Although not a clearly defined medical and psychological diagnosis, video game or computer game addiction is a reality for both males and females of different ages. Overall the addiction is more associated with excessive playing of video and computer games and does not have the same physiological (physical) addiction seen with substance abuse. The psychological dependence may be similar though. It is more common with males and particularly adolescents and young adults. Video games refers to gaming consoles, including handheld units, while computer games are those games played on a personal computer or laptop. Addiction to games on mobile phones is less common but would fall under the video gaming category.
The cause of the addiction may be varied and stem from deep psychological and personality issues. However, it is important to note that video or computer game addiction can occur in any person as these games are designed and developed to be captivating and engross a user in hours of play. As an addiction, the excessive time dedicated to playing these video and computer games reaches a point where it significantly affects daily functioning. It can reach a point where social interaction and normal life activities are disrupted to varying degrees.
How many hours a day is defined as a gaming addiction?
While game play exceeding 2 to 4 hours a day for most days of the week may be indicative of an addiction, there is no clear definition in this respect. Rather the addiction should be defined by the impact on a person’s mental and physical health, social interaction, daily functioning and lack of other activities or interests characteristic of the age group. This is not to say that all gaming addicts are bespectacled, wheezy, overweight and pale adolescents with no friends. Many gamers may have a large circle of friends and associates who are often just as addicted to gaming and may be physically fit. However, the defining point often revolves the extent of disruption in daily functioning which can range from academics, one’s career, interpersonal relationships, personal hygiene and community involvement that differs from other members of the community of the same age.
Health Problems from Gaming Addiction
Although many video and computer game addicts may not realize it, this addiction can be potentially fatal when associated with exhaustion. Non-stop play for days, often associated with a lack of sleep, decreased nutrition and restrained urination and bowel movements, can affect normal physiology to a degree that death may ensue. This can occur with no notable warning as is the case of sudden cardiac death where the normal heart activity is disturbed to the point that it ceases altogether. Apart from death directly associated with prolonged game playing, gaming addicts may also experience other health related complications such as obesity, venous insufficiency of the legs, back pain, eye strain and visual impairment, headaches, insomnia, depression and other mood related disorders. Nausea, dizziness and even vomiting associated with gaming may be similar to motion sickness. Epileptics also need to be cautious about prolonged gaming as it could trigger a seizure.
Why are some people addicted to gaming?
There is no single cause that can be attributed to a gaming addiction. As previously mentioned, these video games are designed to be entertaining, compelling and therefore addictive. The achievement of the ultimate goal in a video or computer game may often trigger the same mass dopamine release in the reward center of the brain associated with sex and eating tasty foods. However, there is also more of a focus on underlying psychological disturbances and personality issues. Gaming addicts may therefore be more socially withdrawn, experience depression and have low self esteem prior to the onset of the addiction.
Video or computer games in this regard helps to provide some sort of comfort and occupation, cause momentary boosts in mood and allow the gamer to play roles where he/she is celebrated, appreciated and often victorious. Another factor that needs to be considered is where video or computer gaming is used as an escape from everyday life particularly among children living in abusive homes or where there is discord in the home environment. Despite these possibilities, gaming addiction can occur in any person even in the absence of these predisposing factors. With the advent of online gaming and remote interaction with other players across the globe, gaming addiction may be associated with the appeal of social interaction with other people sharing the same interest.