Published on 20th December, 2021
Video games offer players an escape from reality. Though virtual, communities in these games are real social connections to the players. The games provide players a sense of belonging. For some, this may be where they feel they are accepted for who they are. This addiction is not limited to children or youth. Even adults may be addicted to video games.
Winning the games boosts self-esteem of the players and releases dopamine making them feel good about playing. Release of dopamine can be self-reinforcing as it increases the player’s mood and provides them with a rush of energy. Players keep going back to the games and the challenges it provides to feel the rush again. With increase in dopamine released in response to playing, there is boost in attention given to the game. As the brain circuitry craves more dopamine, players are pushed to play longer or more intensely to achieve the high they previously experienced.
Enjoying video games or playing it for long hours does not immediately translate to addiction. If your loved one is able to disengage from the games to attend to daily needs and it does not interfere with their academic/occupational necessities, they are probably not addicted.
Players who are addicted are unable to stop despite being aware of the negative consequences. They may even express that they feel miserable unless they are playing. They feel the need to play to feel happy.
According to the WHO, gaming disorder is defined as pattern of gaming behaviour (digital gaming or video gaming) characterized by impaired control over gaming and increased priority given to gaming over other activities. Gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities and continues despite the negative consequences.
In children, increase in aggression and anti-social behaviour combined with poor social skills may be observed. Playing of video games triggers fight-flight-freeze mechanism and release of stress hormone. Prolonged stimulation results in constant release of these hormones which results in changes in brain matter. These changes affects an individual’s decision making abilities, impulse control and ability to regulate self.
For both adults and children:
For children and youth:
As with any addiction, seeking help is always the best option. Trained mental health professionals are able to work with you or your loved ones without judgement to help you.
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