Cyber psychopathologyGrowing internet penetration comes with its own share of problems
The addictive potential of the World Wide Web was being tested by psychologists as far back as 1997. Even then, troubles at work, social isolation and the inability to reduce the use of the internet made it plain why the web could be a source of behavioural addiction. Now, the refusal of the so-called ‘bible of psychiatry’, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, to recognise the disorder of Internet Addiction (IA) is proving increasingly contentious. This is a particularly prickly issue given that research indicates the internet could inspire the same patterns of excessive usage, withdrawal, tolerance and negative repercussions as more traditional substance use. Conceptually considered a compulsive-impulsive spectrum disorder with great psychosocial impact, IA consists of three subtypes: sexual preoccupation, gaming and email or text messaging.
With the increasing prevalence of information technology in Nepal, IA is proving to have inadvertent and endemic side effects. At the end of 2016, the Nepal Telecommunications Authority registered a 54 percent internet penetration rate in the country. This development is a far cry from the 1995 figures documenting less than 50 internet users. Such growth in the use of internet has obviously had many positive impacts, but has also led to substantial and escalating problems of IA.
A recent research paper published in Biomed Central Psychiatry, a peer reviewed journal, showed that IA and insomnia were prevalent in one-third of the 937 Nepali students studied by the research team. With the use of globally recognised tools to test sleep quality, IA and levels of depression, 35.4 percent of the respondents were recognised as internet addicts, 35.4 percent as insomniacs and 21.2 percent as depressed. The statistically significant correlations found between these three variables cannot be ignored. Such comorbidity affects academic performance, and leads to loss of real life social connections and increased susceptibility to other psychological problems.
Global users are realising the dangers of IA and increasingly use apps to block webpages or disable a computer’s connectivity, but the relatively recent upsurge of internet users in Nepal coupled with the developing state of the nation could prove problematic in impressing upon Nepalis the real threat of this addiction. While the potential to harness the internet for the greater good is undeniable, so too are the problems it presents if abused.