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Adults not immune to issues with video gaming

July 3, 2018
by Benjamin Kaneaiakala
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Compulsive gaming isn't only affecting teens and kids. Plenty of adults get pulled into the excessive video gaming orbit as well. Millennials grew up with Gameboys, Nintendo and Halo, so it isn't a stretch to see how modern video games might be an attractive pastime for this group. Today's games and consoles are extremely sophisticated, so repurposing a pastime from childhood into the current milieu of entertainment represents a natural evolution.

The problem that many adult gamers are now facing is the fallout that increasing amounts of time devoted to virtual realms can cause in real life. Many of these adult gamers are spouses and parents, and ensconced in their careers. When huge amounts of their spare time are spent gaming, they are usually neglecting other adult responsibilities, or even their health. Eventually, this video game addiction can cause serious consequences that affect their marriage, physical and mental well-being, career and finances.

There is nothing at all wrong with enjoying some video gaming time on occasion. However, when people find themselves spending ever-increasing hours in front of the computer, and begin suffering from the effects of excessive gaming, then it has become a problem. It can be hard to pinpoint the day when casual gaming crossed over into addictive behavior. The wakeup call might occur sooner if the adult gamer is married, mainly because the spouse will begin to express displeasure about being neglected in favor of the game. For someone who lives alone, crossing the threshold can be easily ignored, until health problems begin to crop up.

Many things can drive a video game addiction. Boredom, a desire to escape responsibilities or an unsatisfactory relationship, and the competitive rush of the game all contribute to spending increasing amounts of time playing the games. As with many enjoyable activities, there can be a brain chemical response that will begin carving out a neural pathway, which can drive compulsive behaviors and lead to addiction.

What the addiction looks like

Regardless of the age of the player, video gaming is an enjoyable pastime for many. The complex stories, the virtual identities, the competitive aspect and the amazing graphics all conspire to be a difficult temptation to resist. Some adults might take up gaming as a fun weekend hobby for a couple of hours here or there. But the games are designed to pull the player in at increasingly deeper engagement levels, and reaching that next level or winning that next battle can become a compulsion.

The signs of video game addiction are very similar to those of other behavioral addictions or substance addictions. As the brain releases dopamine in response to a positive gaming experience, it is cementing a triggering response and reward pattern. Where two hours of game play a week was once sufficient, tolerance builds, and the player begins to need more and more game time immersion to feel satisfied.

Some of the symptoms of video game addiction might include:

  • The individual begins isolating behaviors.

  • Obsessed thoughts about the video game, including planning when to play and obsessing over new games.

  • The individual begins avoiding activities once enjoyed.

  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits.

  • The individual continues to play despite mounting consequences.

  • The individual neglects responsibilities.

  • Mood changes.

Hours spent playing video games will begin to take a toll. Some of the harmful effects of compulsive gaming include:

  • Isolation. Instead of having face-to-face interactions with friends, spouses, children and colleagues, the gamer becomes increasingly isolated in the computerized world.

  • Sedentary lifestyle. The hours of sitting, and lack of activity and exercise, can begin to affect overall health and well-being.

  • Poor diet. Along with increased hours on the computer comes more fast food meals and junk food.

  • Health problems. Compulsive gaming can result in problems that include headaches, eye strain, stress on hands and wrists, and inflammation that causes tendonitis or bursitis.

  • Financial problems. When gaming bgins to affect work performance, which is especially possible for those who work remotely, loss of a job can result, along with the financial fallout.

  • Relationship problems. A married adult with children will experience relationship difficulties as a result of excessive gaming. The spouse will become resentful of the time dedicated to gaming, the neglecting of family responsibilities and the person having become increasingly emotionally unavailable.

  • Psychological problems. Because many of today's video games are excessively violent and sexualized, there can be a negative impact on the gamer's emotional health. Spending so much time engaged in virtual battles can bleed over into angry outbursts, anxiety, aggression or violent behavior.

Treatment considerations

Because video game addiction shares many of the same traits and brain chemistry as addiction to substances, treatment for it is similar. At present, the DSM-5 does not include video game addiction as a diagnosable disorder per se (although the World Health Organization now officially recognizes gaming disorder). But as with other behavioral issues such as gambling addiction and sex addiction, individuals with video gaming addiction find it very difficult to stop on their own, even with the mounting negative impact on one's life.

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