The consultant psychiatrists’ community in the country noted that Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) and Online Gaming Disorder (OGD) constituted an emerging problem amongst Sri Lankan children, conditions which they noted would require medical treatment.
As per research conducted and evidence available in this regard from Asian countries such as Korea and China, it has been revealed that statistically over 45 precent of Asian children were suffering from IAD or OGD.
Consultant Psychiatrist at the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital, Dr. Ramani Ratnaweera said the percentage was very much applicable to Sri Lanka.
While the users were categorized as being mild users, moderate users and severe users, in mainland China, moderate to severe users were in the range of 8% to 10%, with there being more males than females. The figure of 45% includes moderate to severe users.
Section Three of the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has recognized OGD while the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases is seeking to have IAD included.
She pointed out that the said disorders affect the pleasure centre of the brain, triggers the release of dopamine which leads to dependency and develops in a manner similar to addiction to gambling, with the brain makeup also resembling the state of chemical dependency resultant from substance abuse, all of which affects the family structure adversely.
She added that while most parents in the country did not recognize this as an illness, there was also a stigma attached to obtaining psychiatric or psychological help which prevented such from being addressed.
“Preventive measures such as public awareness should be implemented in schools and both, school going children and parents should be educated,” she observed.
She also highlighted the lack of research studies in Sri Lanka pertaining to these, and the fact that no policy concerning this aspect of mental health has yet been developed.
Computer use should be supervised and controlled as in the case of television where during the first two years of a child’s life no television should be allowed and even after this the viewing of cartoons should be restricted to one hour, she mentioned.
“Quite a lot of time is spent on the computer or mobile phone in terms of hours per day. There are four components to this. One loses one’s sense of time. There is the neglect of basic aspects of one’s life. Withdrawal symptoms occur in the case of inaccessibility. This leads to anger, irritability, frustration, depression, tension and even a certain sense of anxiety. There is fatigue and social isolation too,” Dr. Ratnaweera explained.