B'luru woman slashes husband in quarrel over mobile; the danger of phone addiction

Cellphone overuse can lead to a range of problems including social, emotional, behavioural and moral ones.
B'luru woman slashes husband in quarrel over mobile; the danger of phone addiction
B'luru woman slashes husband in quarrel over mobile; the danger of phone addiction
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A Bengaluru-based techie has lodged a complaint with the city police seeking protection from his wife who, he alleges, slashed his fingers with a knife for checking her mobile phone. 

According to the techie, when he returned home on May 4, he found that dinner had not been prepared and his wife told him that she had ordered food online. In his complaint he mentioned that his wife was addicted to her mobile phone and this was one of the reasons for repeated conflict between them.

When the incident occurred, the woman was reportedly busy with her phone. The man allegedly abused her for it, snatched her phone and began reading messages on it. A fight ensued, with the man slapping her and she then allegedly grabbing a kitchen knife and slashing his fingers. The woman too has lodged a complaint against her husband. 

Whether the woman was addicted to her cellphone or not is not clear, but the issue of overuse of or even addiction to cellphones is an alarming reality today.

Dr Jayanthini, a Chennai-based psychiatrist who works mainly with women and children, regularly deals with people whose personal lives are being affected adversely by cellphone overuse.

"Cellphone overuse can lead to a range of problems including social, emotional, behavioural and moral ones. It can lead to distraction, sleep deprivation, problem in academics or at work, lack of concentration and can hamper social interaction," she points out. 

Cellphone addiction can seriously damage family and relationships with marital discord one of the most common consequences today, she says. 

"Sometimes it has gone on to the level of divorce, some go into depression, there has been domestic violence and abuse too,” she states.

For example, she narrates the case of Aswathy (name changed), a young married woman she counsels. 

Aswathy's marital life is anything but happy. Her husband, Dr Jayanthini says, is always busy with his cellphone so much so that he not only neglects her but also their children.

"She told me that her husband spends more time with his phone than her. As soon as he is back from work, he sits with his phone. When it is time for dinner, her carries his phone with him to the dining table as well. If they go out for dinner, he asks Aswathy to drive so that he can use his phone. And no one can question him. This often leads to verbal and physical duels. And she is now contemplating divorce," she says.

Aswathy once told Dr Jayanthini, “He doesn't talk to the children or put them to the bed. He will only call me, if he wants to have sex. I feel that a smartphone has taken my place in his life. I see no point in living but I am doing so for the sake of my children.”

Aswathy's husband however refuses to join her in the counselling sessions as he wonders, "why should he see a doctor for a problem she has". 

Dr Kumar Babu, a general psychiatrist in Chennai, describes this phenomenon as "online and off-life". 

While he sees an overuse of cellphones, especially among adolescents, he says it cannot exactly be called an addiction. 

That technology overuse is a very real problem can be seen from the de-addiction centres being set up to help people deal with such issues.

In 2014, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) launched Services for Healthy Use of Technology or the SHUT clinic in Bengaluru. The programme works towards counseling people, of all age groups, to deal with the effects of excessive use of technology.

Dr Manoj Kumar Sharma, associate professor in the Department of Clinical Psychology at NIMHANS and co-ordinator of SHUT, agrees that cellphones overuse is an important concern today. 

He points out that while speaking of addiction, it is important to keep in mind consequences. "Firstly, such people lose out on the concept of time. They don't stop using their phones even after their purpose gets solved. Secondly, in addiction a person loses control — in this case he/she does not have any control over how long they use the phone. Thirdly, there is a compulsion that these people feel in using their phones. And finally, they crave to always be in or get back to the virtual world,” he explains.

Signs that you may be overusing your cellphone

  • If you are using your cellphone hours at a stretch for something which is not work related. (While reading an article on the internet or an SMS is okay, it should not be done instead of socialising or spending time with family, says Dr Jayanthini.)
  • If you are so engrossed in your cellphone that you don't sleep or sleep late, wake up late, don't eat and even hold in your pee/poo.
  • If you do this consistently and persistently inspite of knowing that it will impact your family and your well-being.
  • If friends or acquaintances point out about your habit to your family.
  • If you get irritated or angry and don't accept it when people point it out.
  • If you are performing poorly at work, but don't attribute it to an overuse of mobile; will instead make excuses like having a bigger work load. 
  • If you procrastinate other work so that you can use the phone like play games or check social networking site.

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