“There is a category called Internet gaming addiction. In diagnostic parallels, this type of addiction is under the category for further research. It is not a clear-cut disorder,” says Dr Manish Jain
HE USED TO spend eight hours a day in front of the computer screen, glued to the Internet game. Sometimes, he stretched it to 12. The game controlled his thought patterns, social interactions and sleep schedule. And when he was away from it, he became “distracted, irritable and disinterested”. Today, this 16-year-old, Class 9 student at a private school in central Delhi is undergoing medication and psychotherapy at the BLK Super Specialty Hospital in the capital.
“There is a category called Internet gaming addiction. In diagnostic parallels, this type of addiction is under the category for further research. It is not a clear-cut disorder,” says Dr Manish Jain, who is supervising the teenager’s rehabilitation. “This is an unusual case. There have been case reports in India about this. But there has been no study on Internet gaming addiction in the country as yet. It is very hard to get even 10-15 patients to conduct such a study. These are rare cases,” says Jain.
”For this boy, it was not about completing a mission or beating a high score or preset standard. It was about temporarily becoming an online character and build relationships with other online players as an escape from reality. He was part of an online group. This group used to perpetuate competitive video gaming,” says Jain.
According to the doctor, the signs and symptoms can sometimes be very difficult to recognise in such cases. In this case, the first symptom was when the boy started becoming “aggressive towards his mother”.
”Initially, his scores at school were badly affected and he became quite asocial. At home, he became very aggressive towards his mother. Other family members were also getting affected by his behaviour. He was distracted, irritable or sometimes disinterested,” Dr Jain says.
The next red flag was when the boy put on approximately 10 kg in less than six months. ”Biologically, his eating pattern was vastly affected. He used to binge at odd hours leading to weight gain. He then started coming up with lame excuses to skip school,” says Jain.
Later, like any other compulsive disorder, the boy, who has no siblings, started isolating himself. “He would isolate himself in order to play games. He would miss out on family events or outing with friends,” says Jain.
As part of rehabilitation, the boy is still allowed to play for “two-three times in a week for two hours”. “Withdrawal can be tough but he is responding well. Under psychotherapy, we are helping him develop healthier habits,” says Jain. The most important aspect of the therapy, says the doctor, is that the teenager’s social activities and family outings have been increased. “Parents should always have a balanced approach while allowing their children to use technology. In this case, his social activities and family outings have been increased. This is the main focus of therapy,” says Jain.