Screen Dependency Syndrome
gadgets can ruin our lives
Screens, may it be a television, a smart phone, tablet, pc or a video game, have become a major part of our daily routine, not only limited to the adults but at the level of infancy as well. Availability of increasing variety of apps and business ideas has led us to be surrounded by these gadgets all the times.
Starting from the ocean of knowledge available at internet, online shopping, the teaching apps for students, potty training and attractive rhymes for toddlers, thrilling video games for young ones to the extent of pornography, what not is present on our screens and internet turning this useful technique into an addiction.
Extended researches have been done and concluded that these addictions virtually exist. These include internet addiction, video game addiction, online game addiction, mobile phone dependence, facebook addiction, internet pornography addiction which all can be discussed under a general term of screen dependency disorder (SDD) though the minute details of all may be different but to understand the major points we can assemble them in a single heading.
Effects on structure and function of brain:
The brain development in the infancy to the two years of age is maximum and then subsequently decreases with time. During this developmental period the exposure to the screens has demonstrated structural and functional changes in these children with decreased functional brain connectivity. The adults and adolescents with SDD show microstructural and volumetric differences in grey and white matter of brain in regions of prefrontal cortex. This area is associated with attention, remembering details, planning and prioritizing tasks. When this area is damaged the person is unable to prioritize his or her life and the internet goes on getting precedence over necessary life tasks.
SDD is associated with dopamine release equivalent to the levels addictive substances like cocaine, nicotine or alcohol release. Dopamine is a chemical substance implicated in reward processing and addiction. This activates the pleasure system of brain and over the time more and more of that activity is needed to generate the similar effects by dopamine. This is the similar effects seen in the addictive substance as well as in SDD.
In addition to these, there are unfavourable neurocognitive development in the persons playing videogame for long periods of time. Changes in mesolimbic system have also been observed.
Signs and symptoms of screen dependency disorder:
These are depression, anxiety, dishonesty, euphoria while using the screen, inability to prioritize, isolation, mood swings, fear, lonliness and physical symptoms like headache, backache and insomnia.
American Psychiatric Association has proposed provisional diagnostic criteria. Five of the following criteria must be met within one year, preoccupation, increased amount of internet use over the time, withdrawal symptoms, continuation despite negative consequences, lying about extent of use, use to escape adverse moods or individuals has put at risk or lost relationships/life oppurtunities.
What to do: Most important thing is to realize that this problem exists.
Role of individuals:
Greater liaison is required between the primary care, counselling, psychotherapy and addiction specialists. In primary care the role of parents and general practitioners is of utmost importance. Parental monitoring of use of computers, mobiles and gaming has to be done from very initial phase. The general,practitioner has to make the families aware of this problem, recognize and refer in time.
Therapies: Authorities have still a debate regarding the treatment to be taken as first line. Self corrective behaviours with the help of softwares controlling internet use and types of sites visited has shown positive results. Total abstinence should not be used as it is not an effective method. Physical activity provokes serotonin release thus helping in decreasing the dependency of screen and internet. Art, recreation and behaviour modification therapies can also be used. Antidepressents and anti-anxiety medication where necessary should be used.
We have to realize that these gadgets ruin our lives if not properly used so be careful in using these gadgets so as to get benefit from them and do not let them to overcome ur life and ruin ur life.
Dr Saadia Hafeez