A new kind of addiction sweeping the world by storm – but without the pipes and needles.
To be completely honest, I’ve always thought of video game addictions as something of an ethereal concept rather than a psychological ailment, but multiple recent studies have shown the contrary. In an ever evolving society, people are starting to find ways to enhance their lifestyle with technological advancements, such as relaxing after a long day at work with internet surfing or playing games, while some find themselves perpetually absorbed by it’s addictive nature. Growing up in an era of technology has made it so much easier for a generation to unplug and temporarily escape reality; some even to the detriment of our societies upcoming smartest and brightest teenagers.
Growing up in the 90’s, anticipating the 3pm school bell dismissal and playing outside in the neighbourhood with my friends was the highlight of my day. Now it seems like kids cant wait to get home to get plugged in to their virtual gaming world to interact with their friends online. Don’t get me wrong, gaming has always been an integral part of my life along with many of my close friends. I guess you can call it a way of bonding of some sort, but….when the gaming aspect proliferates to the point where you find yourself making excuses NOT to hang out with friends, that might be a sign of an underlying problem. In some sort of creepy way, I can find myself relating to the child in the picture to the left; feelings of content in solitude immersed in a virtual reality with no awareness of the surrounding environment…..
Millions of people across the world, including me, have suffered the viscous cycle of binge gaming and its deleterious effects on our physical, psychological and social health. I distinctly remember, early in my high school days, staying up well past my bed time on a school day just to finish a dungeon raid that was started 6 hours ago on arguably the most addictive massive multiplayer online game on ever be released on the market, World of Warcraft. Now, I dont think that this constitutes some sort of gaming addiction (Maybe it does, who knows!), but eventually this was leading me down a pathway that may have had the same ending as Chen Rong-Yu, who was found dead from cardiac arrest after binge gaming for 40 hours in an internet cafe in Korea. I know, that’s a little absurd! But thousands of people across the world are ending up with a similar fate seen in Chen Rong-Yu’s case.
That is absolutely preposterous! How can someone game to such an extreme that it actually causes the loss of ones life?
Well, as an example, the transition from high school to university or college can be described as a frightening and new experience by many undergraduate students. Coming from a small town where everybody knew everybody, I know this was absolutely true for me. Being completely submerged in this new environment forced to make new friends and excel in academia that is completely different from the curriculum of high school teachings, this brewed the perfect environment for people to expand their horizons or retract into a self-loathing state of mind. The latter was completely true of one of my freshman year dorm mate, Charles, who was seen once in a blue moon leaving his dorm to fill up his stash with snacks and energy drinks to game throughout the long hours of the night. He eventually dropped out of school in the second semester due to what he described as depression.
But what does depression have to do with having a gaming addiction?
Some mental health experts have argued that video game addiction should be added to the fifth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known as DSM-V. The drafting specialists for this manual contended that gaming addiction is merely a behavioral response to a deeper, underlying psychological problems, such as depression, that needs to be addressed and further research would need to be conducted to warrant the addition of video game addiction as its own subcategory. Although some experts argue that video gaming addiction is merely a behavioural response, I believe that it is still an important aspect that needs to be addressed.
A longitudinal study consisting of approximately 1100 students in a UK medical school showed that a whopping 18.2% of students suffered come sort of depression in their freshman year. None the less, the effects on college students and youth today are quite apparent. Studies conducted by researchers showed that 41% of people admitted playing videos games as an escape from the real world and students who played 35 hours or more a week had significantly lower marks compared to their non-gaming counterparts. Now seriously, if it wasn’t considered an addiction, would someone purposely play games to the detriment of their own education?
What criteria can be used to separate depression and gaming addiction into it’s own category?
In an article written by Jerald Block in the American Journal of Psychiatry, he outlines criteria that would help define gaming addiction as it’s own category.
- excessive use, often associated with a loss of sense of time or a neglect of basic drives
- withdrawal, including feelings of anger, tension, and/or depression when the computer is inaccessible
- tolerance, including the need for better computer equipment, more software, or more hours of use
- negative repercussions, including arguments, lying, poor achievement, social isolation, and fatigue.
In the case of Chen Rong-Yu, excessive binge gaming lead to a state of negligence within all four of these categories where even the basic necessities such as sleep was neglected. Take a look at this guy who’s statements clearly suggest he suffers from withdrawal and depressive symptoms after his World of Warcraft account had been hacked. Which makes you really think- was the depression a cause or effect of the gaming addiction?
How can they be helped?
Currently, there is no regulated treatment for people addicted to video games since it is not classified under the DSM-V as an actual psychological disorder, but some countries have gone to extreme feats to reconcile this epidemic. Look at China for example; with nearly 200 million internet users in 2010 and over 5 million of them addicted, the community has dedicated many internet addiction boot camp programs to whip these people back into being productive members of society. After reading about a 16 year old beaten to death in one of these camps along with many others, it makes me wonder, does this Draconian method of punishment sound like a practical treatment for a person addicted to games?
In summary, I believe that video game addiction is a real affliction that can consume your reality if you let it and classification of it as it’s own unique category can help in the development of programs geared more towards the psychological aspect of the problem. While preparing this blog was somewhat of a revelation, I believe there is enough evidence to support the contention that video game addiction is in fact an addiction. Much progress has been made in the battle of classifying it as its own category of addiction and much more research needs to be conducted on this topic to help the people conflicted with this ailment. What are your thoughts on gaming addiction? Do you think this could be the next epidemic?, or just another thing blown out of proportion?