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 What is video game addiction?

Video game addiction is an excessive or compulsive use of computer or video games, which interferes with a person’s everyday life. Online gaming addiction has a negative image and is becoming a public concern. Many people categorize addiction with either alcohol or drugs, but addiction can also play a part in a person’s behavior. When someone is addicted, they need more of a substance or behavior to keep them satisfied, without them they may become miserable or irritable. Video game addiction can present itself as compulsive game-playing, social isolation, mood swings, diminished imagination, and hyper-focus on in-game achievements to the exclusion of other events in their life.

Video games have become as mainstream as alcohol and whether they are – or will become – as addictive is hotly debated by experts and as their popularity continues to soar, that debate carries a growing sense of urgency.

How the video game industry works

Games which retail for around $60, are made with one goal in mind: keeping people entertained for hours. With Hollywood-sized budgets, some games are built on a budget of $100 million and making up to $200 million and more in purchases. Critics – including many parents – say that video games hold the attention all too well and some gamers are losing productivity, relationships, and even their lives.

How does video game addiction start?

Video games provide players with a rush to the head from winning with no tangible consequence for losing and you get to keep playing as many times as you want. Outsmarting a legion of monstrous invaders feels more rewarding on your tenth try, as you finally develop the skills to overcome everything the game throws at you. Brain scans show that victory feels very good, it activates the brain’s dopamine-producing pleasure pathways that are the center of addiction. These “dependence-like behaviors” are increased when other players are involved, especially in the case of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs); with sometimes millions of player’s competing or collaborating as occupants of a digital fantasy world. In World of War Craft, with 9.6 million global players, you can hold a wedding or a vigil for a player who passed away or, if you’re in the opposing faction, raid these gatherings in a surprise attack. When interacting with others you get to be part of a community which makes game play much more addictive.

The damages of video game addiction

Joyce of Frisco, Texas said her 17-year old son Michael was a video game addict. For nearly two years, video and Internet games transformed him from an outgoing, academically gifted teen into a reclusive manipulator who flunked two 10th grade classes and spent several hours day and night playing online video games. “My father was an alcoholic…and I saw exactly the same thing” in Michael. “We battled with him until October of last year,” she said. “We went to therapists; we tried taking the game away. He would threaten us physically. He would curse and call us every name imaginable,” she said. “It was as if he was possessed.” When she suggested to therapists that Michael had a video game addiction, “nobody was familiar with it” she said. “They all pooh-poohed it.”

Last fall, the family found a therapist who “told us he was addicted, period.” They sent Michael to a therapeutic boarding school where he sought help.

Liz of Harrisburg, Pa., created a site called On-Line Gamers Anonymous. You can log in 24/7 to chat with fellow self-identified online gaming addicts as well as finding numerous postings from gamers seeking help. On this site, there is a list of games reported to be addictive . Liz created this site after her 21 year old son fatally shot himself while playing an online game she says destroyed his life.

Of course, all gamers are not addicts – many teens and adults can play video games a few hours a week, while successfully balancing school activities, grades, friends, work and family obligations. But for some, gaming has become an uncontrollable compulsion. Just like other compulsive behaviors, teens and adults can become so enthralled in the fantasy world of gaming that they neglect the functioning world around them.

Get help for video game addiction

If you or a loved one shows signs of computer or video game addiction, we can give you information and resources that will help you assess whether gaming has gone from an entertaining pastime to a full-blown obsession.

Through detox, reversing chronic sleeplessness, healthy eating and exercise, we can help bring a compulsive gamer, back to real life.

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