AIIMS opens special psychiatric OPD for cyber addicts

26 Oct 2016 | By Ramya

All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has opened a special psychiatric Out Patient Department (OPD) for those hooked on social media, online gaming, or the internet in general.

The step has been taken in the view of the increasing number of cyber addicts.

Several school and college students were reportedly slipping into severe psychiatric issues because of such addictive cyber habits.

In context: Addressing the growing cyber addiction

IntroductionWhat is internet addiction?

Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) or cyber addiction refers to the excessive use of computers or the internet that interferes with the daily life.

Cyber addiction includes online gaming, computer addiction, cyber relational (virtual) addiction, cybersexual addiction, cognitive/information overload, net compulsions (obsessive online shopping, trading, gambling), etc.

Initially, IAD was proposed as a disorder by Ivan Goldberg, M.D., in a satirical hoax in 1995.

Gaming addictionThe case of two gaming addicts

In Feb'16, a case of two brothers in Delhi addicted to online gaming was brought to light.

They played for 18 hours a day without eating or sleeping; they required a month-long rehabilitation in RML Hospital's psychiatry ward.

They were so engrossed in gaming they even ignored robbers who broke into their house twice.

They started urinating and defecating in their clothes while playing.

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26 Oct 2016AIIMS opens special psychiatric OPD for cyber addicts

Access to the internet is controlled

Chief of AIIMS' Behavioral Addiction Clinic and a leading psychiatrist, Dr. Yatan Pal Singh Balhara stated: "They (the patients) are counseled, their access to the internet is controlled, and in rare circumstances, admission is required for their well-being."

DetailsAnxiety and substance abuse common among cyber addicts

Balhara said anxiety and substance abuse are common among cyber addicts.

The clinic is currently open for patients on Saturdays from 9am-2pm; six to seven patients in a day visit the clinic.

The duration would be increased later per the demand; the number of patients may go up as the awareness increases.

The clinic is being run by Balhara and psychiatrist Dr. Rachna Bharadwaj.

Poor PerformanceInternet addiction, primary cause of academic failure

Balhara said internet addiction causes academic failure and poor performance.

He explained the case of a patient who used to be a topper before getting addicted to online gaming and failing.

Dr. Nand Kumar, AIIMS Psychiatry Additional Professor, cited the example of a 14-year-old who turned a cellphone addict as her parents were always busy and friends were available only for an online chat.

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Cellphone addiction

Dr. Nand Kumar said: "Cellphone addiction is another dangerous trend being observed. It is leading to short attention span, poor tolerance and decreased interpersonal communication."

TreatmentTreatment of cyber addiction disorders

Treatment of cyber addiction disorders is complicated and different from that of behavioral and substance addictions.

The US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada are among the countries where treatment for cyber addiction includes counseling, inpatient/outpatient/aftercare support, self-help, and workshops.

In China, military-style boot camps are treatments where former soldiers supervise them through an extreme rehabilitation process lasting for up to six months.