Rehab is no longer just reserved for drug and alcohol addicts – now gaming addicts are also likely to be in the mix. While most of us associate a few hours of playing Mario Kart or The Sims with harmless fun, some gamers are becoming so immersed in their fantasy worlds that they lose grip on reality – and end up in rehab.
Gaming addicts – Controlling your gaming
Gaming addiction is such a new problem that researchers are still trying to work out who is most at risk. “Different people might be able to play video games for differing amounts of time-some people will experience problems that others won’t,” says Daniel Loton, video gaming researcher at Victoria University.
Daniel is currently investigating whether games can have the same power over our brains as drugs and alcohol, and whether it’s the games themselves that cause mental health problems, or if people with existing mental health issues are using games to escape. “They’re easily available, it’s a highly engaging and distracting activity, and if a person doesn’t feel able to pursue other activities, there’s a tendency to play games to a point that’s excessive,” says Daniel.
It’s a good idea for gamers to limit playing and keep a balance with other activities. Arielle, 14, only lets herself play from Thursdays to Sundays. “If I’ve been playing for too long then I make sure I spend some time away from the computer and with my family,” she says.
Jennadene, 17, knows what it’s like to feels like to be a gaming addict. “When Skyrim came out I pretty much put everything aside and Skyrim was my world,” she says. But luckily Jennadene is now able to recognize when a game has got a grip on her and she forces herself to take a break.
“You just need to be strong and discipline yourself,” she says. A lot of teens like Jennadene turn to games because they don’t find the real world stimulating enough. “People are going into these games and having these amazing immersive experiences and don’t want to come out because it’s not engaging,” Jocelyn says.
But the challenge is to enjoy gaming without it taking over the rest of your life, like time with friends. “Keep that balance between gaming and your real-life relationships. Ask yourself, ‘Who am I being in the game that I can’t be in real life?’,” suggests Jocelyn.
Diary of an ex-gaming addict
Lee shares what it was like to be a gaming addict to World of Warcraft. “I grew up in country Victoria and didn’t have many friends. I always played games, but it didn’t really become a problem until I moved to Melbourne to go to school and was introduced to World Of Warcraft.
I started off slowly but after two years I’d stopped turning up to classes and I just played all day every day. I would fall asleep at the keyboard and wake up on the floor, then get back on to see what was happening. I remember thinking that it was my real life and nothing else mattered – I’d stopped talking to my mum and dad.
Eventually, I was kicked out of school and taken to a psychiatric ward. I realised I had to do something because I was feeling suicidal. Then some friends told me about Teen Challenge.
I was really scared to go to rehab because I thought it would be full of druggos and psychos. I was lonely at the start, but I got to know a few people and realized everyone was just the same. We all had similar issues in the beginning [that led to our addictions].
I had to do lots of work, but I found the hardest thing was looking at myself and why I was there and the people I’d hurt. One time my parents came to visit and they made me and Dad sit face-to-face in front of everyone. I ended up bursting out crying and saying I was really sorry. I felt so much better after that.
I stayed at Teen Challenge for two years and it was awesome. I don’t play games on my own anymore – if I did, I could see myself losing my job and ending up back in rehab. That thought scares me.”
Read part 1 here.