Mental disorders brought on by internet and technology

Technological advancements have been nothing short of a boon for people of the past few generations, but along with the positives, come the cons. And these aren’t ones that we can take lightly. Researchers have found multiple mental disorders that have been caused by the rise in humans’ use of internet and technology. Here are the most common ones:

It started off as an online joke in 2014 — the American Psychiatric Association(APA) coining the term “selfitis” as a new mental disorder for people who obsessively shoot and share selfies online. Fast forward to 2017, and it turns out, it really IS a recognizable mental disorder. According to a new paper titled An Exploratory Study of ‘Selfitis’ and the Development of the Selfitis Behaviour Scale, published in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, by researchers Janarthanan Balakrishnan of the Thiagarajar School of Management in Madurai and Mark D Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University in Nottingham, UK, came up with a set of factors that drive people to shoot selfies obsessively and graded them on a Selfitis Behavior Scale. Of the participants, 25.5% were chronic, 40.5% were acute and 34% were borderline, with men exhibiting selfitis at a higher rate than women (57.5% to 42.5%, respectively). Younger people in the 16-20-year-old age group were also found to be the most susceptible. 9% of participants shot more than 8 selfies every day, with 25% sharing at least three of those selfies on social media.

Phantom Ringing Syndrome
This is something that has happened to most of us — have you ever reached for the vibrating phone in your pocket only to realize that it was silent the whole time? Yep, that’s right, and the occurrence has name too — the Phantom Ringing Syndrome. Although the term is not a syndrome, it is better characterized as a tactile hallucination since the brain perceives a sensation that is not present. According to Dr Larry Rosen, author of iDisorder, 70% of heavy mobile users have reported experiencing phantom buzzing in their pocket, colloquially known as ringxiety. And all this while, you thought you’re the only one who’s gone loony.
Google Effect
These days, most conversations at social gatherings start with the line — I was googling the other day… that’s how important and integral search engines have become in our lives. So much so that a noun (Google) has become a verb meaning to look up something online. Now what that has unintentionally done is conditioned the human mind to retain less information simply because it knows that all answers are only a few clicks away. Research has shown that limitless access to information has caused our brains to retain less information. While a single individual having easy access to nearly all the important information in the world is definitely a big boon, whether it is worth humans losing their very identity (we created the internet, after all) is a big question mark.
Nomophobia is the irrational fear of being without your mobile phone or being unable to use your phone for some reason, such as low balance, loss of charge or poor/no signal. The term is an abbreviation of ‘no-mobile phobia’ first coined by UK based research organization. A decade-old study found that 53% of mobile users felt anxious when they were unable to use their mobile phones and over half of users never shut their phones off, and subsequently, the numbers have shot up since then. Sure, phone addiction sounds like a first world problem, but it isn’t — the disorder can have very real negative effects on people’s lives, no matter where they live, given how cheap and easily accessible smartphones are these days. If you find yourself always alert for phone notifications or mindlessly reaching out to get your phone at frequent intervals, it’s time for a digital detox.
It’s no secret that the human brain can be manipulated in many ways. If you take a look at the entire smartphone app industry, there are multiple ways in which they do it — red coloured notifications since we’re wired to react to red, pull-down to refresh acting like a roulette table of surprises, etc. Go one step further, and we have cyberchondria — the tendency to believe that you have all the diseases that you read about online. Call it trickery, laziness, misinformation or overreaction, it’s clear that the internet can exacerbate existing feelings of hypochondria and in some cases, cause new anxieties because there’s so much medical information out there, without proper context. Looks like striking the right balance will be the key to a sane future for all of us.


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