Game Politics (gamepolitics) wrote,
Game Politics

Are You a Video Game Junkie?

Does spending upwards of fifty hours a week playing video games qualify one as an addict? Or is that simply how some choose to spend the majority of their time?

That's the question posed by a recent Associated Press article (we caught up to it in the Boston Herald).

Computer games may not be chemically addictive but experts agree that they can hook certain people in the same way that gambling can. However, even excessive gamblers aren't necessarily addicted to their recreational activity of choice. Professor Mark Griffiths, who studies behavioral addictions at Nottingham Trent University in Nottingham, England, elaborates:

"To count as a real has to be destructive, cause withdrawal symptoms and prompt ever greater use to maintain the kick... When you apply those criteria to something like Internet use or video game use, you find that yeah, lots of people display some of those components, but very few display all of them, and in that sense, to me, they are not classically addicted."

That's not to say that computer or game addiction doesn't happen. Robert LaRose, a professor of telecommunications at Michigan State University, has studied the phenomenon among students and estimates that, similar to gambling addiction, it only occurs in a fraction of a percent of users. So while true addiction is rare, in today's technology driven society, obsessive computer use is not.

"If you're not feeling connected at home, at work, with your parents, with your loved ones, or with your family, then you're going to look for it somewhere else," said Cynthia Moreno Tuohy, executive director of NAADAC, The Association for Addiction Professionals. "The human being is made to need other people."

Tuohy is frustrated that mental health professionals are not yet equipped to diagnose and treat computer and game addictions. "So many people come to me after going to three or four other psychologists who didn't get it, and just told them to turn off the computer," she said. "That's like telling an alcoholic to stop drinking."

She points out that video games and the internet are still in their infancy and like gambling addiction before them, it could take decades before computer and game addictions are accepted as a true diagnosis and entered into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

In the meantime, anyone using a computer or playing games to the detriment of their well being are encouraged to visit established support groups like On-Line Gamers Anonymous or The Center for Online and Internet Addiction.

AE: It's entirely possible to lead a decent, healthy, and fulfilling life while spending most of your time sitting in front of a computer; people do it all the time. Just please remember to eat regularly and take an occasional shower.

-Andrew Eisen

Tags: addiction, eisen
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