Identifying Video Game Addicts

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“Now, I’ve talked about the WHO’s defining of Video Game addiction as a disorder and touched on how it can be able to become a disorder due to losing yourself in the whole world where what you do matters compared to a world where nothing you do matters,” Drraagh says, stretching out in his chair, feet up on the desk as he tries to get comfy. “This is going to be a discussion with a lot of technical stuff, a lot of details and I will try and spice it up some. I figured, the next step after identifying how people can get addicted, we should focus on the signs that define an addict and ways to try and get the people the help they need. Some may not even know they’re an addict, because to them it’s not a problem. It’s like watching TV, it’s a time filler, but it is so easy to lose yourself in it.”

“Since addiction is hard to define where the line between recreational and addict, there are a few things I figure we need to go over. First off, there are some people who game six to seven hours a day just as there are people who use that time to watch TV or read books or any number of other activities, so time alone is not the key factor to whether someone is addicted but it is can be an indicator for further review,” Drraagh says and crumples up a piece of paper and tosses it towards the wastebasket, having it bounce off the rim. “Remember, a professional athlete’s career has them training five to six hours a day six days a week, but even before they became professional, they were doing the same or longer as a hobby trying to get to the point of being professional. That was while keeping a job or going to school as well.”

“The big things to look at is when other things start to suffer. For instance, if a parent sees their child bringing home A’s and B’s in a report card each period and goes out with friends two or three nights a week but other days may play six to seven hours in the evening and maybe even all day on weekends, this may just be recreational usage, same as someone who was to be engaging in any other hobby such as reading books, writing stories, drawing, riding a bike or so forth. It just becomes a cause for concern because they see the child in front of a screen rather than out being active. To see if they are an addict, further investigation for the warning signs I will discuss may be required. However, if a parent sees that their child has gone from a report card of A’s and B’s to C’s and D’s and no longer seems to have an interest in academic organizations that used to be  things they were involved in regularly like band, sports teams or yearbook, then we are most likely looking at signs of addiction, and many of the symptoms below will likely be noticed.”

“When it comes to diagnosing if someone is addicted is that there are multiple types of signs, ranging from psychological to physical to behavioural. A few of these cues may not signify anything, but they could also be initial warning signs of danger coming. Also, Gaming Addiction is newly examined, the earliest studies being from the end of the 1990’s and early 2000’s. So, some of the details are considered for general substance addiction and should be further expanded as the research continues into this field,” Drraagh adds and takes a deep breath, “It is a long road to travel, but at least we are using the scientific method instead of trying to suck out the addiction with leeches as in early physical medicine.”

“With psychological symptoms, it falls into a few key categories, the primary being dismissal of their old life, where they step away from school or work and ignoring other activities that they used to enjoy doing such as sports. The second is feeling that the game is everything, where if they are kept from taking part in it they will demonstrate hostility towards anything keeping them from playing or being depressed or anxious when not able to play for extended periods and guilt that they aren’t contributing if it is a multiplayer game, meanwhile experiencing an almost zen like peacefulness while playing they don’t show anywhere else but they can lose hours of time into the games and not notice. The third is more of them dismissing it as it is not a problem, that it is just them having fun, they aren’t addicted and hey, it’s just games not like they’re doing drugs.”

“When we get to physical, we start seeing obvious signs of issues that people can see from a distance. The problem with these ones is that I could identify a bunch of high school and college students, if not even a bunch of working class people with many of these same symptoms, so you can’t judge just on the presence of these but these are good points to start getting involved and looking for other signs. These are those key physical signs, Sleep difficulties or significant change in sleep patterns, Decreased personal hygiene, Poor or irregular eating habits (e.g., waiting until extremely hungry before eating), Headaches, Dry or red eyes, Sore fingers, neck, or back, Poor physical health or weight gain, Carpal tunnel syndrome.”

Drraagh sighs a little and closes his eyes, “As you can see, many of these are hard to pin to one thing, but they are signs of any addiction when there are many of them in one place. Behavioral symptoms are similar to psychological in some ways. For instance, Decreased academic performance, Less time spent on homework and studying, Decreased work performance are all common symptoms similar to the Decreased interest in work or school. Same as the aggression towards those who prevent or attempt to limit access to the video game or Declining social invitations so that game playing can continue which leads to less time spent with family and friends. They will commonly lie about how much time is spent in game, sometimes lying about what they were doing with their time, and usually will immediately go to game or check on the status of something in the game at first opportunity instead of more important things. Sometimes they may go as far to blame others for their issues, that if the others weren’t doing something to them or against them then they might not play so much.”

“Once you identify that someone needs help, what do you do to make sure they get it becomes your next question,” Drraagh says and sits up straight, acting serious for the moment. First off, some people may say, especially with children that they need to be medicated. ADHD, depression, anxiety, can all be various medical conditions treated by some form of pill or another, and this may be one option but do not immediately go this way for yourself, a friend or even a child without consulting a professional. I am not a parent, but I would suggest that some time with a psychologist would help to resolve any issues that the addict may be having or at least help bring them to the surface so they can be handled in a better way. For instance, one may escape into games and become addicted to do issues with social anxiety or not having proper coping mechanisms. These are things that can be taught, developed and worked on to help overcome many challenges.”

“Pills can be a stopgap that can either lead to substance addiction as the person believes that the only way to be normal is taking pills at an unhealthy rate or they will go off the pills at some point, believing either they are cured or that the pills prevent them from being their true self. and this will likely lead to a relapse or some other issues in their future. Also, when it comes to medication, between various side effects that can be brought on as well as the interaction with a person’s biochemistry, we run into a huge balancing issue as doctors try to get everything measured out to make it work for each individual case. It isn’t anywhere near an exact science or even guaranteed yet, so there are still many problems to medicating an addiction away.”

“Instead, beyond the psychiatrist, there are some things we can do to help the addict. First off, show them there are people who truly care for them out in the real world, that there is more to life than the video games. There are support groups for them to talk to people who have been through the same experiences as they have, but to get them to attend these can be problematic at first, as an addict does need to understand their behaviour is a problem. One way people do attempt this is with an intervention type discussion. These can help, but I would suggest trying a single person or perhaps two at most talking with the person at first, especially in an area away from the video games. The reason for this is a large group can feel like an attack on the person and have them shut themselves away. They will reply with things off the cuff like “You don’t understand”, “I’m having fun and not hurting anyone’, and so forth. Instead, the key people try first and explain what they miss about the addict, and try and show them how good life was and how important that person is to them, so that they do not feel like they were ambushed.”

“As the treatment of Gaming Addiction is still new, it is being handled like other Substance Addiction, and that includes treatments suggested like taking away the games cold turkey, such as taking away the console or computer or even phone, or you could take them into an area like the wilderness where they do not have access to the games. This could just lead them into withdrawal and be a dangerous detox period where those aggressive behaviour for being unable to game will come out. Thus, this is the time to show them what they’re really missing from life beyond the human interaction, but may not work for everyone, and usually will need to be for more than just a weekend. Think of it more like a summer camp stay, a month or so with other things to occupy their time. This is essentially a rehab scenario, but until further evidence is available, this is some possible treatments. Just remember, try to work with a professional first. A punishment for failing one test by taking the gaming away may seem like an acceptable solution and it may help the grades improve when the stimuli is not there, but if they are an addict then they will fall back into the same pattern without other action taken.”

“The key to all of this,” Drraagh says and sighs, looking down at his desk, “Is to let the person know that there are people who care for them and want them in their life. They are doing this because they care and they want to help. They will aid the person in making the recovery, and please, make sure that you do aid them. Do not just provide the person lip service that they mean something to you without being willing to follow it up by doing things with and for them, having them included in your social circle even if the first while will be rough. Without this constant re-affirmation of how you want them in your life and how you are showing them that you will be there, it is so easy for them to fall back into those old patterns because no one was there for them besides the gaming world.”