Video Game Addiction
Recently, I took my son and four of his friends fishing in the Bahamas. We had a fishing boat at our disposal, a beautiful beach and great weather, and I thought we’d all really enjoy our vacation in this exotic environment.
But, two of the boys are addicted to video games. They brought the games with them and played them the entire time. They never left the hotel room on our five-day fishing trip. I was very concerned and told them so, but it’s a work in progress. Family members need to come together and confront their loved one who is addicted to video games – tell him or her, “Enough is enough. You are losing control of your reality. You are running from the world.”
We all know people who are in this boat…
With adolescents that I’ve treated it starts out innocently enough. The video game is just a form of entertainment. The most common ones I’ve dealt with are “Call of Duty,” “Gears of War,” and “Call of Duty Black Ops.”
What happens, though, is that these games start to take over, and the young people start playing them more and more. They stop going outside, meeting with their friends, leaving their rooms.
This is just not a little problem. When “Black Ops” came out, 3.8 million people bought it in the first couple of weeks. This is a significant number.
One of my patients, Graham, played “Call of Duty” from the moment he got home from school on Friday until late Monday morning. He didn’t shower, ate power bars, and only left the room to go the bathroom. Even then, he’d rush back.
Video games create an alternate realty with no social interaction and where violence is okay.
Most of these games involve killing and violence, and that’s a big problem. When you play those games that much, you lose touch with the real world and the video game becomes your reality. In effect, you are walking around the street or battlefield shooting people. Well, that becomes okay because that’s now your reality. In other words, you become desensitized to violence.
This behavior and way of thinking does not transfer into the real world.
In a video game, you do not talk nor do you interact. There’s no body language. You simply react to a screen. What that means is that the part of your brain that is involved with social interactions, reading social cues, responding to other people, forming intimate relationships and friendships, getting your needs met through social interaction – it’s just not happening.
Now, these people know on some level that what they are doing is not real, but the effect of the game starts crossing the line on their real life and they start behaving like they are playing the game in the real world. They start giving the game significance equal to what’s happening in the real world.
So, for example, when a character dies and they lose a level, it’s as important as losing a friend.
I see people using video games like a drug and they are cutting themselves off from the world.
Are they forming friendships in life? Developing social skills to deal with authority? Learning to articulate their needs and navigate the waters of interpersonal relationships with boyfriends and girlfriends? Are they eating right, exercising and taking care of their bodies?
No, they are not. They are taking care of a soldier on a battlefield in a video game. That’s all.
I’ve seen people go on with video games for years and it ends up distorting their personality. They think that sex is something you can get when you press a button. Or when someone gets in your way, you shoot him or her. There’s no negotiation or mediation. It’s simply fire or take. Press a button and reset. That’s not real life.
Sometimes, these people will start playing at 12 and stop when they are 16. They realize that they’ve lost four years of their lives.
I am deprogramming people like this, and it may take months or years of therapy to undo what’s done.
Many of them are also suffering from depression or drug addiction, anxiety disorders and / or social phobias.
So, what do you do if you see someone you love becoming obsessed with video games? As an adult, you need to acknowledge the problem and get help. You need to limit or stop the video games.
Believe me, video game addiction is a real problem and I’ve seen individuals actually go into withdrawal.