HYDERABAD: PUBG game is in the news once more after a 21-year-old from Karnataka allegedly killed his father after the latter refused to give him money to recharge his mobile phone. In another case, Ashwani Jhunjhunwala, the vice-president of a financial branch in Goldman Sachs, tried to fraudulently transfer Rs 38 crore from his company to pay up for the losses he incurred due to his addiction to online poker. Closer home, a 19-year-old boy from Wanaparthy, Keshavardhan, was admitted into a corporate hospital in Hyderabad after he showed symptoms of stroke due to playing PUBG non-stop for several hours.
Last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) defined Gaming Disorder as a pattern of gaming behaviour characterised by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.
When we talked to Dr K Vinod Kumar, senior neuro physician from Sunshine Hospitals, who treated Keshavardhan, he said: “In this case, Keshavardhan had forgotten to tend to the needs of his body in order to play the game. He skipped drinking water and eating, and if this behaviour continues for a few days, it starts to stress the body, especially the brain and the heart.
Keshavardhan showed brain thrombosis (clots) and stroke-like symptoms with weakness in the right side of the body. Due to deficiency of calories, water and vitamins, his blood had become thick, resulting in thrombosis in the brain vessels. However, we treated him in a couple of days, and doing much better now.”The youngster used to play whenever he could find some time. When his family members used to try to stop him from playing at night, he would continue on the sly hiding under the blanket.
Jayant Mahadevan, assistant professor, Centre for Addiction Medicine, Department of Psychiatry in NIMHANS, says, “In any addiction, the core symptom is that the substance or the behaviour (gaming in this case) becomes the most important thing in the person’s life. This phenomenon, where a behaviour becomes a priority in someone’s life at the expense of other important activities, is called Salience. But addiction comes in the background of some other vulnerability. In most cases, when such addictive behaviours present themselves, especially among the youth, there are other underlying mental health issues like depression, ADHD etc.”
After suffering severe health complications, Keshavardhan has stopped playing PUBG, informs Dr K Vinod Kumar. His phone has also been confiscated by his mother. However, one of the core aspects of addiction is that the person might continue playing despite facing adverse consequences. In such cases, a psychiatrist needs to be consulted. “However, behavioural addiction is an emerging field and India is still not fully equipped to deal with it. Most work on Internet and gaming addiction have been tried in China and South Korea. In any case, the root cause of the addiction needs to be treated, and not the addiction alone,” says Jayant.