Escape to a place in the virtual world: an attractive place where problems fade into the background. Many game addicts experience their gaming that way. But when does someone have a video game addiction?
How does a video game addiction happen?
A common cause of addictions, and therefore of gaming addiction, is wanting to escape from personal problems. These can be concrete problems at home or at work, but they can also have to do with low self-esteem or depression. The gamer has the opportunity to escape to a virtual world where real problems do not have to be thought about. But also simply finding relaxation and pastime in games can get out of hand and lead to addiction. During gaming, the brain produces three substances: adrenaline, endorphins and dopamine. These substances have an addictive and attractive effect (just like taking drugs). Excessive gaming can therefore lead to a gaming addiction. When the gamer stops playing, the concentration of these substances drops back to normal and the gamer suffers from withdrawal symptoms. As a result, the gamer wants to start playing again in order to maintain the “good” feeling.
Who are more at risk of developing a gaming addiction?
There are a couple of risk groups who are more likely to develop a gaming addiction. These are two: boys with concentration problems (e.g. ADHD), and boys who find it difficult to build good friendships.
Similarly, adolescents with autistic disorders may be susceptible to developing a gaming addiction. The gaming environment gives them a sense of overview and security, which is often lacking in the ordinary world. Creating and maintaining virtual friendships is a lot less complicated and frightening for them than establishing personal contacts in the real world.
When is someone addicted to video games?
Game addiction is not just about the number of hours games are played. It is better to look at how the gamer deals with agreements. If the gamer agrees with him or herself or someone else to play games for a certain number of hours, and he or she just can’t seem to keep to it, this could be an indication of an addiction. Addicted gamers also spend much of the day gaming. This can be both in their minds and in real life. Performance in school deteriorates and social contacts diminish. Often, gaming addicts have very little social network left and most “friends” are online. Activities other than gaming are postponed or not performed at all. Game addicts sleep little and often have a severely disturbed day and night rhythm. They also take little or no care of themselves and freak out when something or someone disturbs the game.
There are nine characteristics of a video game addict. When the gamer meets five of these nine items, there is a disorder.
- engages primarily in gaming; it has become an obsession;
- suffers from withdrawal symptoms when not gaming;
- wants to spend more and more time gaming (a build-up of time can be seen);
- has previously tried to stop gaming, but was unsuccessful;
- has lost interest in other activities, and has virtually no hobbies;
- continues gaming while knowing the impact it has on certain individuals;
- lies about his gaming behavior;
- uses games to relieve a particular feeling of anxiety or guilt; he tries to escape into the game;
- has lost opportunities or had relationships fail because of his gaming behavior.
What are the consequences of a video game addiction?
Gaming addiction, like many other addictions, can be very disruptive to the addict themselves and those around them. Gaming takes precedence over everything else for the addict. School, work, family and friends are secondary to gaming. A game addiction can lead to physical and psychological symptoms such as (chronic) headaches, loneliness, depression, insomnia, aggression, rebellion, problems maintaining personal relationships and a drug addiction. In order to maintain gaming, many game addicts consume stimulants. This can range from coffee and energy drinks to heavier substances such as amphetamine or cocaine. Some addicts have a drug addiction in addition to their gaming addiction.
Game addicts often end up in a vicious cycle. When they stop they encounter problems again in real life. This makes it very tempting to escape back into the game, so as not to have to face reality. A gaming addiction is also compared to a gambling addiction. During both addictions, the addict thinks he will win the next time. With a game addict this can become an obsessive thought, leading to a vicious circle.
How is gaming addiction treated?
A gaming addiction can be treated in different ways. There are short and long term treatment programs with the same ultimate goal: to be able to stop gaming or to deal with gaming sensibly.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy. In this therapy, a person explores with the therapist what their thinking habits are. The therapist then teaches a person to redirect the thoughts that are not helpful and make him or her feel bad into “helpful” thoughts. This form of therapy is widely used for gaming addictions. It can be done through individual conversations, or in a treatment group.
Family therapy is a form of help in which the environment of the client plays an important role. Together, we look at how the problem can best be addressed.
In addition, many clients choose to temporarily leave their familiar surroundings and tackle their addiction in a clinic. They benefit from this because at home it is often too difficult to stop; temptation is constantly lurking. Hacienda Paradiso helps to develop a healthy relationship with technology and devise ways to ensure long term recovery and remission from video game addiction.