Do you know somebody with a computer game addiction?
It could be your husband, your teenager, your child or yourself.
The “computer game addiction” might be to games played on their mobile phone, XBox, PlayStation, iPad, Nintendo, computer … there are so many different options these days. Computer games are everywhere, and it seems everybody is playing them!
But when does it become an addiction?
Computer games have rapidly become an incredibly popular form of entertainment (Prot, Anderson, Gentile, Brown, & Swing). However, they can consume enormous amounts of time and become disruptive to daily life – and online games, particularly those for multiple players, are more likely to cause addiction.
Although computer game addiction is not currently recognised as a diagnosable disorder, it is definitely a growing problem. Recent studies found that 6 to 15 percent of all gamers show signs of addiction (Psychguides.com).
Signs of Computer Game Addiction
According to Cornell, someone addicted to computer games has difficulty in engaging in any other activities, as the urge to play increases to a point where they feels “compelled” to play, and they grow increasingly powerless to resist.
In many cases this addiction also begins to impact on the individual’s physical and mental health and personal hygiene. A computer game addict can become irritable, anxious and miserable when he or she is unable to play their video games, and may exhibit the following symptoms:
- Drastic weight gain or weight loss;
- Issues with sleep patterns as video game addicts have huge sleep disruptions, even sleep deprivation;
- Drastic mood changes;
- Big changes in their social lives, avoidance of family and friends;
- Rather play games than turn up for meals;
- Poor work and academic performance;
- Aggressive behaviour.
Other problems arising from computer game addiction include fatigue, pain and weakness. Constant playing increases the risk of physical injuries to the hands, arms, and neck of the gamer, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, or bursitis – also known as “video gamers thumb” and “nintendanitus”.
Why do People Get Addicted?
The way computer games work, is that success increases the levels of dopamine in the reward centre of the brain, which is a pleasurable sensation. Other activities which lead to the increased release of dopamine include eating, using drugs, and watching pornography; it seems that dopamine may be a factor that contributes to addiction, and also makes it difficult to stop the addictive behaviour.
Treatment for computer game addiction is similar to that for other behaviour addictions, and usually consists of any (or a combination) of the following:
- Individual counselling: Counselling can help the computer game addict to address the various issues, and also help them to reduce their compulsions to play (Cornell).
- Behaviour modification techniques: These can help the computer game addict to recognise their personal triggers, and to identify and implement healthier alternatives (Cornell).
- Family Therapy: When the computer game addict is a teenager or a child, family therapy is highly advisable. It allows the counsellor to examine the family structure and dynamics, and treatment plans are designed to include the whole family, and not just the one addicted to computer games (Techaddiction).
Whether is recognised as a “disorder” or not, computer game addiction is a real problem for people of all ages, so it is certainly worth becoming more aware of the dangers and how we can help addicts to live a healthier and more fulfilling life.
Author: Corey Human, B Th, M Counselling. Corey Human is a Christian counsellor with nearly 20 years’ experience working with teenage boys and young men at risk or struggling with self esteem, computer game addiction and other problems. He works with adolescents, adults, couples, parents and families in both English and Afrikaans.
- Cornell, Rai. Project Know, Understanding Addiction: How video Game Addiction Treatment centres can help Compulsive Gamers. http://www.projectknow.com/research/video-game-addiction/
- Prot, S., Anderson, C. A., Gentile, D. A., Brown, S., & Swing, E. L. (n.d.). The positive and negative effects of video game play. Retrieved from https://public.psych.iastate.edu/caa/abstracts/2010-2014/14PAGBS.pdf.
- Techaddiction. (n.d.). TECHADDICTION: Computer, Internet, & Video Game Addiction Treatment. Retrieved from http://www.techaddiction.ca/computer-game-addiction-treatment.html