Wednesday 11 October 2017

Question of the Week: Telltale Signs of Autism?

What is Autism? 

 Autism or Autistic Spectrum Disorder as it is formally known, is a neurodevelopmental disorder arising in childhood characterised by abnormal social communication and interaction and restricted, repetitive or stereotyped behaviour, interests. and activities.

What causes Autism? 

 The causes of Autism is unknown and are likely multifactorial in nature. Research suggests that there is a genetic component but the exact genes involved remain unknown. In recent years, childhood immunisations have been blamed for causing Autism but this myth has been largely debunked.

What are the early warning signs of Autism? 

 Babies or toddlers with Autism may manifest early signs such as poor eye contact when fed or smiled at, not waving goodbye or using gestures to communicate, not responding to a familiar voice or when his or her name is called. They may have delays in speech developement. They can also adhere more ridgidly to routines and may show perculiar and fixations to certain activities, often repeating them incessantly.

 How is Autism diagnosed? 

 Autism is diagnosed by specialists like developmental paediatrician, neurologists, psychiatrists or clinical psychologists. Careful history taking from the parents and obeserving the behaviour of the child will help the specialists come to a diagnosis. At times, autism scales can be used to assist in this process.

 What to do if you are worried? 

 If worried, it is best to bring your child to a specialist.

Monday 25 September 2017

Social Media Addiction Q and A Part 2

Are there any trends in the way social media addiction occurs or presents itself?
The underlying behavioral addiction symptoms and profile of patients remains the same but the apps or websites addicted to changes with time and fad. Social media addiction is now more associated to the use of smartphones than the personal computer.

What health problems can social media addiction cause? 
The main harm is the disruption to one's life and routine causing social difficulties. For e.g., a student may stop going to school. If one tends to spend most time on social media and stop tending to his or her food intake, neglect regular exercising and sleep, this can lead to general ill health.

Many people might not even be aware they are addicted to social media. What are the signs that individuals and family members can look out for? 
Loved ones often have the unenviable position of determining if the usage of social media is indeed excessive. I have seen cases where parents overreact to normal usage and at other times being unaware that their children have lapsed into addiction. If loved ones notice that the patient is spending more and more time on social media, is neglecting their studies or work, tends to be sleepy in the morning as they are using social media excessively at night or become irritable or aggressive when pointed out that they are overusing, they can seek help with professionals to determine if the patients have an addiction problem.

What are some tips on overcoming the addiction? 
We cannot avoid the use of social media as it is a great resource and it will be important for parents and school to educate on responsible usage. Prevention is always superior to cure. Putting away ones' devices from time to time and having digital detox is useful. Always remember to designate areas and time of the day when devices like your smart phone should be put away. This includes at the dinner table and at bedtime. Continue to prioritize ones' friends and loved ones and having time with them in the real world than to just communicate via social media. Lastly, have real life hobbies and exercise regularly to have a good balance.

Should internet addiction as a whole be formally recognised as a disorder, why, and what difference it would make to treatment and tackling the addiction? 
Yes as it is the main type of behavioral addiction together with other forms of internet addiction at the moment. This will help bring awareness to afflicted individuals and loved one, allow for specialized services and programmes to be set up and allow for better outcomes for the patients.

Monday 18 September 2017

Social Media Addiction Q and A. Part 1

Are such  social media addiction cases on the rise in comparison to previous years? If so, what is the increase?
The numbers have been quite similar in the past two to three years. It became more of an issue since smart phone usage proliferated.

Do you think this is an issue that is set to grow bigger?
Before it was mainly Facebook, but now there is Instagram, Snapchat etc. Internet and social media addiction have been a problem in the past decade since Facebook. The app used may change but the underlying harmful and addictive use of social media apps remains fundamentally the same.

Which sites are patients addicted to? What type of symptoms do patients with this form of addiction present with?
Most patients are addicted to a number of websites and apps. These may include common social media platforms, photo sharing apps, music / karaoke apps, internet gaming with social elements and online forums. They tend to spend excessive amounts of time on social media. This leads to harm and disruption in their life, such as missing school or not fulfilling their daily responsibilities. They later need to spent more and more time on social media in order to get the same tkick as before. Eventually, social media may become the centre of their life and they are perpetually preoccupied with using it or thinking constantly of going on it all the time. When denied usage, they may feel very uncomfortable or even become agitated.

What is the typical profile of the patients you see? Any university students?
 Many are teens to young adults. Both male and female. Almost always school going. There are university students as well.

Do the patients present with any co-occurring addiction or other medical conditions?
They usually present with co-morbid insomnia, depression and anxiety disorders.

What causes social media addiction?
Causes are unknown. They may be related to genetic predisposition to behavioral addiction. Patients may have derive pleasure and excitement from having likes, followers or positive comments from their posts and this lead to reinforcement of the behavior of excessive usage. In fact, it appears that individuals with little "real life" social networks tend to more easily fall prey to social media addictions. In cases with insomnia, they may find social media a means of dealing with their sleeplessness, having no one to talk to in the wee hours. Many with anxiety disorders and depression resort to using social media as a means to reach the outside world when they are withdrawn at home. The thrills and excitement they derive from social media and internet gaming may be the only stimulation they derive from life leading to excessive usage and addiction.