Today's youngsters cannot imagine a life without the internet and social media. Internet addiction among adolescents have become more common, and this may lead to mental disorders, suggest experts.
Spending excessive time over the internet and social media is emerging as a leading cause for mental disorder among adolescents and youths, say medical experts.
‘Internet addiction has become more common among youngsters. Experts suggest spending too much time over the internet and social media may increase the risk of developing mental disorders among adolescents.’
"It is seen that youths and teenagers are getting obsessed with mobile phones and computers. They spend most of the time either playing games and chatting over social media and get away from the real world," RK Chadda, HOD Psychiatry and Chief National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC).
According to Dr. Rachna Bhargava, Associate Professor, Psychiatry and NDDTC AIIMS, excessive time spent over the virtual world is forcing youths to remain secluded from reality.
"Individuals develop an imaginary world and tend to confine themselves within that. Youths, especially boys aged between 14-25, have been observed to be more prone to mental disorder," Bhargava added.
Among early symptoms, it is found that a child tends to stop interacting or mingling with other children and creates a distance from family members.
"If a device is being forcefully taken away from a child, it is seen that he or she tends to lose temper and even misbehaves," Dr. Anju Dhawan, NDDTC stated.
Dr. Pratap Saran, Psychiatry, AIIMS pointed that the primary reason behind youths falling prey to mobile games or social media addiction is because of lack of parental supervision.
"It is often seen that the parents remain engulfed in their own daily routine work and ignores the child. At times even the parents also fail to understand or realize that a child is developing a mental disorder and it further escalates the syndrome," Dr. Saran added.
However, most mental disorder cases remain unattended. Dr. Bhargava said the reason behind is that neither the patients nor anyone from their families come up and talk about it to medical experts.
"Most people do not even realize that they are facing mental disorder. Many think it is a stigma to attend a psychiatrist and hesitate to report or talk about the issues. There is quite a gap between psychiatrists and mental disorder patients," she said.
According to the experts, mental disorder owing to social media and mobile games can be avoided if parents start early supervision.
"The addiction cannot be measured in a particular time frame. It can develop after using even for 3-4 hours of more than 6 hours. It is very important that parents should take their child for outdoor activities, that will help them to keep in pace with the real world," Dr. Chadda mentioned.
The recently concluded National Mental Health Survey of India estimates current prevalence of mental disorders in the age group 18-29 at 7.39 percent and lifetime prevalence at 9.54 percent.
AIIMS also organized an event to promote awareness of mental health issues affecting the young people on the occasion of World Mental Health Day which is marked on October 10 every year.