Addicts of the virtual world could have behavioural problems

New Delhi, April 18 (IANS) Is your child hooked on to social networking sites or online gaming sites and exhibiting worrying behavioural changes? Maybe it's time you intervened and consulted a doctor.

New Delhi, April 18 (IANS) Is your child hooked on to social networking sites or online gaming sites and exhibiting worrying behavioural changes? Maybe it's time you intervened and consulted a doctor.

Vidushi Gupta, 16, used to spend hours on Facebook religiously following her friends and connecting to new people. In the beginning it was fun but slowly it started taking a toll on her health and her parents witnessed drastic changes in her behaviour.

'She completely cut down on socialising and used to remain in her room. This was the time when we approached a doctor, who told us that her addiction to social networking sites was behind the change in her behavioural pattern,' said the teen's mother.

Doctors in the capital have been getting a number of such cases where addiction to social networking and gaming sites is affecting the health of people.

'Facebook and other social networking sites have become increasingly popular among people, and the virtual gaming websites are also getting more attention from users. Excessive involvement in these and other activities draws away the person from regular, everyday social interactions, which can be detrimental to their health and well-being,' said Samir Parikh, consultant psychiatrist with Max Healthcare.

According to doctors, with the advancement in science and technology, youngsters are introduced to a new vista of the magical virtual world.

Youth these days prefer to sit alone in their room and get engrossed in playing internet games. The compulsion to win constantly stimulates their mind and, conversely, affects their social relationship.

'The dazzling splendour of the virtual world makes the youth succumb easily. Websites like,, Farmville, where they are introduced into a panorama of the animated world affects their mental health to a great extent,' Parikh told IANS.

'They tend to cut off from the real world and get engrossed into the virtual gaming websites. Eventually they tend to lose interest in their daily normal activities, start losing interest in curricular and co-curricular activities and studies appear secondary to them, and winning these games becomes of primary importance,' he said.

Apart from affecting their social behavior, the tendency to remain in isolation could also adversely affect the way genes work as well as the immune responses to the body, which in turn can cause diseases. Other than social problems, such net addicts suffer from frequent headaches, eyes strain, and burning sensation in the eyes.

Parikh says that it is important for people to strike a balance between 'virtual reality' and people in their real lives.

Stressing on the importance of social interaction, Puneet Dwivedi, psychiatrist with Max hospital, said: 'Having regular everyday social interactions is an integral part of coping with stress and also helps people engage in problem solving and in expressing themselves regarding things that transpire in their lives'.

'Lack of involvement in physical activities is also becoming a leading cause of physical health related problems, and it has been seen that engaging in virtual gaming is one of the important causes for lack of physical activity,' Dwivedi said.

Doctors also feel that many people seek solace in the virtual world as a means of escape from the pressure they live under.

'The modern-day man is full of wants and demands. He is never satisfied with what he has. The moment one want is satisfied, another want crops up, leading to a constant surge in the human mind, eventually leading to dissatisfaction,' said Parikh.

'In order to overcome their constant anxiety, stress and dissatisfaction, they seek the help of the virtual world, take pleasure in existing in the unrealistic world and avoid their stress.

'One of the main causes in the increase in people using these websites is to keep away the stress of the existing world and enjoy gratification in the non-existent world. They are hence used as an escape from the social, professional and academic problems of life,' he added.

(Richa Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])

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