NoMophobia is real: NIMHANS launches a helpline to help you with digital detox

As number of patients with technology addiction increases, the SHUT clinic in NIMHANS has started a first-of-its-kind helpline.

ByChetana Belagere

Published Nov 22, 2022 | 8:30 AM Updated Nov 22, 2022 | 8:30 AM

Digital Detox

With addiction to technology on the rise in the country, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in Bengaluru has started a first-of-its-kind helpline for a digital detox.

The helpline is the brainchild of Dr Manoj Kumar Sharma, clinical psychologist and the coordinator of Service for Healthy Use of Technology (SHUT).

Sharma told South First that this kind of behavioural addiction has a new name: NoMophobia.

A no-mobile-phone-phobia has started in people — the fear of being without a mobile device.

Mobile phone/technology addiction definitely needs a digital detox, and many are not aware of how to go about it. Our helpline will help people achieve this,” Sharma explained to South First.

Need for such a helpline?

Digital detox

A helpline for Digital Detox initiated by SHUT clinic in NIMHANS, Bengaluru. This helps in deaddiction of technology use. (Supplied)

The helpline, launched a week ago, currently operates from 9.30 am to 1 pm on Fridays only.

However, the helpline will operate on all days between 9.30 am to 4.30 pm in the coming months.

The helpline received around eight calls on Day 1 of its launch, and this number is expected to increase in the coming weeks.

The helpline is expected to help create awareness about the excessive use of technology and promote digital hygiene and help you strike a balance between online and offline activities.

“With several clients — including children, adults, and elderly — coming into our SHUT clinic with addictions not only related to gaming but also social media, continuous scrolling syndrome, binge-watching on Netflix and other OTT platforms, we thought a helpline to not only identify this but also to make sure they go through a proper de-addiction process was needed,” Dr Sharma explained.

A study published in the journal Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience showed that frequent technology use was linked to heightened attention-deficit symptoms, social isolation, technology addiction, impaired emotional and social intelligence, impaired brain development, disrupted sleep in many cases, and even insomnia.

Also read: NIMHANS study says ‘astrology addiction’ leads to behavioural issues 

Who can call?

SHUT clinic is run primarily by Dr Manoj Sharma, who has over a decade’s experience in dealing with behavioural addiction.

SHUT clinic is run primarily by Dr Manoj Sharma, who has over a decade’s experience in dealing with behavioural addiction/Supplied

Any person who spends long hours on digital media, someone who is unable to control their mind or body due to technology addiction, who has an irresistible urge to continuously browse, use social media or any kind of digital platform to escape from other problems in life, someone who feels only technology can give a good or relaxed feeling — all such people should use the helpline, according to Dr Sharma.

In short, when you think technology has affected your daily routine and you want to see changes in your life.

“For many people, technology has influenced them so much that it has not only affected their personal and social relationships but also led to several physical and mental health problems. Such people can definitely call us and gain confidence and understand their problem in detail,” he explained.

Also read: Virtual Reality can be beneficial to treat various phobias.

What is a digital detox?

Dr Priya G, an independent clinical psychologist from Chennai, explained to South First that due to technology addiction, especially social media and OTT binge-watching, several people now consciously choose to limit or not use of one or more social media and OTT platforms. That is a digital detox.

“Several brands, influencers, common men/women/children opt for a ‘digital detox’. This phenomenon is mostly seen on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit. Several of them go on mini-exiles. This is like a break from overstimulation, to prevent mental health deterioration, and also to know how to choose between the want and need of the technology,” she explained.

It fundamentally rewires their online habits and changes their relationship with digital use, especially on social media.

How do you do a digital detox?

Dr Sharma explained that the consistency of this programme was extremely important. He said people might think it is easy to detox from devices, but it is not easy and needs determination and consistency to keep this going in everyday behaviour.

While completely stopping the use of technology may not be feasible for various reasons, Dr Sharma and Dr Priya explained that “cutting down the time of usage seems like a more realistic approach”.

To do this, the doctors said, there is a need for a proper plan to decide what needs to change.

The doctors at SHUT could help in pointing out the exact problem and also help the client get a clear picture of their tech use and review the time spent on their phones.

This could then help in dividing up the time spent on different applications and deciding in which areas a limit needs to be implemented.

Some tips

Digital detox

As part of a digital detox programme, doctors say people should create “No Phone” areas. (Creative Commons)

  1. Schedule time away from screens through the day.
  2. Keep an alarm on your phone to remind you to go for a walk or get away from the desk for 30 minutes at least during your work schedule.
  3. Delete some of the problematic apps from your phone, either temporarily or even for good.
  4. After a detailed note on which app — for instance, Instagram — is getting more addictive, it can be deleted on a temporary basis to re-evaluate the need for being on it.
  5. Downgrade the phone by replacing the smartphone with a simple cell phone. (This can be done for severe addiction cases and for children as well).
  6. Turn off the phone every day at a specific time.
  7. Enable “Do not disturb”; silence all alerts, notifications, calls, etc, during dinner, and a few hours after that.
  8. Adjust phone settings to limit certain apps.
  9. Create no-phone areas. Ban phones from the bedroom, dinner table, etc.
  10. Uniform rules for everyone at home are a MUST.
  11. Reach out to a mental health professional if it is becoming difficult to detox.

DIGITAL DETOX HELPLINE: 9480829675

Operates from 9.30 am-1 pm (Fridays only)