Hanoi girl hospitalized with depression linked to Facebook addiction

By Ha An, Vi Vu   January 8, 2018 | 11:11 pm PT
Her parents were forced to sedate her when she lost control after they banned her from going online.

An 18-year-old girl is being treated for depression at a hospital in Hanoi due to signs of an addiction to Facebook, a worrying trend that doctors say is becoming more common among young people in Vietnam.

Her parents resorted to sedating the girl after she reacted badly when they banned her from using the internet and refused to cooperate with a visiting psychiatrist.

“She smashed things up and shouted at us,” her father said, sharing the story with local media for the first time on Monday.

“We had to sedate her so we could get her to the hospital,” he said.

The high school girl was admitted to the National Psychiatric Hospital No.1 around a month ago, and doctors said she is responding positively to treatment.

Her father said she was friendly and performing well at school up until four months ago, when she became withdrawn and stopped hanging out with her friends.

She started spending most of her time on her phone, browsing and chatting on Facebook, and refused to leave her room for dinner and often stayed up until 3 in the morning, the father said.

Her parents said they had tried to be patient until they found out she had skipped school to stay at home with her phone.

To Thanh Phuong, deputy director of the hospital, said the girl is suffering from depression due to social media addiction, and will need strong psychological support from her family besides hospital treatment.

Doctors say that more people in Vietnam are suffering from depression linked to social media addiction, and that treatment can take from six months to five years depending on the severity of the condition.

Some patients with depression or schizophrenia at Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi also have signs of Facebook addiction.

One of them is an 11-year-old boy who refused to visit his grandparents in a rural province last summer for fear they did not have internet access. He also skipped his painting and swimming classes in the city to be on the phone, and after the summer he became easily irritable and started fighting with his classmates, his mother said.

He fainted two days after she confiscated his phone and disconnected the internet at home.

Another 14-year-old patient at Bach Mai Hospital has been experiencing seizures and hallucinations since he was banned from using Facebook.

Facebook is the most popular social network in Vietnam with around 50 million accounts, possibly all the internet users in the country. 'How to log in on Facebook' topped Google searches in Vietnam last year.

The Vietnam National University-Hanoi organized a challenge in 2016 asking people to go Facebook-free for 72 hours, but 40 percent of the participants could not make it beyond six hours.

Data also showed that 100 million mobile searches were made on Google during the summer of 2016 – that’s even more than the population. There were more than 400 million search queries for movies, while trailers on YouTube got more than 500 million views, up a staggering 136 percent from the summer of 2015.

Social media and phone addiction have become adverse side effects of the high-tech era, although they have not been classified as medical conditions with specialized treatments.

Doctors say social media addiction can affect important daily tasks such as study, work and relationships.

In the U.S., many parents have reported their children are unable to put down their phones, prompting two Apple shareholders to urge the smartphone maker to address the problem.

Half of U.S. teenagers feel they are addicted to their mobile phones and report feeling pressure to immediately respond to phone messages, according to a 2016 survey of children and their parents by Common Sense Media, Reuters reported.

Phone addiction got a high-profile boost from the former Disney star Selena Gomez, 24, who said she canceled a 2016 world tour to go into therapy for depression and low self-esteem, feelings she linked to her addiction to social media and the mobile photo-sharing app Instagram.

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