Does Gaming Addiction Exist?

by A Guest Author

Does Gaming Addiction Exist?

Every semester, as classroom chairs fill up, teachers and instructors from elementary schools to colleges notice students exhibiting classic signs of addiction: social isolation, loss of interest in activities, fatigue, depression, and anxiety. These students aren't affected by drugs or alcohol, however. They're addicted to video games.

Video game addiction resembles sex or gambling addictions instead of substance abuse. Classified by psychiatrists as clinical impulse control disorders, these addictions are as serious as drug abuse addiction, producing negative behavioral changes, interfering with daily functioning, and even causing withdrawal symptoms.

How Can Games be Addictive?

Researchers suggest that gaming releases dopamine, a chemical that plays an important role in the brain's pleasure and reward centers. This alone, however, does not explain why some people become addicted to gaming. After all, 65 percent of female American children and 85 percent of males game on a daily basis. For most gamers, playing is merely one activity in a complex set of interests, activities, and hobbies.

In this respect, video game addiction resembles alcohol addiction. Many people consume alcohol, but only some people develop an alcohol addiction. Researchers have speculated for years that genetics play a role in addiction, and people with a family history of addiction have a higher risk of any type of addiction, be it substance abuse, gaming, or gambling.

The majority of video game addicts are male, and multiplayer online games seem to have an especially strong hold over the addict. In such games, players create an in-game persona to interact with other players. A kid who has difficulty socializing in the real world can find escape in the self-contained game community. A skilled player can even find a type of power, rising to prominence in the game and earning the respect of online peers.

In addition, video games offer ongoing excitement and tend to have built-in reinforcers. The brain rewards every monster killed, puzzle solved, or quest completed with dopamine release. While a harmless diversion for most players, this steady stream of reward may prove addictive to some players.

Symptoms of Gaming Addition

Gaming addiction produces behavioral symptoms remarkably similar to physical addiction. Over time, the addict requires increasing amounts of game-time to stay satisfied, and he becomes irritable or angry if denied access to the game. Gaming slowly takes the place of other activities: the gamer may start to ignore sports, social interaction, relationships, and even employment to play. When forced to perform other activities, the addict finds himself thinking about gaming.

Drug addicts often feel guilty about their addiction and lie to conceal their drug use. Gaming addicts may also lie about the amount of time they spend gaming, or become defensive when confronted about gaming. Gaming becomes a way to avoid real-life obligations and problems.

Treating Gaming addiction

As with other addictions, gaming addiction treatment requires the addict to admit that he or she has a problem. Addicts must give up gaming completely: attempting to limit gaming is comparable to an alcoholic trying to "cut back" on alcohol.

Gaming addicts need counseling and therapy to develop new behavioral habits and game-avoiding strategies. Because computer use is so pervasive in both personal and professional environments, addicts cannot simply avoid computers. Instead, they need to learn to use computers without giving in to the temptation to game, and embrace real-life activities in favor of virtual rewards.

About the Post

This guest post contributed by Carl Glasmyre, who is interested in every facet of technology and education, from gaming addiction to classroom chairs.

This post was written by A Guest Author

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