Times of India
22 December 2008
By Anusha Vincent
Are you suffering from Internet Addiction Disorder? PT tells how to get over it
Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) was at first dismissed as just another fancy term with no factual or medical basis. But, like gambling, alcoholism and drug abuse, IAD is also well on its way to being formally recognised as a clinical disorder. The internet is secretly spinning its deadly web around an alarming number of netizens. After getting hooked to the net, they find it difficult to break free. In India, IAD came into prominence a few years ago, with the IT boom. It is now under the spotlight again because of many sociological and psychological reasons.
Saras Baskar, a psychologist, says, “Being recognised as a clinical disorder means that there is proof that various neurotransmitters and other components are involved in instigating addiction.” This means that we can no longer shrug off our craving for the net as a mere ‘Pastime’. Worldwide, IAD sufferers were found to engage in five main activities – gaming, pornography, virtual social networking, internet shopping and surfing.
For Bhavesh, a student, the internet is a means to indulge in his life’s passion – gaming. He has gone several nights without sleep in preparation for tournaments. “But, apart from this, my internet usage is pretty well balanced,” he claims. Saras states, “Most of those getting hooked on to the net are those with above normal IQs. Somewhere along the way, these people lose their rationale.” And, true enough, it is the techies and nerds who are most susceptible to addiction and alarmingly, the major percentage of addicts are teenagers.
Sociologist Shalini George feels that kids are increasingly getting hooked due to lack of family time and activities that will keep them engrossed. “Children these days don’t have proper extra-curricular activities and are forced to stay home and bury their noses in books, 24/7. They start browsing the net due to sheer boredom and, before they know it, they are sucked deep into the seemingly exciting cyber world,” she says.
But, the big culprit still seems to be email. Vikram Sekar, a software engineer, says, “I am logged on 24 hours a day. This is mainly because I need to check mails as they come in, but while at it, I also check out all the networking sites. Time flies when I am online. I’m not exactly sure if it is addiction, but I definitely can’t think of spending even a day without the internet.”
Shalini quotes the obsession with staying ahead of competition as the main reason for addiction. “People don’t realise that spending long hours on the internet can jeopardise family and social life. All other commitments take a back-seat and the addict is totally oblivious to all this, thinking everything is fine,” she explains. Saras, on the other hand, believes that addiction depends on the biology, as well as the vulnerability of the person.
Over the last few years, several treatment and deaddiction centres have opened up around the world offering both psychological and psychiatric help. But, it doesn’t come easy, or fast. In fact, 80 per cent of addicts can be cured only after three months. And, it comes with most of the withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol and drug abuse.
Saras explains, “The withdrawal symptoms include extreme irritation, loss of appetite, becoming extremely unstable. Treatment can be brought about by a combination of psychiatry and cognitive behavioural therapy.”
According to psychologists and doctors in de-addiction centres, the situation is not so bad in some cities yet, but if not curbed, it could well become the next big nuisance. Andrew Brown once said, “The internet is so big, so powerful and pointless that for some people it is a complete substitute for life.” This perfectly describes what the world is getting to at this point. But, fret not, if you feel things are getting out of hand, help is just a click away!