Tag Archives: Times of India



An Online Game Is Turning Into An Obsession That Is Keeping Gujarat’s Psychiatrists Busy

-Parth Shashtri

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Imagine you are on a desolate island — which has a stock of arms and ammunition, medical kits, and power packs — along with 99 others. In a matter of about half an hour, you have to find resources to stay alive and keep inching towards the ever-shrinking ‘safe zone’.

Your aim is to beat other players to it.

The bloody climax sees only one person or team emerging victorious, all for ‘Winner Winner Chicken Dinner’ reward!

The PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds (PUBG) on Google Playstore has recorded over 100 million (10 crore) downloads ever since its launch last year and India is among the top countries in terms of individual and group players. The PUBG fever has also taken hold of Gujarat, with thousands of young people spending hours together for that one shot at glory as top guns.

But the online immersive game — following the release of the battle royale format which amalgamates elements of exploration, team building, survival and fight till the last man/woman standing — has now started affecting players mentally and physically. In a recent case, a 25-year-old man attacked his parents for not allowing him to play PUBG. In another case, a class XII student in Surat started throwing things at his family members when his father switched the Wi-Fi off so that he could prepare for board exams.

What makes the game so addictive? Dr Hansal Bhachech, an Ahmedabad psychiatrist, said that every game design works on the principle of reward system. “The reward stimulates the person to turn to that addiction again and again as it releases dopamine, giving the person a temporary ‘high’,” he said. “Thus, emerging as a winner can give the same kick to a player that an addict finds from liquor, contraband, or tobacco. We find the profiles of the patients —we get one every two days, approximately — similar, they suffer from self-image problems in real life and chase virtual glory.”

But what sets PUBG apart from games of earlier generations is that it has no end, Bhachech said. “Earlier, the player would get the ultimate satisfaction when he/she encountered the ‘Game Over’ message on the screen,” he said. “The new games are based on missions and have no definite end, prompting players to return to the battleground time and again.”

Peer pressure also plays a part. Poonam Devlal, a child psychologist in Vadodara, said that impressionable teens observe their parents, family members, or peers playing mobile games and start exploring the games out of curiosity and then get hooked to them. “They want to be part of the cool crowd for sort of social approval,” she said.

“Over the past couple of years, there has been an exponential rise in the easy availability of digital devices,” said Dr Kamlesh Dave, a psychiatrist at New Civil Hospital, Surat. A Rajkot psychiatrist, Dr Chetan Hansaliya, agreed.

“Teens are now demanding expensive phones with better RAMs to play online games,” he said. “The repercussions are manifold. In a recent case, an engineering student had to take a drop after he lost nearly two months of study because he was obsessed with PUBG. We also see a rise in violent behavior and the growing tendency to lie to parents.” Social isolation is aggravated as more and more hours are spent online, he said.

PUBG problems have prompted authorities to act. The Gujarat Secondary Education Board (GSEB) has already issued an advisory to schools to create awareness about gaming addiction. Prof Navin Sheth, the vicechancellor of Gujarat Technological University, said that the university has started an outreach programme for state schools along with Ahmedabad Police’s cyber cell to counsel teens to seek gaming de-addiction. “We have already reached out to more than 50 schools so far and more schools will soon be covered,” he said.

(With inputs from Ashish Chauhan & Bharat Yagnik, Ahmedabad; Yagnesh Mehta, Surat; Tushar Tere, Vadodara; and Nimesh Khakhariya, Rajkot)

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Posted by on February 24, 2019 in Interviews


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Inputs in Sunday Times – Rise in distraught teens seeking help


Rise in distraught teens seeking help



The debate is still raging on whether the act captured in a video that surfaced on Friday — showing a swimming coach at a city club hitting two girls with a neck cord — showed the ugly underbelly of the grind the sportspersons allegedly go through in search of glory.

However, what shocked many was the stand taken by the parents when they refused to press charges against the coach and backed his methods.

For the city-based psychiatrists, it’s not a new phenomenon. But in absence of a support system, it can take dangerous proportions, they said. The corporal punishment of any kind can leave deep scars on the person’s psyche that can manifest immediately or after a long time.

Dr Hansal Bhachech, a city-based psychiatrist, said that earlier they used to get cases of the children that have to cope with the study pressure but now the cocurricular activities have also taken a new dimension. “In an earlier case, a successful state-level tennis player went for both physical and psychological treatment as he had severely damaged his ankle. The reason was the reported pressure from the parents and coach due to which he had developed performance anxiety and was not able to concentrate,” he said.

In another instance, a skating enthusiast went into a shell after the constant grind of getting at skating rink at 5am daily and undergo rigorous regime with the parents’ consent. She eventually abandoned her love, said Dr Bhachech.

The mistreatment of a child hampers psychological development, said Dr Ajay Chauhan, superintendent of Government Hospital for Mental Health.

“The children undergoing abuse have control issues, seem to be more angry compared to other children, difficulty in showing genuine care or affection and underdeveloped conscience. Pressure to perform should not be associated with the burden of expectations,” he said. Binal Patel, city coordinator for 1098 Childline, said that even when the parents are not willing to press charges, a third person can file a complaint under Section 75 of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 pertaining to Punishment for Cruelty to Child.

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Posted by on September 16, 2018 in Interviews


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Inputs in Times of India – My kid is a midnight sneaky snacker – Late-Night Eating Causes Multiple Disorders

My kid is a midnight sneaky snacker

Late-Night Eating Causes Multiple Disorders

Parth Shashtri


Parents of 16-year old Amit Chavda (name changed) were worried by his sudden weight gain and complete reversal of sleeping habits. Amit used to keep awake at night – often bingewatching films or shows on his tablet to ‘exhaust the data pack for the day’ – and sleep during the daytime. When they consulted a psychiatrist after a recommendation, it was also revealed that the web series spree was often accompanied by equal helping of food.

As nocturnal activities of the teens and youths have increased exponentially thanks to digital devices, a number of city-based experts are flooded with queries to ‘cure’ the lifestyle and eating disorders. Experts said the trend is worrisome as it not only affects a person’s body clock severely, but also causes irreversible damage to the latter’s health in the long run.

Dr Hansal Bhachech, a city-based psychiatrist, said today’s young generation leads a stressful life and it gets reflected in their routine. “In one of my recent cases, a 24-year-old youth was referred to me. The youth had type II diabetes with abnormal blood sugar profile. While taking the history of the case, I got to know that his routine lacked any kind of exercise and he went to sleep very late. After counselling, we suggested him a corrective course to maintain his health,” he said.

He added that a number of factors – ranging from latenight football matches to tendency to work at night – are responsible for the change. “It has been observed that the food they eat when they get hungry post midnight is often unhealthy and the eating is unconscious. We advice such patients to ensure fixed timings for sleeping, keeping away from digital devices and maintain a routine, including exercise,” said Dr Bhachech, adding that most of the cases he has observed are in age group of 15 to 25 years.

Dr Rucha Mehta, a citybased endocrinologist, said in one of her recent cases, a teen had diabetes over 200 after which the parents sought counselling. “Childhood obesity is a phenomenon now and it can take epidemic proportions if right steps are not taken in time,” she said.

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Posted by on July 8, 2018 in Interviews


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Input in Times Of India – Viral rumours spur lynching sickness

TOI 2:7:2018

A woman was lynched in Vadaj on June 27 after a mob labelled her a ‘child-lifter’ and overturned the auto she and two other women were travelling in. It was neither the first nor the last gruesome assault of this nature in Gujarat. While a man with mental problems was beaten up near Waghodia in Vadodara district on Saturday, 14 cases had been recorded earlier in the vicinity of Surat, Rajkot, and Vadodara.

This spate of violence does not represent the first instance of mass hysteria in Gujarat in the recent past. The state has buzzed with rumours of thieves with supernatural powers and braid or hair chopping in 2015 and 2017 respectively.

Why do rumours haunt society periodically and take lives? According to experts, the key lies in the concoction of public perception and fear psychosis. The cases in the recent past have had the pan-India reach and impact. Indeed, ‘child-lifting’ rumours have claimed lives from Assam to Tamil Nadu, thanks to social media platforms such as WhatsApp.

Mahesh Tripathi, assistant professor of psychology with Raksha Shakti University (RSU), said that stopping the deadly spread of rumours requires dispelling myths and determining the roots of rumours. Tripathi was part of a team formed by the state police’s CID (crime) to probe the braid-chopping claims and had documented all the seven incidents that were reported to police.

“Visuals stay with us longer than the written word and videos circulated on different platforms are seen by thousands without fully understanding their implications,” he said. “When something matching the description happens in the viewer’s vicinity, the fear psychosis is projected onto strangers. In such a scenario, it is important to probe the very first incident thoroughly and dispel the myth. It can weaken similar claims.”

Social media plays a major role in controlling an individual’s emotions, said Dr Hansal Bhachech, an Ahmedabad psychiatrist. “A person is under a lot of duress these days. When a person is insecure, the suggestability is amplified and the usual independent thinking is clouded,” he said. “The repressed aggression gets manifested in mob action.”

Ashutosh Parmar, ACP, B Division, said that it is still being probed whether the main attackers in the Vadaj incident were motivated by any video or local rumours. “We are creating awareness about false claims to prevent any untoward incident,” he said. “When the rumours were at their peak in Gandhinagar district in 2015, we kept vigil alongside villagers and assured them of their safety.”


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Posted by on July 2, 2018 in Interviews


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My inputs in today’s Times Of India about Pornography and Adolescence…

Smut in exam: Pappu is mobile porn addict

Bharat Yagnik, Ahmedabad:



Experts Say Many Young Minds Addicted To Porn Via Mobiles

It turns out that the class XII science student from Borsad in Anand district, who wrote explicit pornographic prose in his chemistry exam -leading to Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board (GSHSEB) cancelling his result and barring him from taking the exam -is a mobile porn addict.After failing to appear before the board’s examination reforms committee thrice, the boy finally turned up accompanied by his parents. Board officials said his parents were shocked to see the detailed sexual fantasies their son had written to answer chemistry questions.

His shocked father, who is a farm labourer, said that the boy was hooked to his mobile phone. He said that while he was against buying his son a mobile, the mother had given in to his demands and insisted that he be bought a phone. The boy confessed that he was hooked to watching porn on his mobile.

“It was sad to see that even as poor parents toil hard to pay for their children’s education, students fall prey to vices like porn addiction due to misuse of mobile phones,“ said A J Shah, chairman of GSHSEB. The student had written explicit pornographic material, detailing his sexual fantasies about his sister-inlaw, a film actress and even a cook, in his chemistry answer paper.

The woman teacher who assessed his paper was shocked on rea ding the graphic prose. She flagged the paper with the coordinator of the cen tralized assessment centre, who was also sui tably scandalized and in sisted that action be ta ken. A cheating case was filed against the class XII student and he was bar red from taking the board exam for one year.

Psychiatrist Dr Hansal Bhachech said that porn addiction on mobiles is becoming a major problem for teenage students. “Not only boys even girls are getting addicted to pornography on phones. Parents bring students to us when either their grades slip perceptibly or when they get obsessed with certain activities out of guilt,“ said Dr Bhachech.


Posted by on July 12, 2017 in Interviews


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My inputs in Times of India – Young netizens kill sleep time for `appy’ hours

Mar 19 2017 : The Times of India (Ahmedabad)
Young netizens kill sleep time for `appy’ hours
Soumitra Das
Sleep delayed isn’t sleep denied, but it isn’t a healthy habit either. And a 2016 study conducted by the Service for Healthy Use of Technology (SHUT) clinic at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, whose results were published earlier this year, has come up with findings that one might lose sleep over. The study says that apps like Whatsapp and Facebook on our mobiles are delaying people’s sleep by about 100 minutes daily , which wasn’t the case till recently. We asked some celebs and experts about their browsing habits on mobile, and found out that it’s a reality that can no longer be ignored.CASES ARE ON THE RISE

The scenario has changed drastically in a matter of just about five years. As Hansal Bhachech, a consulting psychiatrist, tells us, “The number of cases where youngsters below 30 come and complain about their sleep patterns has gone up significantly . Our first question to them is about their usage of mobile internet the previous night, which is the root cause of the problem. Till five years ago, only people above 50 came and complained about insomnia. While things like exam stress can cause temporary insomnia in youngsters, their browsing habits during late hours is turning this into a long-lasting problem. While the duration of sleep may remain the same, the irregular sleeping pattern can lead to issues like hypertension and obesity too.“

So how does one cope with this addiction?
Says Bhachech, “We first explain the cause of the problem and then, suggest ways to deal with it. For instance, not replying to comments on social media after 10 pm is a good habit to inculcate. Also, alternatives like reading really help.“


For those whose schedules are hectic, resisting the urge to be online all the time is a tough one. As actress Samvedna Suwalka puts it, “You don’t even realize when browsing through social networking sites almost becomes an addiction. Staring at the screen keeps you awake at night and falling asleep becomes difficult. It had become a habit for me as well but then, I decided to discipline myself. While I used to sleep with the phone next to me earlier, now I try not to use my phone before going to bed. I keep it away from the bed and also try to read something meaningful before going to sleep, instead of staring at the mobile screen.“ Actor Vikee Shah seconds her, “At times, we have night shifts while shooting and you want to share something interesting on the social media to keep people posted. In our generation, nobody goes to sleep by 10 pm and late evening is a good time to catch up with friends online.However, it is important to strike a balance. Being a fitness conscious guy , I go to sleep by about 11.30 pm and sleep for at least eight hours. I don’t use my phone once I hit the bed.“


For celebs, discipline is crucial and they make sure that the addiction of being online doesn’t get to them. Table tennis champ Harmeet Desai tells us, “Sportspersons have a fixed schedule to follow and I don’t get too much time to browse through social media. It’s only during the weekend that I am a bit lenient with these self-imposed restrictions and since I have early morning practice sessions, I can’t afford to check my smartphones late in the night. I go to sleep by 10.30 pm.“

Probably, a digital detox after dinner won’t be such a bad idea. Remember what life away from the smartphone did to a wonder girl named P V Sindhu?

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Posted by on March 19, 2017 in Interviews


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My inputs inTimes Of India –

Feb 25 2017 : The Times of India (Ahmedabad)
Testing time for parents of cellphone-hooked children

Exams Round The Corner, Psychiatrists In Demand

There was a time when disconnection of cable TV by parents would herald the study period for board exams in Gujarat. Now, with children hooked to mobile phones 24×7, many jittery parents are approaching psychiatrists for counsel on weaning their children away from phones! Psychiatrists in the city say that they are seeing a number of harried parents consulting them on how to de-addict their children from mobile phones as social media, web movies, and serials continue to beckon them away from books. With CBSE and GSHSEB class X and XII board exams slated to begin from March 9 and March 15 respectively, parents are dragging their kids for de-addiction crash courses.“A class XII science student was brought to me for a quick-fix for his addiction to the mobile phone which he is compelled to check every 20 minutes,“ said psychiatrist Dr Hansal Bhachech.“He is hooked to the phone and is constantly distracted by posts on social media or a must-watch web-series. He also confesses to using the phone to clear his doubts with his friends and to exchange notes. His parents, however, are completely horrified that he is not able to focus and fear his grades will suffer.“ Bhachech said that he has seen over a dozen such cases in the past month.

“We counsel parents that pressurizing children to completely giSiddhar ve up the mobile phone at the last minute may yield contrary results,“ said Bhachech. “In fact, the best option at the last minute is to fix a specific time one hour in afternoon and evening during the break -to recharge themselves without feeling deprived.“ The mobile addiction is an emerging problem not only for middle and upper-middle class families but also among those belonging to lower socio-economic strata as data wars have spurred mobile phone addiction in kids across social strata.

“We got three cases of parents bringing their child ren addicted to mobile phones over the past ten da ys,“ said the he ad of the depart ment of psychi atry at LG Hospi tal, Dr Bhavesh awala. “The only Lakdawala. “The only advice we give to parents is to ration the use, as taking away mobile phones will only invite rebellion.


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Posted by on February 25, 2017 in Interviews


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