India Just Got Its First Diagnosis of Netflix Addiction. But Is It a Real Condition?
Every day, we discover new types of addiction, says Dr Fabian Almeida, Consultant Psychiatrist at Fortis Hospital.
The latest clinical addiction: Netflix. Last week, as reported by The Hindu, the Service for Healthy Use of Technology (SHUT) clinic at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans) in Bengaluru received its first case: A 26-year-old unemployed man turned to Netflix for more than six months to escape reality. He was spending more than seven hours a day binge-watching shows on Netflix, said Manoj Kumar Sharma, professor of clinical psychology at Nimhans and head of SHUT.
“Whenever his family pressurised him to earn a living, or when he saw his friends doing well, he would watch the shows on offer continuously. It was a method of escapism. He could forget about his problems, and he derived immense pleasure from it,” said Dr. Sharma to The Hindu.
On realizing that it was leading to eye strain, fatigue and disturbed sleep patterns because of lack of self-control, he sought help, and his doctors have now prescribed therapy, relaxation exercises for him while also guiding him in his career.
“Netflix addiction is a manifestation of digital media addiction,” says Dr Kedar Tilwe, Psychiatrist and Geriatric Psychiatrist at Hiranandani Hospital. “Like any digital media, Netflix is rewarding because there is instant gratification, and it virtually replaces the need for social connections,” he says. He adds, “For some, it’s also the best way to get away from personal problems like unemployment and failed relationships.”
In order to identify it, Dr Almeida says, people around need to observe whether watching streaming television is a priority over other things important such as work, personal hygiene and other chores.
As a concerned family member or friend, the best thing to do if you see a loved one showing these symptoms is to point it out, but diplomatically, because it may evoke irritability or anger, says Dr Tilwe.
For those who fear their streaming TV watching is bordering on unhealthy, it’s best to create a routine where you only watch at certain times, or on certain screens, or with certain company. Boundaries are key. Another option is to stop watching completely, adds Dr Tilwe. “If it is getting difficult to overcome addiction by yourself or with help from family members, seek help from a mental health expert,” Dr Tilwe says.
Dr Almeida adds, Netflix addiction might just be a tip of the iceberg. “It’s very important to identify it because it might be pointing out to a larger problem–that the person is being unable to cope at work, losing grip on life and relationships and not being able to take care of their health.”