An increasing number of teens are playing video games for hours each day. Sometimes, the amount of time and focus dedicated to video games surpasses that dedicated to any hobby. Hence, video games can become an obsession.
The jury is out on whether pathological video gaming warrants a DSM title of other addictive disorders. It is a prevalent and concerning phenomenon.
Video Game Addiction Defined
According to data cited by the American Medical Association, up to 90 percent of young people in the US play video games. As many as 15 percent are addicted to gaming. According to Heathline, the defining characteristic of an addiction is its underlying compulsivity. Therefore, teens feel an uncontrollable urge to continue a behavior, despite the desire to stop.
Warning Signs of Video Game Addiction
- Compulsive need to be online, engaged in video games, or in close proximity to technology
- Heightened irritability, anxiety, and/or depression when not engaged in gaming
- Apathy towards other activities
- Forgoes the basic needs of eating, sleeping, and using the restroom, while playing video games
- Diminished school performance
- Social isolation
The line is crossed when the behavior is uncontrollable. A teen may have a desire to quit playing Minecraft, but can’t. Other parts of life suffer. As a result, school performance, social skills, and physical health plummet. Therefore, the vicious cycle has no end without teen treatment.
Link With Depression and Anxiety Disorders
Despite the addictive allure of gaming, there is a price to pay. A recent report in US News, proposes a correlation between video game addiction and the prevalence of depression and anxiety. The study found that teens engaged in pathological video gaming are more impulsive, anxious, and depressed. In addition, they are also more likely to have trouble fitting in.
Furthermore, an adolescent with anxiety and angst finds solace in gaming. The teen steps away from reality. The underlying anxiety and depression heighten. Therefore, the cause must be addressed.
The Causes of Technology Addiction
Pathological video gaming, like any other addiction, is a maladaptive coping mechanism. Video games are designed to distract humans. Sometimes the distraction is used to escape emotional pain which may overwhelm the emotional state of a teen. Other times, the pain stems from a specific traumatic experience. Addictions, like video gaming, offer a sense of safety. The desire to be distracted and to feel safe is what allures users. It is more powerful than the idea of stopping the compulsive behavior.
As suggested by Matthew Edlund MD, in his article Internet Gaming: The Latest Addiction, the biggest danger is social isolation. Social isolation stems from behavioral changes. These include lack of food, sleep deprivation, and excessive intake of stimulatory medications.
Technology is Everywhere
Pathological video gaming has negative consequences for teens. Psychologists believe this addiction stems from anxiety and depression. Parents need to acknowledge that something has to shift. The shift requires support from society. It requires honest examination.
Tech Addiction Impacts All of Us
Hence, this phenomenon affects teens and adults alike. According to a recent report in Forbes, Americans spend nearly $100 billion on technology each year. In addition, people spend up to 10 percent of their incomes on computers, iPods, video games, and cell phones. Overreliance on computers and cell phones is unhealthy.
The human brain releases the feel-good neurotransmitter, dopamine. Furthermore, dopamine triggers gratification. Therefore, when teens or adults smoke a cigarette, play a video game, or check Facebook, dopamine is released into the body.
The Parental Role in Prevention
As suggested in the Huffington Post, role modeling is a vital component in learned behavior. Whatever behavior parents exhibit is modeled by their children. It is innate. Thus, well-meaning adults are passing the addictive behavior on to their children. As a result, adults teach kids that it is normal to rely on technology. Hence, it is natural that children and teenagers model the same behavior. Consequently, we must put down the phone from time to time.
The anxious adolescent may hide fears and depression behind the façade of a gamer. What is the catalyst for the initial anxiety and depression?
The Cause of Addictive Behaviors
There are several theories around addictive behaviors. Author and meditation teacher Sura suggests that fear is the catalyst. Often, people don’t sit with emotions and thoughts, especially uncomfortable ones. People don’t have healthy coping skills. Hence, when dealing with life stressors, anxious thoughts, and overwhelming emotions, they choose to escape.
The addict must first recognize the problem. Yet, this is challenging, given the societal dependence on technology. Hence, this makes overcoming an addiction to technology tricky. But, as role models, adults can play a role in healing.
Healthy Expression in Teens
Acknowledge the fears inherent in growing up. Communicate. Adults can teach kids a valuable lesson. Furthermore, acceptance and healthy expression of emotions go a long way. Hence, we need kids to feel safe expressing feelings.
Exhibit healthy coping skills. Therefore, teach kids that physical activity—time in nature, yoga, or playing music—are healing.
Technology is not the only solace. Parents can model moderate engagement in distractions, and use other coping skills. As a result, kids will learn other modes of being.
Help for Video Game Addiction Issues
In conclusion, if you or your teen is struggling with tech addiction issues, we can help. We treat teens with substance and behavioral addictions. Consequently, we address underlying issues that cause the behaviors. Call us today for more information on our offerings.