Video Game Addiction
Video games have rapidly evolved over the past few decades. What started as simple 2-bit pixel arcade games quickly turned into virtual reality graphic wonders. These days, adults and children alike have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to video games and consoles. While these digital games can be a fun, harmless way to spend one’s time, it can quickly devolve into a video game addiction if one is not careful.
Video game addiction (gaming addiction) is the uncontrolled or compulsive engagement in video games in a way that could create problems in a person’s life. The nature of these games has led to increasing concerns for parents, as they often target children and teens. This includes console, arcade, and computer games, as well as mobile applications. These days, children and teens have become so tech-savvy that they can get their hands on pretty much any game online. Not only that, these games can also be accessed through many social media sites like Facebook.
While these games may sound harmless, being unable to control one’s play time can cause an increase in aggression and other harmful effects for young children and adults alike. Of course, these effects may vary from individual to individual. Video game addiction may involve many factors than simply the amount of time spent playing these games. So if you feel that you are addicted to video games or you suspect that someone you know is addicted to it, this article can help you understand what this is all about.
Causes of Gaming Addiction
Not many people are aware of this, but video games are actually designed to be addictive. Developers study behavioral psychology to learn how they can weave these principles into the game they are creating to keep you hooked. Many games these days offer fully immersive experiences, which can cause people to get even more deeply sucked into the world of the game. The dopamine released in the brain causes you to feel happy and excited while playing. This release of “happy chemicals” every time you repeat the action of playing the game trains your brain to become dependent. You will begin craving the action of playing video games more and more as your brain seeks this release of chemicals.
Playing video games can actually change the structure of your brain overtime to where you consistently seek instant gratification. Because of the steady flow of dopamine being released in your brain, it’s easy to lose track of time while playing. They let you escape and see the progress you are making as you reach each level or complete a quest. In some games, players are allowed to socialize with others and create their own world where they feel in control and safe.
Game makers are also pretty manipulative when it comes to their game designs. Some feature in-app purchases, loot boxes and microtransactions that cause players to become even more hooked on playing. In some states, this is considered illegal because it is actually a form of gambling. That is how these games are able to make billions of dollars off of people every year. The more hooked you become, the more money they make.
Warning Signs of Video Game Addiction
According to the American Psychiatric Association, there are nine warning signs to watch out for to know if the individual is addicted to video games. Here’s what you need to look out for:
- The person is preoccupied with video games – they are always thinking of playing, anticipating the next moves, levels etc. Basically, their daily life is consumed by video games.
- They become sad, bored, anxious, and/or irritated when the game is taken away. They may even become aggressive or lash out.
- They spend more time playing games than being productive. They are caught in a loop of always having difficult levels to pass, goals to complete, or they fear missing out on the game. Developing tolerance to how long they are playing video games is obvious at this point.
- They cannot control themselves and will find ways to play the game.
- They have lost interest in their previous hobbies or activities. They view video games as their main or only source of entertainment.
- They also continue playing video games even though they are already exhibiting psychological problems.
- They begin to lie about how much time they are spending playing video games. They might have denied this addiction to their family, therapist and even friends.
- They play video games as a means to escape or cope with negative moods or experiences. They might have feelings of anxiety, guilt and helplessness, and they view playing video games as the only way to escape it.
- Has lost friends or ruined relationships because of too much time spent playing video games. They might have also lost a job opportunity, failed their academics or performed poorly at work.
If the person in question has shown five or more signs of these symptoms, it is recommended that they seek immediate help from professionals.
Harmful Effects of Video Games
Because video games can be addicting and can form an addiction, there are also harmful effects related to it.
- You are at risk for light-induced seizures as well as musculoskeletal disorders especially on the upper parts of your body. You may also have an increased metabolic rate.
- There is also an increased aggressive behaviors and thoughts specifically seen among children below 10 years old. Teenagers are also at risk for this behaviors.
- Isolation and reduced social interactions puts the you at risk for mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
- It was also found out that people who are addicted to video games have poor cognitive function, impulse controls as well as symptoms of ADHD compared to those who do not have such addiction.
Video Game Addiction and Substance Abuse
Video game addiction is often linked to mental health issues like depression and lack of concern for overall health. This is also one of the reasons why this is also linked to substance abuse. For many gamers who are suffering from compulsive disorders, the need to stay awake and play is a must. This is where the use of drugs begins, and dual diagnosis is a problem that needs proper treatment. So if you or someone you know is currently suffering from both disorders, seeking professional help must be done immediately.
Video Game Addiction Treatment
Playing video games isn’t inherently bad, and if you have a healthy relationship with games, they can be a challenging and rewarding pastime. However, the positives can be quickly overshadowed by the negatives in terms of psychological development, lifestyle and cultural attitudes for both adults and children. It can also mess with the emotional and physical health of a person if they have been addicted to it for a long time. Video games can be destructive and the growing number of compulsive gaming addictions is concerning. This is why treatment for video game addiction is needed in order to correct the problem. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the best way to guide patients away from the obsessive thought patterns and habits brought about by this addiction.
Group therapy is also a good way to help individuals who suffer from video game addiction. Here they are able to connect with people who suffer from the same problem and at the same time a good source of moral support and motivation.
People who have been diagnosed with dual diagnoses like depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety as well as other mental health issues are prescribed with anti-anxiety or antidepressant drugs to treat the underlying conditions. If there is substance abuse involved, medical detox is needed followed by specialized treatment for the said abuse.
Depending on the severity of the case, individuals can choose to sign up for an inpatient or outpatient treatment. Both can help depending on the severity of the addiction and other diagnosis.