Published on February 8, 2021

Ahmedabad: Sonali (name changed), 15, was brought to a city-based psychiatrist as she could not concentrate on her online classes. The problem was not simple, of course. After counselling, the experts determined that it was ‘withdrawal symptom.’ A smartphone given to her for online classes was taken back by her parents as she was spending hours on it, browsing social media sites and video platforms.While the Covid-19 pandemic affected a large section of the population physically and mentally, the teens were also hit hard, said experts.
Dr Ajay Chauhan, medical superintendent of Government Hospital for Mental Health, said that the rise they have noted in cases is about 20% compared to 2019.

“It could well be the tip of the iceberg, as parents generally bring their wards to us only when the cases get extreme,” he said. “The majority of the cases were related to screen addiction, spending excessive time online, extreme mood swings, anger without any apparent trigger, and eating disorders.”

Dr Jalnidhi Nanavati, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, said that children and teens missed the interaction with their peers the most. “As many spent such a prolonged time with their parents — who were also holed up at home — for the first time, interpersonal issues cropped up,” she said. “Those who witnessed death or illness of their loved ones reported a rise in obsessive compulsive disorders (OCDs).”

The online mode of education affected the attention span of children, said Dr Minakshi Parikh, head of psychiatry department at BJ Medical College. “Many just logged into class, without actually attending it,” Dr Parikh said. “The impact of prolonged screen time has been well-documented even before the pandemic, but it has been more pronounced over the past few months.”

While the experts are hopeful of a drop in cases with the opening of schools and colleges in a phased manner, they suggested streamlining of the daily routine as the first step towards maintaining psychological well-being.

Several schools made wearing uniform compulsory for online classes due to this reason, they pointed out. The stay at home blurred the boundaries between personal and professional space, they added.

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