What It Is
While internet use has become a necessity in most developed countries, medical experts agree that technology addiction is a growing trend. More common among teens, technology or gaming addiction occurs when an individual has a compulsive need to engage with devices like smart phones or video games. Most often, this addiction manifests in an obsession with interactive online video games, but other compulsions may be present as well.
Gaming addiction is not recognized as a diagnosable condition, but studies have shown that the brain patterns of a technology addict are no different than those of a drug addict. Like other addictions, the user comes to associate gaming with pleasurable feelings and a sense of escape, unable to stop his behavior without professional help.
Symptoms and Signs
Symptoms of a technology or gaming addiction may be difficult to recognize. While daily technology use is often the norm for many people, a gaming addict tends to show highly compulsive behavior. An addiction may be present if some or all of the follow behaviors persist:
- Compulsive need to be online or have access to technology devices
- Loss of interest in activities other than gaming
- Spending hours in front of the computer without eating or taking breaks
- Inability to leave a game in order to attend to daily tasks
- Poor performance at school or work due to gaming
- Increased communication or developing friendships with other gamers
- Irritability, depression, or lethargy when not engaged in gaming or technology
- Wearing an adult diaper while gaming to prevent interrupted play
A technology or gaming addiction may be more serious than it appears. Experts agree that many video games simulate an experience that resonates as “real” life for these types of addicts. Moreover, many video games are based on themes of crime, sex, and violence. It’s important to take a gaming addiction seriously and seek help if necessary.
Gaming addicts may benefit from individual counseling with an addiction specialist. In some cases, it might also be necessary for the addict to attend an inpatient addiction rehabilitation treatment program. An evaluation with a mental health expert may also be helpful, as the addict may also have a coexisting condition such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder. In these cases, medication may be prescribed.
Many addicts can also find support with 12-step groups like Online Gamers Anonymous (OGA). These programs are free and provide the addict with a network of other recovering gaming/technology addicts.
Since technology addiction typically doesn’t involve physical risks, it may be easier to manage than a drug or alcohol addiction. However, the psychological problems that may develop can be highly dangerous. Some gamers may be prone to violent or suicidal tendencies. With professional help, an addict can typically make a full recovery. It’s sometimes necessary to implement lifestyle changes that include limited internet access or complete abstinence from video games. In most cases, however, the addict needs to strike a healthy balance between technology-related activities and “real” life.
If you or someone you know has a technology or gaming addiction, the following resources may be helpful:
- Online Gamers Anonymous
- National Institute of Mental Health
- Mothers Against Video Game Addiction and Violence