Many people are setting up profiles, uploading photos and adding friends on social networking sites. For some, it is a means to keep in touch and share events with friends. But there are those who are addicted to such sites, especially Facebook, writes CHANDRA DEVI RENGANAYAR
NOT taking their bath for days, forgetting to eat and not getting enough sleep are some of the signs of being addicted to Facebook.
It has become so widespread that psychologists in the United States have labelled it as a new mental health disorder known ominously as Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD).
The number of Malaysian youths exhibiting similar symptoms is on the increase, says Professor Dr Mohamad Hussain Habil, director of Universiti Malaya Centre of Addictive Sciences (UMCAS).
"It is similar to Internet addiction. It is a type of behavioural addiction similar to pathological gambling, sexual and shopping addiction. It is a brain disorder as a result of neurochemical dysfunction where normal behaviour becomes abnormal."
Besides teenagers and young adults, he says Internet addiction is also common among working adults. Although the problem is not as serious as it is in China where the government has taken measures to prevent Internet addiction, Dr Hussain says Malaysia will see the effect soon.
He says the centre has seen an increase in the number of such "patients" over the years.
Dr Hussain says parents have brought their teenage children to the centre thinking that they were under the influence of drugs.
"When they noticed their teenagers performing poorly in school and not interacting as usual, the parents assumed their children were addicted to drugs. The fact was these children were addicted to the Internet.
"These teens were so obsessed with their virtual activities that they were willing to forego their meals, sleep, responsibilities and leisure activities. They felt life was not complete without online connections.
"There was a constant craving and they did not care when they went online. Some even had sleep disorders because they stayed up late at night to go online to avoid their parents."
Like any other addiction, he says, being in denial of their addiction is a common characteristic of Internet addicts.
"Although they know there is a problem, addicts will not acknowledge it and will look for justification to continue their habit."
He says early identification is important to ensure Internet users do not become addicted.
"We cannot eliminate such technologies altogether. What we can do is encourage the usage in a healthy way.
"Parental supervision is important. There must be monitoring and regulations about computer use. If advice and parental punishment does not work, it is best for parents to refer their children for counselling.
"Employers can take measures to detect and identify employees who spend many hours on social networking sites.
"If they continue with irresponsible surfing despite many warnings, it will be advisable to ask these employees to seek treatment."
Read more: Do you have Facebook Addiction Disorder? http://www.nst.com.my/nst/articles/02cdsns2a/Article/#ixzz0uxdjGZIm