How often do you receive patients that display these symptoms or are diagnosed with internet /gaming addiction? Are the symptoms similar to drug addiction?
We receive patients who often display internet/ gaming addictions. Sometimes the presenting problem might not necessarily be internet addiction; however, it becomes an underlying coping mechanism for an illness such as depression and or other mood disorders
A common factor between drug addiction and internet addiction as per an article in psychology today is Dopamine increase in your brain – a neurotransmitter that when it is released in higher than usual amounts, goes beyond the synapse and flows into other regions of the brain and produces a powerful pleasure response. An increased level of release of dopamine is actually a response of brains reward to an achievement or challenge. For example, when you make a choice, take an action, complete a task successfully and when you receive a response that you were correct or successful, the reward prompts the brain to repeat the action or choice to in turn producing more dopamine – that produces more pleasure. The “pleasure” is the common linking word between these two addictions
Some of the common symptom manifestations
- Feelings of guilt
- Feelings of Euphoria
- No sense of time / priority / schedules
- Anger/ Agitation
- Impaired social skills
- Feelings of isolation /Loneliness
- Procrastination and demotivation
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Poor nutrition
- Poor personal hygiene
- Neck Pain
- Dry eyes
- Weight gain /loss
Some men may also be affected by:
- Stiffness in the muscles and joints
- Night sweats
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
- Weight gain
- A loss of ability to recover quickly from injuries
What is internet addiction among teens? What causes it?
Today’s teenagers have never lived without an internet. It is the most powerful medium of information for them. At the click of a button they are able to access scores of information of their liking, make friendships, entertain self, and indulge in ordering their materialistic wants and many more. They truly live in a magical self-contained world where they do not require any relationship in a physical or emotional space to keep them contained and occupied. This obsession turns into an addiction and real life can take a back seat to living online.
Internet addiction is not limited today only to teens but also to adults. However, teens experience intense mood swings and behavior. This is a normal part of their growing up. However, it is important to warn that these underlying issues can also sometimes indicate mental health issues that can make this addiction a greater risk
A few mental health issues that we notice that can complicate this to an addiction is
- Temporary need to escape
- Peer Pressure / conform
- Family dysfunction / Poor parenting
Can you share a case study?
JD, a 17-year-old was brought in for counseling by his parents stating that he was performing poorly in school, getting failing grades and refusing to go to school. JD was presenting the following symptoms – his internet use was more important than time spent with friends and family. Internet was his only hobby. He had poor sleep hygiene due to his internet use through the night. To keep himself up, he would indulge in snacking and caffeinated drinks and compromise on eating a regular nutritious meal. He started to experience anxiety when he was away from the internet and this led to him being isolated from friends and family. Due to his obsession with gaming and internet he would miss a shower and therefore this led to developing very poor hygiene. He stopped communicating with the family, would not participate or engage in family activities. He started developing heightened anger and agitation for issues that did not warrant a hostile reaction. He started developing severe headaches and back pain. His parents started noticing that there was money missing from their wallet which was a result of his secret purchases of treats and materialistic pleasures on the internet. He was de- motivated, would often lie that he is doing his homework, however indulged in internet activities. Increasingly he started missing school as he was tired and had severe headaches, body pain and above all heightened anxiety to be around people. His social skills are totally impaired. He is unable to form friendships and meaningful relationships.
How can patients beat this addiction?
Patients can beat this addiction when the treatment is holistic in approach – counseling, medication (if needed), psycho education , parent counseling ( setting limits, rules and successful parenting) school support and engagement, nutritious meals, Exercise, following a schedule and activity monitoring, routine development, positive reinforcement and rewards.
Involvement of parents in therapy is a must. It is important to assess parenting styles and communication and modify unhealthy and ineffective methods that might also be exacerbating the symptomology in their teens