Video Games: Mental Benefits And Drawbacks
One of the paradoxes of video games is that many of the pros can, in certain contexts, be cons .
For example, Reiss says, âVideogames can provide a sense of accomplishment and success, but they can also be a dysfunctional substitute for meaningful accomplishment and success in necessary âreal-lifeâ activities.â
Video games challenge playersâ imagination, and that can be useful in developing flexible problem-solving abilities. Games also provide comfort, solitude, and a necessary break from the âreal world,â Reiss says.
âBut overuse or obsession may lead to dysfunctional avoidance of real-life responsibilities.â
Gaming Disorder: Why Video Games Can Be Addictive
Even without an officially diagnosed disorder, some people sacrifice their jobs and marriages to spend 60 hours every week playing on the computer. Some children and teenagers become so attached to video games that they threaten their parents when theyre told to put down the controller.
Many people have read about such cases or have had experiences which show that video games have addictive power. While anecdotal evidence is not scientific research, real-world experience and the growing awareness of other behavioral addictions explain why the concept of video game addiction is becoming increasingly accepted. Recently, the World Health Organization added gaming disorder to its official list of diseases.
Gaming disorder is defined as a pattern of gaming behavior 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.
– World Health Organization
Video Games Avoidance And Trauma
Gaming can be a way to escape traumatic experiences. It may feel safer to interact with an imaginary universe than talk to people in your everyday life. The stakes arent as high when youre gaming, and it probably feels safe because youre gaming in your environment. If you enter into a virtual world, you dont have to deal with your trauma. You can escape into this pretend universe and also meet people who are escaping their reality.
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What Happens When You Get Addicted To Video Games
Tae Kyung, a Korean psychiatrist who oversees a government-funded gamer treatment clinic for adolescents, discovered that gamers cant control how long they spend in the game, suggesting a disrupted sense of time while in the virtual world of the game. Not only do video games create a virtual time lap, gamers have also reported experiencing virtual artifacts in the real world. This phenomenon is known as Game Transfer Phenomenon, and it refers to elements of the virtual world exuding into our real world. The idea was developed by Angelica Ortiz de Gortari, a graduate student researching internet addiction who for the sake of research picked up gaming herself, until one day she found herself trying to call up a rifle scope while in the supermarket to see further down the aisle. In her study, gamers reported a wide variety of examples of virtual artifacts penetrating into real life experiences vary from floating health bars above your peers heads to feeling your bodies mimicking moves as if controlled by a joystick.
In a 2015 study of 2,362 gamers, Ortiz de Gortari found that 97% of the gamers reported having experienced game transfer phenomenon. Then in a later study she concluded that gamers experiencing severe symptoms of game transfer phenomena are more likely to have problematic or addictive gaming habits.
Video Game Addiction Is Officially A Mental Illness: Should You Worry
Five more minutes!
This is the sound you hear every time you tell your child to get off the video games for the night. But you dont hear it once. You hear it over and over again.
If it seems your childs love of video games has taken over their life and youre genuinely worried about his/her well-being, it could be headed towards what the World Health Organization has officially classified as a mental health disorder: gaming disorder.
Simply enjoying video games and playing them off and on, or easily getting caught up in video games for hours on end but eventually turning off and returning to other activities may not signify gaming disorder or video game addiction, according to the WHO. Its when the technology starts interfering with personal, family, or social health that it can officially become a problem that leads to other negative consequences.
Signs of video game addiction you can look for as a parent include:
- Impaired control over gaming
- Increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities
- Continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences
For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behavior pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in 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, said the WHO.
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Do Video Games Cause An Addiction
While there isnt enough evidence to conclude that video gaming can lead to behavioral addiction, the data isnt sufficient to completely reject the claim either. To older generations, the universal dependency on screens might be associated with an addiction, but Markey and Ferguson argue that screens and the technology they display are used generally simply because they make our lives better. By extension, it can be argued that we play video games simply because they are pleasurable, and since the dopamine derived from playing them isnt disproportionate to released by other activities that derive us joy, we want to play more and end up spending more time playing.
How To Tell If Gaming Is Unhealthy
If youâre trying to determine if your gaming habits are healthy or unhealthy, Grammar suggests asking yourself three critical questions:
- How do you feel after playing? Do you feel relaxed and rejuvenated, or are you anxious to play more?
- Are you able to stop playing after a reasonable amount of time?
- Is gaming negatively affecting your life? Are you in danger of losing a job or a romantic relationship? Failing out of school?
If you find you cannot change your gaming habits in response to negative consequences that come from it, it might be time to seek professional help.
âIf a person cannot reduce how much they play and it is severely impacting their life, then professional help would definitely be in order,â Grammar says.
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Video Game Addiction Symptoms And Treatment
Video games have captured the imagination of Americans since the 1970s, with the introduction of very simple games. Although the graphic features of these basic programs were primitive compared to todays complex, multifaceted games, many children, teens, and adults quickly became enthralled with this new pastime. It soon became apparent that video games had the potential to consume a large amount of time as the players tried repeatedly to win. Today, video game addiction has been recognized as a process addiction similar to compulsive gambling, in which the rush of winning becomes one of the primary motivations for playing.
In the early days of video games, most games were available only on arcade machines, which were not accessible 24 hours a day. These days, games are one of the most popular features of social network sites, and they can be played almost continuously on handheld game devices, personal computers, or smart phones. Video games have become much more elaborate, with rich alternate worlds, multiple characters, and complicated storylines. Introverted children or teens may find that they can avoid interacting with real peers by engaging primarily with other online players, in the guise of characters with awe-inspiring gifts and powers.
What Causes Video Game Addiction
Studies show that most people who are struggling with the symptoms of video game addiction are playing multiplayer games on the internet. MMPORGs are especially addictive because they offer an endless adventure inside a fantasy world where players can essentially live a different life as a new person. They provide an opportunity to escape reality and leave behind problems of the real world.
Furthermore, MMPORGs and other multiplayer games host large communities of players where many people feel welcome, appreciated, and useful . An MMPORG player can join clans, help others players, make friends, and develop a status. Although the setting is virtual, the relationships are real. For the player, the sense of being part of something and having a role to play can be important and meaningful. This is especially true if the player does not experience social gratification in real life. For many people with a video game addiction, playing the game is not just a hobby. It is their social life and a pillar of their self-esteem. Video games which exist on social media closely coincide with social media addiction, another behavioral disorder which thrives on the feeling of being accepted.
Top 10 Rehab Questions
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Preventing A Gaming Problem
To keep the amount of time spent gaming under control, try these tips for adults and kids alike:
No one knows whether certain kinds of games are more likely to lead to problem gaming. For the time being, make sure that your child is only playing games rated for their age.
Are Video Games And Screens Another Addiction
In our increasingly digitalized world, where most of us, and even our children, own electronic devices with screens, many parents and adults worry about the impact of screen use for themselves and their children.
There is much controversy over the effects of screen use and exposure to violence in video games. This year, the American Academy of Pediatrics rolled back some of the strict guidelines for screen time, citing that not all time children spend in front of digital devices is negative. The AAP sought to strike a balance between the increasing dependence on technology and what is healthy for young, developing minds.
Yet, a reason for concern and thoughtful monitoring of screen use remains. A 2014 study conducted by Zhejiang Normal University in China found that young adults who were addicted to online gaming showed lower volumes of gray and white brain matter than young adults in the control group who were not addicted to online gaming. Lower volumes of gray and white matter in some areas of the brain translates to increased difficulties with decision-making, impulse control and emotion regulation.
In addition, recent studies have found that excessive video game and screen time interferes with sleep, mood and social learning in children and adolescents.
Is screen time damaging?
How can gaming become an addiction?
What can we do?
Topics in this Post
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Going From Healthy To Unhealthy Gaming
Games stimulate the brain’s reward center â this is what makes it so easy to slip from healthy to unhealthy use without even realizing it.
âThe process is usually a gradual decline that can be hard to notice and easy to explain away,â Grammar says.
Examples include âplaying a little bit longer each time, starting to make more and more friends in the online gaming universe, and prioritizing the game over real-life engagements and activities.â
Craig, the 31-year-old gamer in California, says playing video games started as a way to bond with friends.
âIt seems like we were all super into gaming in middle school and even a bit into high school,â he says.
But soon, he found that his friends were more interested than he was in going to parties, playing sports, and doing other activities.
âI tried to get into that stuff, too,â he says. âBut whenever I went out with them, Iâd just think about how I wanted to be home gaming. So eventually, I really only had friends who were also interested in that.â
Video Games Not Entirely Bad
Some studies have shown that those who play sports video games are more likely to play the actual sport, but sports games only account for around 10 per cent of sales. Nearly half of all video games are first-person shooter or action games.
Other studies have shown that a moderate level of game engagement thats under an hour per day was linked to levels of higher life satisfaction, prosocial behaviour, and when problems arose, youth were better able to refrain from exhibiting negative external or unhealthy internalization. The opposite effects were shown when game time exceeded three hours per day.
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Why Does Gaming Become Addictive
The addiction involved with video games isnt the same as with alcohol or drug use, Dr. Bea says, in which the brain receives reinforcement every single time.
In gambling and gaming addictions, the reward occurs on-and-off and its unpredictable, he explains. This keeps players actively seeking the good feeling thats produced in the brain when they reach a new goal or successfully complete an objective.
Video game developers understand a great deal about whats called schedules of reinforcement. Many games, especially massively multiplayer online role-playing games , are designed to make players repeat behaviors in the quest of that gaming high. With virtual societies, money to earn and even spouses to be had, the draw to stay connected can become irresistible.
Increasing Concerns About Video Game Addiction
Still, as the gaming community expands, concerns around video game addiction intensifies. New games are launching faster than ever, and our global networks enable them to go viral quickly. The World Health Organization labels video game addiction as a behavioral disorder in the International Classification of Diseases, although it provides a slightly different definition than the APA. Gaming disorder here is defined by a pattern of gaming behavior thats characterized by impaired control over gaming, assigning increased priority to gaming to the point where it takes precedence over other daily activities, and continuous escalation of playtime despite negative consequences.
Still, the prevalence of clinical video game addiction remains low and below 1%, although studies attribute a slightly higher percentage to problematic gamers. Video game use is comparable to extensive internet use, which we see across the board and mainly with younger populations. Even if extensive/compulsive video game use does not qualify as an addiction, research shows that extended playtime can lead to some serious side effects.
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Antidepressant Drug Addiction Dependence And Withdrawal In Online Addicts
Due to the evident link between video game or Internet addiction and depression, it is not surprising that many addicted gamers take antidepressant medication to help with the symptoms. Though most healthcare professionals consider this type of medication to be safe and effective, it also comes with its own set of risks and side effects. One factor to consider before beginning antidepressant medication is that it may be difficult to stop taking it. It is common to experience withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, irritability, nausea and dizziness. In more serious cases, it is possible to experience depression as a symptom of withdrawal from the medication. This depression can be even more severe than the original depression, leading the patient to believe that the illness has returned.
Is There A Test Or Self
The most effective self-assessment that can be done is to examine the above list of symptoms associated with video game addiction. If you find that you or someone you care about exhibits any of these warnings signs, it may be a good time to cut back on the amount of time spent gaming. If you are unsure whether these symptoms apply to you, we can help. Call our toll-free number at to discuss your possible symptoms or to learn about treatment options.
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Video Games Pose Unique Risks To Addiction
There are also factors that can make games uniquely risky compared to other activities, making it more likely that someone will become addicted to them and play way too much.
One is easy access.
Billieux quoted a patient who likened the rush he gets playing Fortnite,a very popular online multiplayer game, he compared it to the experience of skydiving.
Think about what that means for this person. In the past, he would have had to take several steps, from booking a plane to physical travel, to get the adrenaline of skydiving. Now all he has to do is turn on which device he plays Fortnite on and get the same rush right away.
And Fortnite is on every gaming device, including phones. So someone can play Fortnite literally all the time, certainly much more than they can go skydiving.
Another problem is the possibility of immersion. In games, you dont just follow the stories and actions of certain characters Youre the characters. In roleplaying games like World of Warcraft,you spendhundreds, if not thousands, hours building a character going through a story that makes you feel like a part of it, taking on challenges, and building a reputation for yourself among other gamers. This can be further exacerbated if a game such as World of Warcraft,has an online multiplayerelement, compounding the immersion with socialization with other players..
Why Video Games Are So Addictive
Whether itâs video games or games you play on your phone, theyâre a wonderful â and effective â escape.
That escape is what was so appealing to Ryan, a 41-year-old in Washington State who tells Inverse he knows what it is like to get into an unhealthy relationship with games.
âI wasnât really into games as a kid,â Ryan says. âI got into them a bit in middle school.â
When his older brother died in an alcohol-related accident, Ryanâs parents became both stricter and more removed, he recalls. Gaming provided much-needed relief.
âThey didnât want me going out once I got into high school,â he says. âVideo games were the only thing I could do at home that also took my mind off how terrible everything was.â
Soon, every minute he wasnât in school, he was gaming.
Part of the reason why games offer such escape is to do with the very nature of the gameplay, Grammar explains.
âVideo games are so good at letting people escape because the player takes over a different character and has control over the character’s choices and outcomes,â Grammar says.
âWhen used for an appropriate amount of time, it can be restorative to be in the moment and playing a game,â he says.
But, he adds, âgames are designed to keep people playing for as long as possible in many different ways and hit the reward center of the brain as often as possible.â And thatâs where things can go awry.
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