is too late. Relationships formed over the internet may be exciting and addictive because of anonymity & ease of disclosure. Moreover, it compensates for the feelings of loneliness as it keeps a person occupied with the minimal need for real-life interactions.
There is a huge gap between virtual & everyday real-life relationships. People would often prefer to use their imaginations than interact in real life and face its challenges. Virtual relationships lack tone, facial expression, gesture, and touch. This becomes extremely problematic in real-life relationships where the individuals who engage in online relationships find themselves more interested in their online friends rather than their spouses because they have created that person in their own heads. The imperfection of their partners is amplified greatly & it breaks down the need for communication and intimacy with their partners in real life, creating distance and a real-life problem.
Cybersex and pornography are other threats to real life and authentic relationships because of their anonymity, convenience, and escape.
Apart from intimate relationships, relationship with family members also gets affected as they are unable to take up family responsibilities or provide support to family members at times of need. A breakdown in communication significantly affects the quality of the relationship. The need to spend quality time, seek advice during tough times,s and share one's innermost feelings with family members ceases and the individual becomes isolated & cocooned in a self-created world where they are unable to demarcate between the real and the virtual world.