Technology is unavoidable in today’s world. Without it you wouldn’t be here reading this article. The most popular subset of the growing concerns of technology obsession is the widespread gaming addiction in teens and young adults.
Though the debate continues on whether gaming addiction parallels gambling or alcohol addiction, the effects are none the less the same types of effects we see in those more serious addictions.
What Is Gaming Addiction?
What science can tell us is that gaming can trigger pleasure centers in the brain, releasing a dopamine storm. What science isn’t definitive about yet, is whether or not gaming is the cause or the effect of these overactive reward centers in the brain.
Unlike drug or alcohol addiction where there are abused substances taken into the body, Gaming is in the category of Behavioral Addictions. Other comparative behavioral type dependencies could include sexual addictions, extreme sports addictions, gambling or even shopping addictions. Really its anything that allows the participant to experience a natural, body-induced, chemical “high”. This can result in excessive amounts of time, around 20-30 hours and even up to 50 hours a week (that’s as much as a full-time job!) spent in virtual fantasy worlds.
Gaming disorders often affect males significantly more than females. Over 41% of gamers admit to using games to alter their moods and self-perceptions. Of that, 7 % were diagnosed as being “dependent” on gaming.
How Does Gaming Addiction Start?
It’s not unusual to see a younger population enjoying games in their time off. So what is it that causes gaming to become a life-altering obsession?
Before we tackle that question we need to identify two types of gaming styles.
1. Standard Single-Player games...
Standard single-player games are the type where the player has a clear and defined mission or goal. Commonly called a PVC or Player Vs. Computer games, these games center around completing missions or beating a high score.
2. Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games or MMORPG's
The second type of gaming is known as MMORPGs or Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games. In these games, a player can create or assume a character identity in which they develop interactions, relationships, abilities, and powers by completing quests, mini-missions, or outlined tasks of various kinds. These fantasy role-playing games continue to develop even when the gamer is not participating. Called PVP, or Player Vs. Player games, these can be the more addictive of the alternate gaming realities.
What's the big deal?
Regardless of type, games are designed by their creators to become addictive by new offerings of “patches” and upgrades, enlarging the gamer’s fantasy realm with new levels, missions, and conquests.
Not unlike adults, children and teens can and often use gaming as a go-to distraction and stress reliever from difficult circumstances in their real lives. Often a teen that is struggling socially, academically, or experiencing stressful home-life interactions will retreat to a world where he or she can feel accepted by peers with similar goals and interests while feeling like they have control over their lives and environment.
With games set up to offer instant gratification through achievements, attained powers, and admiration from gaming peers in their groups (called guilds or clans) the dopamine and feel-good feelings of accomplishment run amok begging repeat performances to achieve or maintain these virtual honored statuses.
Symptoms of Gaming Addiction
Gaming disorders often will manifest in both emotional, academic, and physical ways, much like any other addiction or disorder.
Emotional Symptoms of Gaming Addiction-
- Restlessness and Irritation when not actively playing a game. Because of hyper-focusing, an otherwise occupied gamer will be distracted by thoughts of gaming or anticipating the next gaming engagement.
- Emotional outbursts of frustration, anger or rage when not allowed to play or from being restricted or having access revoked.
- Lying about the amount of time spent gaming to friends, parents and other authorities like teachers.
Academic Symptoms of Gaming Addiction-
- Decline in grades due to avoiding homework to make more time for gaming.
- A decline in extracurricular activities that take time away from gaming.
- Becoming socially reclusive as peer groups shift from real life friends and acquaintances to online gaming social circles.
Physical Symptoms of Gaming Addiction-
- Lack of sleep or disrupted sleeping patterns.
- Avoiding proper eating or hastened eating in order to get back to gameplay.
Gaming & Addiction
What’s very important to note is that statistically, gaming addiction has a very close relationship with depression and other substance abuse. If you notice any symptoms of depression or suspect substance use please seek help from the professionals at Lifeline For Youth today.
How Do I Know When It's Gone Too Far?
First, we want to tell you that there is always hope. With Lifeline For Youth, our experienced staff can help children and teens establish healthy mechanisms to deal with life’s challenges and reduce and control or completely eliminate gaming. Give us a call today!
When gaming disorders aren’t addressed in a timely manner there can be long-term effects. What started as a lack of sleep or disturbed sleeping patterns can turn into serious sleeping disorders. With such upside-down schedules school attendance and work, performance can suffer to the point of dropping out or losing employment.
By avoiding proper and timely eating the child can experience diet-related health issues that can affect them for years. Missing smaller social engagements can turn into complete “real world” isolation, regardless of their circle of cyber-friendships.
Sometimes seeing a problem and knowing what to do about it can be quite a difference. It would seem that simply removing the gaming access or devices should be an easy fix. However, when obsessions turn to addictions, the playing field is a lot different. Intense emotions and rash actions can make your child act out of character. This is the time to call the trusted professionals that you’ll find at Lifeline For Youth. By equipping your child with self-management tools and increasing communication its possible to see the unsocial become social again, the academically lacking to academically excel. With one call you can turn the tide. Make that call today!