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Digital Addiction Called Psychiatric Disorder in Singapore

Psychiatrists have urged that internet and digital device addiction be classified as a mental health issue.

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By Victoria Kim

06/19/14

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Addiction to the internet and digital devices in Singapore is becoming a serious problem, and psychiatrists are urging medical authorities to recognize it as a disorder. “Internet addiction as a disorder is not even listed in our latest psychiatric manual,” said Tan Hwee Sim, a consultant psychiatrist at the Resilienz Mind clinic in Singapore. “It’s only listed in the appendix as a disorder that requires further study.”

Adrian Wang, a psychiatrist at Gleneagles Medical Centre, is among the mental health professionals who believe digital addiction should be classified as a psychiatric disorder. “Patients come for stress anxiety-related problems, but their coping mechanism is to go online, go on to social media,” Wang said.

Inability to control craving, anxiety when separated from a smartphone, loss of productivity in studies or at work, and the need to constantly check one’s phone are among the symptoms of digital addiction, according to Trisha Lin, an assistant professor in communications at Nanyang Technological University.

Last year, a group of undergraduate students from Nanyang Technological University launched a “Put it on Friend Mode” campaign encouraging people to place their smartphones face down when spending time with loved ones. A “cyber wellness” education program for preschool children and their parents is set to launch in the second half of 2014.

Even physical symptoms of digital addiction have been identified in the 87% of Singapore’s population that own smartphones, such as “text neck” or “iNeck” pain from looking at mobile devices constantly, according to Tan Kian Hian, a consultant at the anesthesiology department of Singapore General Hospital.

Digital addiction is not new to the Asia-Pacific region. A 2013 government survey in South Korea estimated that nearly 20% of teenagers were addicted to smartphones. In China, there are an estimated 300 addiction centers and over 24 million young Chinese people addicted to the internet.

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