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Net loss: Time to beat the binge-watching habit

Bengaluru-based Nimhans got its first case of Netflix addiction. The solution is to offset the imbalance that addiction to gadgets has introduced into your life

editorials Updated: Oct 08, 2018 20:14 IST
Hindustan Times
bing watching
Children with counsellors at an Internet de-addiction centre in Delhi. In June this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) added gaming disorder to its International Classification of Diseases(HT File)

Last week, the Service for Healthy Use of Technology (SHUT) clinic at the Bengaluru-based National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans), received its first case of addiction to the streaming service, Netflix. A 26-year-old unemployed man approached them, saying he had begun to spend more than seven hours every day watching shows and movies for the past six months . Manoj Kumar Sharma, a professor of clinical psychology, Nimhans, who heads the SHUT clinic, says the number of people approaching them to fight mental ailments which can be traced back to the Internet is on the rise. Those addicted to online gaming form a chunk of these. When they set up the clinic — which specialises in treating technology-related medical conditions — in 2014, they received two cases a week. This year, the number of gaming addiction complaints has risen to eight a week. In June this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) added gaming disorder to its compendium of International Classification of Diseases. In India, the online gaming industry is estimated to be the highest growth sector in the media and entertainment industry, with a projected average growth rate of 27.5% between 2016 and 2020 compared to the overall industry’s 11.6% for the same period, according to a March 2018 report by industry association, Ficci, and consulting firm, EY. The average age of gamers in India, according to a Ficci and EY report, is 24 years.

Unlike conventional television formats, streaming services, in which a show’s entire season can be viewed on any device at one go, raise viewers’ vulnerability to binge watching. People tend to stimulate the reward centre of the brain when they get to know what is happening next in their favourite show, say psychiatrists. This releases chemicals that trigger a mix of satiety and pleasure.

The treatment modalities to fight addiction to gaming and streaming platforms run on similar lines. The first step is acknowledgment that a person needs help. In online gaming as well as binge watching, the pleasure that the person derives from the activity often works like a coping mechanism. One big warning sign, says psychiatrists, is being preoccupied with the activity to an extent that it curtails social interaction. In the case of the streaming platforms addict, the doctors at Nimhans are deploying a mix of therapy, relaxation techniques, aptitude exercises and inducing behavioural changes which could wean him away from his addiction. Doctors felt that the addict in question was living in a Netflix-generated parallel universe to avoid facing the reality of not having a job. Delhi-based psychiatrist, Samir Parekh, director of mental health and behavioural sciences, Fortis Healthcare, prescribes reserving four hours of screen-free time once a week in which people should venture outdoors, go on a long drive or do anything that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a screen. He also suggests that people should avoid playing games on the mobile an hour before they go to bed. The bottom line is to offset the imbalance that addiction to gadgets has introduced into their routines.

First Published: Oct 08, 2018 20:14 IST