Addiction is often termed as the “disease born out of isolation.” While the views of the general population have improved towards addiction and what it means, with the emergence of the COVID-19 crisis and the subsequent lockdown, those dealing with various kinds of substance-addiction are going to have an especially hard time as withdrawal sets in.
While we should definitely help and support those going through withdrawal, we should also take a look at how this lockdown has strengthened some of the pre-existing addictions that a lot of us might be experiencing. We are talking about lifestyle-related addictions such as binge-watching, online gaming, porn, and smoking.
The first step towards finding any kind of solution to a problem is accepting the fact that the problem exists and understanding it. With this in mind, let us look at some of these addictions and what they entail-
Pornography has been around for a very long time and has always been a controversial subject. Some consider it to be offensive, others partake in it often and few form a behavioural addiction to it. This addiction is often not identified as a psychiatric condition and hence it can get difficult for some to identify it and seek help for it. Let us look at some points that can help us identify if it has reached the stage of addiction-
- The compulsion to watch porn increases over time
- The amount of time spent watching porn increases progressively
- Feeling very guilty after watching porn
- Watching porn at the expense of other important responsibilities
- Inability to enjoy sex without watching porn
- Unable to stop watching porn even if it disrupts daily life
While it can be hard to exactly pinpoint when the compulsion goes out-of-control and turns into addiction, if the above-mentioned patterns are noticed for an extended period of time, it is safe to say that one has developed an addiction to it.
Addiction to cigarettes or nicotine-dependency is one of the strongest addictions to deal with. It is easy to identify and the more you smoke the stronger the addiction becomes. Nicotine imparts a pleasing sensation to the brain for a while and as soon as it stops, the urge to smoke rises again. Quitting cigarettes have immediate benefits for health and while it may not be easy to quit longstanding nicotine addiction, it is possible to beat it with medical help, and support from friends and family. Some of the signs of nicotine addiction are-
- Inability to stop smoking and failed attempts to quit
- Withdrawal symptoms such as mood swings, tremors in hand and feet, changes in appetite and sleep patterns when trying to quit
- Inability to stop smoking despite developing health problems
- Smoking gets in the way of social activities and bonds
Thankfully, today we have alternatives to cigarettes in the form of nicotine replacement therapies that can help addicts wean themselves off this. Gums, patches, and medications are easily available and one can consult online with a doctor and get on a step-by-step plan to beat this.
The video game industry is the biggest and most successful entertainment industry in the world today which dwarfs other industries such as movies, sports, music, and television. While video games themselves have evolved into an art form combining compelling music, artwork, and cinematography, the “gameplay” aspect of this medium needs examination. A lot of game developers are engaging in unethical design by combining elements of gambling and iterative behaviour. Let us look at some of the signs of gaming addiction-
- Thinking about gaming all-day
- Gaming at the expense of responsibilities
- Increasing the duration of gaming to feel good
- Inability to quit even after exhaustion
- Disruption of work or school due to gaming
- Lying about the time spent on gaming
Games can be turned from artistic experiences into digital casinos. It is thus very important to identify how certain games make us feel and if they are addictive in nature.
“Binge-watching is like a drug”. Yes, who would have thought that the emergence of streaming platforms would give birth to a new form of addiction? The mechanism is easily understood- when we binge-watch, our brain releases a chemical called dopamine which causes a pleasing sensation. It gives a high, similar to cigarettes and other substances. Thus our brains begin to crave it more resulting in more binge-watching. Just like other addictions, the signs of binge-watching become clear and evident-
- Disruption of sleeping patterns
- Reduction of appetite
- Change in dietary habits
- Reduced or no physical exercise and activity
- Avoiding people
While using streaming platforms to watch your favourite content is not a bad thing in itself, taking it too far can be detrimental to physical and mental health.
Addiction requires care and support, not judgement and condemnation. If you know someone who is battling either serious substance addiction or behavioural ones, do not hesitate to reach out to them and help them. The lockdown has dramatically changed our lifestyle and all of us are looking for coping mechanisms.
However, let us ensure that our methods of coping do not harm our health. Let us be better informed and make better decisions about our life. Let us be united in good health. India Khayal Rakhna.
Note: If you have any health concerns for yourself or your family, you can now speak to top doctors online on our platform. You can also take the free COVID-19 self-assessment to know your risk of contracting coronavirus infection. In case you’re experiencing symptoms like sore throat, cough, fever, or breathing difficulty, get your symptoms assessed by top doctors on your phone on the MFine app.