Video games are designed to be addictive. Like any clever business model, they will suck you in and tease you with the prospect of success, of 'levelling up your character', of reaching a high score, or of progressing the plot.
For the most part this is harmless fun, a great way to set your mind on completing a task and getting a sense of progress and adventure sometimes missing from everyday life – it's perfect escapism. At the same time it's actually good for us in many ways and video games have been demonstrated to increase things like special awareness, problems solving and attention in various trials.
The problem however is when these video games become too good at reeling you in... and when they won't let go. You know that you or someone close to you is addicted to computer games when they start to take up too much time, and when they start to become more appealing than the real world. If social contact, productivity, or outdoor activities have suffered as a result of the appeal of computer games, then this is a sign that an actual addiction may be forming that could be dangerous or damaging. Adolescent boys, and particularly socially shy adolescent boys are particularly susceptible to video game addiction and should be observed most carefully.
This can then lead to increased social awkwardness and a lack of interest in other activities. Extended playing can also result in a lack of sunlight resulting in related conditions, depression, a pale complexion and lack of muscle definition; as well as causing a bad posture and damaged eyesight.
Like any addiction, at this point it is important to begin some kind of treatment to address the problem. Fortunately there are several treatment options available which are as follows:
Wilderness programmes are designed in order to remove the individual suffering from the addiction from their regular environment and force them into a new situation. This then teaches them new skills and distracts them from their addiction. Of course in the wilderness you will not encounter video games and you will have to live without them. If you do not want to go on a wilderness programme of course then just going on an extended holiday can often have a similar impact on your addiction.
Severe video game addiction causes individuals to feel a serious emotional dependency on video games for a sense of purpose of enjoyment. Of course this is a very unhealthy scenario and requires the individual to address deeper issues. There are many forms of therapy available for video game addicts and understanding what the differences are can help you to find the most effective programme for you. Generally you will encounter the following kinds of therapy.
This will focus on deeper issues that may seem unrelated to your addiction such as unconscious problems you might be experiencing and early memories. It is an intensive process but one that can address deeper problems effectively.
Behaviourism will interpret a video game addiction as a strong association being formed between gaming and a sense of fulfilment and happiness. Therapy will attempt to create new associations and replace unhealthy ones.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) looks at associations as well as damaging thought patterns (such as 'I must play games to be happy') and tries to change the way patients think about gaming. This is currently the most popular form of therapy and also one of the easiest for the patient.
This will look at the role of the addict in the family and how others are treating them, and will require the entire family to be present for sessions.
Taking up a new regime of exercise can be a great way to take your mind off of video games and to provide yourself with something new to focus on. Exercise is particularly effective because it in some ways mimics the process of playing games – allowing for gradual measurable improvements, and creating a feeling of adventure and challenge. Furthermore it causes the release of 'endorphins' just the same way that video games do – which counters one of the primary causes of addiction.
Going Cold Turkey
Unlike an addiction to drugs there is no reason not to go cold turkey on video games and it won't cause you any unhealthy physical side effects. It will be difficult, but if you replace the video gaming with other activities such as painting, learning an instrument or playing sports with friends then you will be able to focus your energies elsewhere.