What is Video game Addiction?
Computer game addiction or video game addiction are terms used to describe spending excessive amounts of time playing computer/consoles games such that other important areas of life (e.g., school, work, friendships, chores, family outings, etc.) are neglected and impacted negatively. Studies have shown that teenagers and young people are particularly vulnerable to developing computer game addiction.Video game addiction seems to be a growing problem.A CAMH study released in 2016 estimated 13 per cent of Ontario students — or almost 123,000 kids — have experienced symptoms of a "video gaming problem," which was up from nine per cent in 2007. About one in five boys reported having "problematic symptoms" linked to their video gaming.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it will include "gaming disorder" in a June update to its International Classification of Diseases (ICD), defining it as a pattern of behaviour "characterized 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."A diagnosis would recognize "significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months."The WHO has been studying the issue since 2014, while the American Psychiatric Association has flagged "internet gaming disorder" for further study and consideration in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) since 2013, but has not yet moved forward with it. They are two of the main groups the medical community in Canada looks to for guidance on diagnosing and treating patients.
Lisa Pont, a trainer with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in an interview with CBC dated April 4/2018 says "it's also worth considering that in many cases, video game addiction may be "a symptom of underlying issues." "For most people, where there's addiction there's something they are trying to soothe. Whether it's a clinical issue like depression or even other issues like relationship conflict or poor self-esteem, there's almost always underlying issues." It might be worth to seek help or consultation should you experience any of the sings below or as a parents noticing changes in your child's behavior and engagement in excessive gaming and/or technology overuse.
Signs that you or your child may have a problem include:
- Difficulty with sticking to limits you set for yourself on game-playing or losing track of time while game-playing e.g., intending to play for an hour or two and then end up staying up and playing all night.
- Spending excessive amounts of time playing computer games such that other important life tasks are neglected e.g., no longer spending time with friends off line, not meeting deadlines at work/school because you are constantly on the net, not doing regular essential household chores.
- Changes in mood when not playing computer games e.g., feeling irritable or low mood.
- A marked increase in distress or anxiety at the thought of not being able to go play games e.g., if the thought of going for half a day without playing computer games is unbearable
- When other people think it is a problem. If your partner, parents or friends are constantly complaining that you spend too much time playing games.
- If you are experiencing any of the above sings, it may be time to consider getting support to make changes to your internet behaviour.
Why do people become addicted to computer games?
At present there are a number of theories outlining why people may develop a video game addiction including the following:
- Biochemical responses-There is some evidence to suggest that the reward centre in the brain may be activated when we use technology, resulting in ‘feel-good’ chemicals being released into the brain. Studies have shown that a higher level of these chemicals is released when we share personal information with others than when we talk about other topics. This may be one reason why computer games are so popular.
- Managing unpleasant feelings-Computer games provide opportunities to escape from the demands and difficulties of everyday life including the unpleasant feelings that are a normal part of being human e.g., anxiety, loneliness, depression, stress and boredom.
- Using the internet- also allows us to waste time and procrastinate from completing difficult or unpleasant tasks, allowing further avoidance of unpleasant feelings.
- Image Management/Shyness-Computer games present opportunities to establish new relationships through online gaming with other players and increase a person’s confidence in relating to others without the usual added social pressures. It allows an individual to present themselves however they choose and to be in control of their own image.
What treatment is available?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective in treating computer game addiction. As there are a number of underlying causes for computer game addiction, treatment will involve a comprehensive assessment which will enable the therapist to understand the factors that have contributed to the difficulties and to tailor the treatment approach to the specific needs of the individual.
Treatment will most likely include a combination of the following strategies:
- Thought Challenging-This strategy will help you to evaluate unhelpful thoughts or beliefs which may be maintaining the addictive behaviours. Examples of such thoughts include “If I don’t play I’ll feel anxious all day and won’t be able to do anything else”.
- Behavioural Strategies-These include setting achievable behavioural goals in relation to computer game usage and making changes to unhelpful behaviours such as reducing the frequency of playing. Additional strategies that break the pattern of behaviour such as changing the schedule of game playing and using “stoppers” (i.e., activities that enforce limits on game-playing) are also discussed.
- Values-Based Strategies-Often, as game-playing becomes more problematic, other interests and relationships are neglected or fail to develop as would be expected. Therapy will assist you to evaluate how gaming addiction has monopolised your time and what other activities, interests, or relationships have been neglected as a result.
- Therapy will involve setting goals to re-engage in old interests that have been neglected and/or to develop new interests separate from gaming and to assist you to live more in line with your values.
- Managing Difficult Feelings-Therapy will involve teaching you alternative and more adaptive strategies for managing your emotional experiences so that you do not need to turn to gaming to improve your mood or reduce feelings of anxiety or stress.
- See Lisa Pont on YouTube for videos on tech and gaming issues: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGmfWQ8xnfQ
- Video game addiction listed as a mental health problem by WHO:Posted on Global News on June 18/2018
WATCH: The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified compulsive video game playing as a mental health
condition. Amanda Jelowicki wades into the debate over how much gaming is too much.
- Dr. Bruce Ballon: "Mental Health in the Digital World" on YouTube:https://youtu.be/TZ5LuGg7PW4