addictive behaviors

On-line gaming in teenagers

According to an article by Kimberly Young, Psy.D., Executive Director The Center for Internet Addiction Recovery titled “Understanding Online Gaming Addiction and Treatment Issues for Adolescents”Massive Muti-user Online Role-Playing Games or MMORPGs as they are often called are one of the fastest growing forms of Internet addiction, especially among children and teenagers. Like an addiction to alcohol or drugs, gamers show several classic signs of addiction (Grusser, Thalemann, and Griffiths, 2007). They become preoccupied with gaming, lie about their gaming use, loss interest in other activities just to game, withdrawal from family and friends to game, and use gaming as means of psychological escape (Leung, 2004).

Here’s some of the signs that your adolescent child may be addicted to on-line gaming

Preoccupation with gamingThe addiction process begins with a preoccupation with gaming. Gamers will think about the game when offline and often fantasize about playing the game when they should be concentrating on other things. Instead of thinking about the paper that needs to be completed for school, or going to class, or studying at the library, the gamer becomes completely focused on playing the game. Gamers start to miss deadlines, neglect work or social activities as being online and playing the game becomes their main priority.
Lying or hiding gaming useSome gamers spend days and nights online. They do not eat, sleep, or take a shower because of the game. They lie to family and friends about what they are really doing on the computer. Students tell their parents that they are doing their homework, spouses tell their family that they are using the computer for work, and friends will make up excuses for why they can not go out – all to find more time to play the game.
Loss of interest in other activitiesAs the addiction progress grows, gamers become less interested in hobbies or activities that they used to enjoy and become more fascinated with living inside the game (Yee, 2006b). As one mother explained, “My son loved baseball and played Varsity on his high school team until he discovered X-Box Live. His grades plummeted after he discovered the game, but it wasn’t until he quit the baseball team that I knew that something seriously wrong. He loved baseball too much. He won a baseball scholarship for college and dreamed about playing professionally. Now, nothing else matters to him except the game.”
Social withdrawalSome gamers experience personality changes the more addicted they become. A once outgoing and social husband or wife becomes withdrawn from their friends and family only to spend more time alone in front of the computer. A normally happy son or daughter becomes withdrawn only to prefer making friends in the game as the people that were once important in real life become less important. If the gamer does have real life friends, they are usually fellow gamers. In some cases, gamers are introverts and have problems making social connections in real life and turn to the game for companionship and acceptance.
Defensiveness and angerBecause of their addiction, gamers become defensive about their need to play the game and angry when forced to go without it. Spouses may argue with a husband or wife who tries to take away the computer. Parents who try to put time limits on the game describe how their sons and daughters become angry, irrational, and even violent. The addict becomes obsessed with the behavior. In the game, players spend a significant amount of time acquiring certain items that give them points and they can achieve a celebrity-like status in the game with other players who are online too. The power and recognition create a drug-like “high” that is difficult to let go.
Psychological withdrawalGamers who can not access the game experience a loss. They want to be on the game and they miss playing the game. This feeling can become so intense that they become irritable, anxious, or depressed when they are forced to go without the game. They can’t concentrate on anything else except when they can go back online to play. Their minds become so fixated on the game that they can experience a psychological withdrawal from the game. Their feelings intensify and they stop thinking rationally and begin to act out towards other people in their lives. All that they can think about getting back to the game and they become angry and bitter at anyone who threatens taking it away.
Using gaming as an escapeGaming addicts use the online world as a psychological escape. The game becomes a safe means to cope with life’s problems. It is a legal and inexpensive way to soothe troubling feelings and can quickly become a convenient way to instantly forget whatever stresses and pains they are experiencing. Like a drug addict or alcoholic who uses drugs or alcohol as a way to escape problems that they aren’t able to deal with, gaming addicts use the game to avoid stressful situations and unpleasant feelings. They escape into the gratification of the game and the feelings they associated with playing it. Gamers who feel socially awkward, isolated, and insecure in real life can transform themselves into someone who feels socially confident, connected, and self-assured with others through the game. As the gamer progress deeper into the game, they feel more accomplished, more accepted, and better about themselves and through their characters gamers live out a fictional life that is more satisfying and interesting than their own.
Continued use despite its consequencesGamers often want to be the best at the game. In order to grow in the game, they need to play, especially in quest type of games, where there is a shared activity, they hunt together for items together and it can take several hours to complete one quest. Gamers who become hooked become obsessed with the need to be the best at the game. They want to feel powerful and recognized by other players and in order to do this they must spend time in the game. With that said, they continue to use the game despite consequences it may be causing in their lives. Among adolescents, they may fail out of school, lose a scholarship, break up with girlfriend or boyfriend, and ignore their basic hygiene just to be online. Among adults, they may lose a job, lose a relationship or their marriage may be tittering on divorce, but they remain loyal to the game.

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