(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Right away, there are going to be some people reading this who (like me) love to spend more than a few hours staring at a screen, smashing buttons on a controller. Before you assume we are saying video games and opioids are the same- we are not. But what we are doing is looking at what they do have in common.
Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced it would be classifying gaming disorder as an official mental health diagnosis. For years, mental health professionals have recognized behaviors they thought proved video game addiction as a serious problem. With this new stance on video game addiction, there comes plenty of controversy and contention. Some people argue that this is an unfair characterization of avid gamers, while others are truly convinced there is enough evidence to support the need for gaming disorder intervention.
So, without taking a side, let us look at the new concept of video game addiction and gaming disorder while comparing it to another well-known addiction- opioids.
WHO Decides When Gaming Is Too Much?
As of 2016, WHO has 191 member states and other countries that have been granted observance status. Despite the various differences in language, culture and medical traditions they all seem to agree on common definitions of diseases. These outlines are included in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). WHO is an agency of the United Nations, and specializes in international public health.
According to the most recent edition of the ICD, the criteria for people who may suffer from a video game addiction include those who allow gaming to negatively impact:
- Social lives
The WHO definition of gaming disorder is pretty broad. This kind of ambiguity could lead to anyone who just spends a little too much time playing Xbox on the weekend to being labeled with a video game addiction. Thankfully, the American Psychiatric Association has proposed a set of slightly more detailed diagnostic criteria. These criteria will probably be akin to those put forth in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) for Internet gambling disorder. For one to qualify for that diagnosis, their gambling/gaming would create “significant issues with functioning.” Also, it would call for five of the following signs:
- Preoccupation or obsession with Internet games
- Withdrawal symptoms when not playing games
- Tolerance for gaming; need to spend more time playing to be satisfied
- At least one failed attempt to stop or cut back on playing games
- A loss of interest in other activities
- Overuse of digital games despite realizing the impairment they have caused
- Lying to others about game usage
- Using gaming to escape or relieve anxiety or guilt
- Impaired or lost relationships due to excessive gaming
According to the general consensus, video game addiction can develop at any age. However, many national studies primarily focus on kids under the age of 18.
Video Game Addiction VS Opioid Addiction
If we start by just looking at those signs of video game addiction, we can already see some parallels starting to shape up. For people who struggle with opioid abuse, signs of addiction can also include negative impacts on family, occupation, social life and education. Looking more at the break down of video game addiction symptoms, we can draw even more similarities.
One reason people use drugs is very closely connected to why they play video games- how the brain rewards them. For those with video game addiction, there are functional and structural alterations in the neural reward system. This is a group of structures in the brain commonly associated with feeling pleasure, learning, and motivation.
The same characterization can be made of opioid use. When someone addicted to opioids uses these drugs, they also experience activity in the brain’s reward system. While it may not stimulate learning and motivation in the same way, those pleasure sensors will light up with activity.
Image studies have shown that the urge to play video games activates the same brain regions that light up when illicit drug users even think about using.
Surely, we aren’t going to say that people who struggle with a gaming disorder experience the same intense and harmful withdrawal symptoms as those who abuse opioids, but we can see that withdrawal is still a common thread. According to Computer Gaming Addicts Anonymous, some of the common video game withdrawal symptoms that we often see with opioid addiction include:
- Feeling of emptiness
- Irritability or restlessness
- Sleep problems
- Obsessive thoughts
Of course, those who struggle with opioid abuse deal with a very different level of severity when it comes to withdrawal. The symptoms associated with opioid addiction are more likely to create a serious health risk than those currently attributed to video games.
For a lot of people who struggle with an addiction of any kind, there are often co-occurring issues or disorders. When you look at some of the research we find video game addiction is no different. Professor Douglas Gentile from Iowa State University has researched game addiction for several years. In one three year study of over 3,000 kids, he found that people who do develop compulsive gaming habits see an increase in:
- Social phobia symptoms
Also, rates of ADHD are very high among the population of people who struggle with what might qualify as a gaming disorder. When it comes to opioids, co-occurring issues are also very common, including depression and anxiety disorders.
Tolerance and Obsession
It is true that just like with drug use, you can develop a tolerance to video games. When once you would be content with an hour or two of playing a game to take you out of yourself for a while, over time you will be drawn more and more into spending time playing the game.
Have you ever decided to go on an all-nighter with a RPG or FPS? Some people are looking at those letters and wondering what language of nerd I’m speaking. That is ok. But for my fellow gamers, many of you probably know the feeling that there is never enough time to rack up those upgrades or find the perfect save point. Every time you say “I’ll stop after this boss fight,” only to find yourself an hour later customizing your avatar- that is the obsession.
Now while we can’t say that this obsession is always the same for everyone, it is still something to consider. Surely we should not label everyone who dedicates time to beating their high score with video game addiction. Still, when someone needs to play more and more to feel satisfied, that is the tolerance building. With opioids, this is the body needing more of the drug to get the same euphoric effect over time; or just needing it to feel “normal”.
And when you spend all day at the office thinking about what you’re going to spend all that XP on when you finally get home, the obsession might be starting to impair the rest of your life. With opioids and other drugs, this looks like spending all day planning to use or thinking about how to get more.
Innovative Addiction Treatment
At this point, gaming disorder is still a new diagnosis, so most facilities are still working on effective treatment plans. As more research becomes available, there will probably be a variety of approaches to video game addiction treatment. Still, the need for innovative addiction treatment is pretty obvious when considering an addiction that is based on technology.
For most addiction recovery programs, the idea of abstinence is a common cornerstone. Not using drugs is kind of the whole point of getting clean and sober. However, when it comes to things like internet gaming disorder, it is hard to be completely abstinent from the internet in 2018. Taking into account that fact that most people use the internet for their work, or for staying connected socially, you find it is pretty much impossible to remain offline for long. Therefore, any new ideas around cognitive behavioral therapy and psychiatry can make a big difference.
While most people know that video game addiction is nowhere near as severe as opioid addiction, we still think making these kinds of connections may help people better understand the idea of gaming disorder. Many healthcare professionals believe that one problem facing effective video game addiction treatment is the idea that it is not harmful.
When it comes to opioids and other drugs, innovative addiction treatment can be the difference between life and death. Safe medical detox is a vital part of building a stable foundation for long-term sobriety. People who struggle with addiction also need more than just a reliance on abstinence. This is why holistic addiction treatment is so important with addressing the opioid crisis in America today.
Palm Partners Recovery Center believes that personalized and holistic addiction treatment is essential to helping people struggling with drugs or alcohol to not only overcome their addictions, but to transform their lives. No matter what your addiction, you should have access to compassionate care and options for effective care. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
What kind of selfie do you usually snap? Is it one with an obscene amount of editing to look glamorous? Is it one of you and the family at dinner or out in some exotic location on vacation? Or is it a pic of you and a volunteer crew at a charity event? When you hashtag and share it, what does that selfie say about you? What is the message you are trying to send?
Before we have talked about the dangers of obsessive selfie taking, and I have personally related to how the ‘selfie society’ of today could be risky for those struggling with addiction or mental health concerns, presenting issues with narcissism or relating to depression when correlated an obsession with social media. So what kind of selfies contribute to these issues?
Well, that much might be said about all of them, depending on who you ask. The one question that might hit closer to home is- what kind of selfie taker are you?
Recent a group of BYU communications master’s students, feeling themselves surrounded by the selfie-saturated culture that is social media, decided to ask the question: what is the method to the selfie madness? This has proven to not just be a millennial problem, because your uncle and aunt do it, just like your bosses and teachers. Grandma might not be all that good at it, but she takes plenty of selfies anyway.
So why do people of all ages, cultures, genders and religions take and share selfies?
Are We All Narcissists?
Some people would say that ‘this generation’ is so self-absorbed, but again; it isn’t just one group. The answer, at least one we hear so often, is simply narcissism. But are we all narcissists?
Naaaaaaah, can’t be.
Actually, in a study recently published in Visual Communication Quarterly, those same five BYU student researchers took a closer look. In their data they show that individuals’ motives often range far past self-obsession. Sometimes our selfies are actually taken with purpose, whether we notice or not.
Steven Holiday, who completed his master’s in 2015 and is now pursuing a Ph.D. at Texas Tech, is one of the co-authors. Of this latest topic Holiday states,
“It’s important to recognize that not everyone is a narcissist,”
So to be clear on the idea of true narcissism and the connection we often misguidedly make to selfies, we should look at the definition. To refresh your memory:
- Narcissism is defined as the pursuit of gratification from vanity, or egotistic admiration of one’s own physical or mental attributes, that derive from arrogant pride.
- Narcissistic personality disorder(NPD) – is a condition that is estimated to affect only 1% of the population.
After analyzing survey results and interviews, researchers say they can identify three categories of selfie-takers:
These are individuals who take selfies primarily to engage with others for some reason. They don’t just do it for their face on a cause, but to draw followers into a conversation. One of the survey’s co-authors and current student Maureen “Mo” Elinzano states,
“They’re all about two-way communication,”
So it isn’t about the spotlight on them, it’s about shining to give others a reason to shine.
An example of this is when the election season came around and everyone, including celebrities, took an “I voted” selfie to plaster on Instagram. These photos aren’t (always) meant to brag about the individual, they are about calling others to action. People talk a lot about opinions on social media, so some people take a selfie as an opportunity to inspire action.
This type of selfie taker uses the art of the selfie as a tool to record key events in their lives. This autobiography isn’t necessarily to show off to their followers, but to try and preserve significant memories for themselves and their loved ones.
This group of selfie takers does also want others to see their photos and enjoy them, but they aren’t necessarily doing it for the feedback. They are cataloging their lives for their own benefit, not for the engagement that the Communicators are.
For example, plenty of people will have entire albums on Facebook dedicated to specific trips or events. They don’t (always) organize these specifically for likes as much as they do for their trips down memory lane.
This infamous category is the one everyone typically assumes a selfie taker falls into, but it is actually the smallest of the three groups. These are the ones who are closely linked to more narcissistic characteristics.
The coauthor Harper Anderson states the self-publicists “are the people who love documenting their entire lives,”
Harper Anderson, who is also now pursuing a Ph.D. at Texas Tech, went on to say that in recording and sharing their entire lives, these selfie takers are hoping to present their narrative in a trendy and desirable light.
Think the Kardashians. Without any real sustenance, these selfies are just for the sake of “look at me everyone” without actually having a connection to a cause.
Personally, I present the idea of a collage style world where sometimes we blur these lines a bit. Some people may read these three types and say “I do all of these” and I get that. Perhaps we are all likely to have varied traits, but perhaps we can admit that one of these styles is our dominant selfie taking self. In this event, we can more closely examine if we are impacting our mental health; maybe even that of others.
Holiday went on to describe that identifying and categorizing the three groups is valuable in part because-
“…it’s a different kind of photography than we’ve ever experienced before…I can go on Facebook or Instagram and see that people have a desire to participate in a conversation. It’s an opportunity for them to express themselves and get some kind of return on that expression.”
Another co-author Matt Lewis states
“…years from now, our society’s visual history is going to be largely comprised of selfies. To find out why people do it, that contributes a lot to the discussion on selfies and visual communication in general.”
Our world isn’t just one picture at a time. Every moment is a collage of events happens simultaneously. We exchange the currency of our stories through an ever-expanding network of social media sites and while at times we may seem obsessive or impulsive, at least we are trying to use our new tools to connect.
It may seem strange, but I do think that regardless of whether you’re climbing a mountain in Africa, raising awareness for people struggling somewhere, or simply showing off your new hair-cut, we all have something to offer.
We all have something worth sharing.
Take that selfie. Post it. Let the “double tap” fall where it may.
The selfie is like a socially accepted addiction, and while mental health has been a close conversation to it, we hope that we can continue to learn from our compulsions and be able to help others. Mental health issues and drug or alcohol abuse frequently co-exist. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Let’s talk about Pokémon Go, why not? Considering literally everyone else in the world is, why shouldn’t we get in on the action? Ever since this new phenomenon has hit the streets in the form of an interactive smartphone app that is quickly consuming the lives of customers all over America there have been some pretty intense stories. It seems the game is probably one of the most instantaneously addictive things on the market right now, so of course it brings to mind previous conversations on:
I can personally say I was pretty amused when my roommate stumbled out of his room at 2 AM in his underwear chasing invisible creatures through the apartment via his phone like a mad man…
Apparently, there is some rare breed of something hiding in my closet… but I digress…
People have become obsessed overnight with this game. It seems any time you walk into a room with anyone around the age of… being alive… you are going to be an obstacle in their mission of hunting some pixelated Pokémon. Some people are worried about how obsessed people have become. Others insist it has done wonders for their mental health. So I wanted to take a look at some of these interesting theories.
What is it?
Essentially Pokémon Go is a game based on a Nintendo-owned franchise that was especially popular in the late 1990’s. This new smartphone game uses a phone’s GPS and clock to detect where and when people are in the game. Then it makes Pokémon “appear” around you.
No, not literally… but you can see them through your phone camera on the screen… so basically real life, right?
The idea is to go and catch them. Different and more types of Pokémon will appear depending on where you are and what time it is.
First let us say that many of these claims can’t be fully legitimized at this time. However, Twitter users seem confident in what they see happening with others and experiencing themselves regarding mental health and Pokémon Go. One Twitter user put it as:
“Pokémon Go is literally making people with depression and anxiety and agoraphobia leave the house and explore and socialize.”
Which when you examine the nature of the game does actually make some sense. Pokémon Go requires users to go into the outside world and explore to find Pokémon and items.
Many players have said that the game gives them an incentive to get out of the house and be active. It inspires some to exercise and spend time outdoors, while having fun and interacting with others. Now if you look at it this way, how could it not do some good for mental health?
I honestly had to wonder this myself when the game was first announced. As I watched co-workers and friends wonder aimlessly through parking lots and gather together to share their latest catches, I figured this was giving us a new way to get outside more and get active with one another. Maybe it’s not so bad, right?
Then there is the argument of if the trade-off is worth it for having teens and young adults yet again dragged too deep into their phones. This concern also makes sense to me. If you have this new obsession with constantly striving to “catch em all” then how will your personal relationships and responsibilities suffer? I don’t know anyone personally, but you can be sure a few people have already lost their jobs or blown off their dates to chase Pikachu around a grocery store.
Pokémon Related Injury
This is one side-effect I definitely saw coming, but I was not aware of the magnitude that it might manifest in. Already Pokémon– related injuries are being reported all over the country. So many people have admitted in social media forums that they completely forgot where they were, dropping all focus on their surroundings.
One Reddit user’s story has made the rounds online about ending up in the ER on night after falling into a ditch and fracturing bones in their foot 30 minutes into playing the game. There are even accounts of drivers getting into traffic accidents because they were playing the game out the window while driving.
To be fair, the makers of the game did make a warning to be aware of surroundings.
Risky Rocket Business
This should be taken as a serious warning if nothing else. The game has been notably misused already. Police in O’Fallon, Missouri have reported four people suspected of armed robberies involving Pokémon Go. The suspects reportedly placed beacons, which are a feature available in the game to interact with the surroundings, to lure people to their locations where they robbed them. 11 teenagers have been mugged this way so far, according to this initial report.
So #TeamRocket is becoming an actual thing… and they are freaking people out. Is this gaming addiction really that serious? Do people really need to risk their lives, or the lives of others, for these imaginary monsters?
Most Addictive App Ever?
Some are already calling Pokémon Go the most addictive gaming app ever. It has experienced a number of technical issues since its launch, including server crashes and other issues. Still, for a FREE gaming app with all this hype, it is doing pretty well for itself. Looking back there was Pokémon Blue and other titles for the franchise. People have been working their way up to this all along.
The question remains- what could this do for people’s mental health? If it really is that addictive, what consequences will it reap on those who have a tendency of taking things too far? Will we see a spike in gaming addiction and obsessive behaviors? Or will it actually have a mixed impact as it lures people out of their homes and into their communities. Some surprising testimonies have told how random strangers in a community come together, united over the teams they choose and to make strategies for how to play.
So next time you see someone blindly following their phone into on-coming traffic… maybe they are just trying to track down a Evee or a Squirtle? Maybe you should save them from themselves and keep them on the sidewalk… or some of you will probably hope to have the Pokémon to yourself… FOR SHAME!
Addiction can involve behaviors not related to taking drugs or drinking excessively. You can be addicted to the internet, gaming, gambling, sex, eating, or any other behavior that is causing problems in your life, such as destroying relationships, your health, or interfering with your job. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call us at 1-800-951-6135
Author: Shernide Delva
Utah has officially declared porn a public health crisis. Republican State Senator Todd Weiler has recognized the destructive, addictive nature of pornography and has recently introduced a resolution to the Utah legislature.
However, critics of the new legislature say it is based on exaggeration and morality rather than scientific evidence on the actual effects of pornography. Furthermore, many argue the senator’s resolution relies more on pseudoscience and has no place in governmental action.
Nonetheless, Weiler suggests that pornography exposure causes low-self-esteem in teens and leads to sexual behaviors. The bill he is pushing suggests that pornography represents a public health crisis.
The senator goes on to claim that pornography is responsible for:
- Damaging teens’ brains
- Affecting the state of marriage
- Increasing the rates of rape and sexual violence
- Causing a host of other social problems.
Weiler is passionate about the porn addiction problem. He has even called on the government of Utah to engage in research and prevention efforts to address this “epidemic.” Is porn responsible for these setbacks? Are these claims fact or fiction?
Digging a bit deeper, one can find a host of arguments for and against Weiler’s statements. One argument points to a massive study conducted in the United Kingdom which actually reveals that the effects of porn on teens were too insubstantial to actually make any true claims. In the study, which reviewed over 40,000 research articles, they found that pornography only explained less than 1% of negative behaviors in teens. The study concluded that blaming pornography for risky sexual behavior is more of a distraction than a solution. Rather, there should be a stronger focus on issues of education, poverty, substance use/mental health and family variables that play a more significant role.
Moving on to the next part of the legislation, Weiler states that pornography serves as a child’s first form of sex education and even forms their sexual templates in the long run. Unfortunately, this has been seen to be true in most cases. Often, a young person’s first exposure to sexuality is found to be through pornography.
However, many hope the legislation will push towards focusing on sex education efforts for youth in Utah, rather than the addiction in general. Sex education is a huge issue across the United States. Many states, like Utah, have an emphasis on abstinence-only sex education rather than exploring other more effective options. This could be a very significant setback.
Next question: Is pornography really a biological addiction?
One article reveals actually has been a wealth of research that correlates porn access to a reduction of sexual violence and sexual crimes. Still, other articles correlate porn with an increase in sexual violence. Science remains unsure if porn addiction is a true addiction.
Furthermore, the final terms of Weiler’s bill is strongly considered a conservative ideology. Weiler seems to believe that it is only men who watch porn and women who are abused by it. Throughout the resolution, it seems that Weiler’s main concern is that pornography reduces the desire for males to marry women and have children. However, studies show that many women view pornography as well.
According to several reports, Utah has the highest rates of pornography in the United States. Weiler believes that pornography is a “gateway” behavior that affects the brains of teenagers. However, in a strange chicken-egg debate, critics argue if whether pornography is the problem, or if underlying issues cause the increase in pornography use.
Whether you believe in porn addiction or not, addiction is a wide spectrum disorder, and it does not always have to be substance abuse. Other addictions are common and real. If you feel like you are struggling to overcome an addiction, the time is now to explore your treatment options. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
Author: Justin Mckibben
America doesn’t have a internet addiction problem, right? Is that even a thing?
Obviously, I’m being facetious… or am I?
You would think this is a ridiculous question with a resounding answer of DUH! Internet addiction is undoubtedly a real thing, and America certainly has a pretty bad cased of it, right?
Everywhere you go you see digital devices of all shapes and sizes. People everywhere seemed sucked into their screens working, checking social media, or aimlessly surfing the web for cat pictures or awesome blogs like mine. It causes a clutter in the hallway at the office, and even more dangerous it causes accidents in traffic when people can pry themselves away from their tweets long enough to DRIVE THEIR CAR!
Of course everyone loves the convenience of smartphones and our independent access to the internet, but when does it cross the line into becoming a full-fledged addiction, and can we classify Internet Addiction as a stand-alone diagnosis?
Internet Getting Out of Hand?
According to some experts, our Internet addiction is becoming a real problem and psychologists say they’re seeing more patients suffering from internet addiction or digital addiction, which in turn can actually create some very real adverse effects. Karin Kassab, a psychologist at Clarity Counseling Center in Wilmington, described some people experiencing the more severe side of internet addiction recently:
“These are the Facebook moms who forget to put their kids to bed or forget to pick their kids up from school. The online gamers who are spending so much time gaming that they lose their job and move back home. When we are talking Internet addiction, it is important to note, this is excessive Internet use at its extreme. The tokens are excessive Internet use and big problems at work, school or socially.”
Kassab is not the first expert to note the gravity of the growing internet addiction, but other experts don’t see internet addiction as an issue that is as serious as we’re making it out to be.
What’s the Big Deal?
Dr. Mark Griffiths is a professor of gambling studies at the Nottingham Trent University and director of the International Gaming Research Unit. According to Griffith there’s nothing inherently wrong with excessively being on a smartphone or connected to the internet as long as it doesn’t interfere with our lives.
So of course these people who are letting their responsibilities tumble around them are not too concerning, and for those who are truly addicted, Dr. Griffith and other experts insist it usually indicates something more severe is going on with that individual. Dr. Griffiths said,
“Often, the excessive use is symptomatic of other underlying problems in that person’s life. Therapeutically, if you find out what that problem is, then the excessive use can disappear.”
Well, yea! That is typically the case with a lot of substance abuse issues. Usually some underlying pattern or mental health disorder creates self-destructive patterns that lead to excessive abuse of a substance, or in this case a device, which becomes a habitual hindrance.
The Great Debate
Kassab agrees with this mindset, adding that for many experts the debate is about whether or not internet addiction can stand on its own as a diagnosis, or if it is simply a new extension or symptom of another condition such as anxiety disorder or depression. Kassab explained,
“There’s great debate over whether Internet addiction is actually its own stand-alone disorder or if it is a consequence of a co-occurring disorder. So, am I depressed therefore that manifests into me staying in, being isolated on the Internet?”
Though the debate continues, recent information shows the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders currently does NOT classify Internet addiction or smartphone addiction as a diagnosis for addiction or treatment on its own… yet?
What do you think? So far Kassab stands by her own verdict to treat internet addiction as a true addiction, and with the prevalence of the symptoms she sees in her clients, she shows no sign of changing her mind on this side of the spectrum.
So what should we view this as? Should we consider internet addiction to be a completely separate and specific addiction with its own symptoms, or should we treat obsessive and excessive internet and social media use as merely aspects of a more understood and accepted mental health disorder?
While internet addiction may not be an official thing, in a society that thrives on technology and social media it is an issue that is growing as quickly and widely as the social media does. With any powerful addiction, there is always help out there. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135