Rehab is no longer just reserved for drug and alcohol addicts – now video game addicts are also likely to be in the mix. DOLLY investigates when getting your game on goes wrong. 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.
Teen Challenge , a rehab centre in country Victoria, started admitting gaming addicts in 2007. According to program supervisor David Hunter, many teens have been affected by OTT gaming habits. “From my own observation, the main reason is the increase in technology,” says David. “It becomes ingrained in their experience for entertainment and relaxation. The first [gaming addict] who came here had locked himself in his room for several days and he wouldn’t let anyone in.”
With 60 percent of girls and 78 percent of boys under the age of 15 playing online games in Australia*, it’s important to get sussed about the warning signs. Read on to ensure that what starts out as a bit of fun doesn’t morph into a full-blown addiction.
Video game addicts – from pleasure to pain
Don’t panic yet – just ‘cos you heart your DS or would rather play Super Mario than watch Pretty Little Liars doesn’t mean you’re a gaming addict.
According to psychologist Jocelyn Brewer, you’ll know your gaming has gone too far if it’s affecting the rest of your life. “It’s when it’s impacting on other areas of your life like eating, drinking and sleeping,” she says.
“Another sign is when you feel like you’re having withdrawal, similar to what (people] might experience from drugs.”
According to one US study**, almost one in 10 gamers aged eight to 18 are “pathological gamers”, meaning their gaming has caused family, social, school or psychological damage.
The researchers also found these gamers got lower grades and were twice as likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Online role-playing games such as World of Warcraft appear to be the most problematic. “They continue in real time – if you’re not playing them, other people around the world in different time zones are playing,” says Jocelyn. “The fear that stuff is happening when you’re not there is really intense for some players.” And the consequences? Some game addicts become aggressive if they’re not able to play their game of choice, while others will experience anxiety and depression as a result.
Read part 2 here.