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.