Those who find themselves playing video games for hours on end may end up with a mental health diagnosis. The World Health Organization suggested adding “gaming disorder” to its list of disease classifications.
But do those World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Fortnite, and Candy Crush fans need to seek professional help immediately? Well to qualify as having a “gaming disorder”, the WHO suggests the following guidelines:
- The compulsive pattern of behavior has to exist for at least 12 months.
- The behavior affects one’s personal life, occupation or health negatively.
- Once the behavior negatively affects one’s life, the behavior continues or escalates.
They write: impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.
They continue: The inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11 follows the development of treatment programs for people with health conditions identical to those characteristic of gaming disorder in many parts of the world, and will result in the increased attention of health professionals to the risks of development of this disorder and, accordingly, to relevant prevention and treatment measures.
Why are we getting addicted?
Video games act on the pleasure centers of the brain, just as alcohol, opiates and chocolate do. We get “rewarded” by certain behaviors, giving us confidence and ego boots that we don’t get in the real world. We begin to prefer to be alone with our controller than outside being written up by a supervisor, or turned down by a potential date. Colors, sounds, awards, level advancement is psychologically addicting.
How to treat a gaming disorder
Many times gaming disorders are accompanied by other internet addictions such as porn and online shopping. The following are treatment options used to curb one’s compulsive gaming behavior:
- Limit screen time to one hour a day
- Screen time holidays, or only use screen time for academic, work purposes
- Visits to the library to use encyclopedias rather than going to Google (avoiding online ads that could tempt one to continue playing/shopping)
- Cognitive/behavioral therapy
- Medications, such as Zoloft, that treat OCD.
- Treatment of the underlying disorder…depression, anxiety, loneliness, etc.
Some play but some blay….
Blaying is when one continues to play a level of a game despite being bored and disliking it.
Researchers estimate over 420 million people are addicted to the internet. Smartphone addiction is rising exponentially as well. These addictions many times involve gaming. Hours are spent playing online games and levels within these games many times require multiple attempts. If the level is not mastered, one is “stuck” on the level, but continues to play it in hopes the next level will be “better”. This is all too time consuming.
Those of you who play Candy Crush know exactly what “blaying is”. For example, you get stuck on level 2124 and can’t advance until you master that level. But you hate it. You keep losing and are really bored with the level. But everyday you return to blayin the hopes that your luck will change and you can advance to a new level. Eventually that level gets tiresome and you must blay your way through that one.
Another example: Advancing to a new World of Warcraft level can be so tempting that one blays for weeks until they finally complete all the quests necessary to advance.
Remember “Around the World” in basketball. One shoots from different markers on the court and can’t advance until they make a basket. But some of us get stuck forever on level 3, and cringe everytime we miss. But we continue to blay until someone wins or has the chutzpah to say “This is boring!”.
But the psychology behind it is fascinating in that rather than having a quitting mentality, the gamer drudges on. But why go through such boredom and anguish? If we can get to the psychological root of blaying, maybe we could be a step closer to fighting internet addiction.
Another condition recognized: Selfitis
The average person performs more selfies in one day than going to the bathroom. We witness people take pictures of themselves on trains, in lines at the DMV and while shopping at Wal-Mart, only to re-expose us to their obsession on social media. We can’t escape people’s faces with peering eyes and face contortions no matter what we do as we are forced to feign care and interest in what their expression is telling us while they are ordering a Big Mac.
We’ve all predicted a “mental disorder” would eventually be named for this obsessive and narcissistic behavior that haunts us every screen shot and follows us with every scroll……and now it has. Two psychiatrists, Janarthanan Balakrishnan from Thiagarajar School of Management in Madurai and Mark D Griffiths of UK’s Nottingham Trent University surveyed 400 students who attended management courses at two colleges in India and classified them as the following
One who takes selfies 3 times a day but DOES NOT post on social media. 34% fell into this category.
One who takes selfies 3 times a day but DOES post on social media. 40.5% fell into this category.
One who takes selfies more than 6 times a day while posting on social media, suffered by 25.5% of respondents.
In fact, after the respondents were asked about their selfie habits, many took selfies.
India is a hotbed of selfitis and tragically boasts the highest selfie death rate in the world (76 cases out of 127 world-wide).
Selfies offer numerous incentives in our current social culture. These include:
- Cementing the memory in time
- Being included in social media feeds
- Preventing the “out of sight, out of mind” concept when it comes to relationships
- Attention seeking, by hundreds of people at once
- Manipulation of facial features and weight depending on lighting, filters and poses.
Think about it, if we want to look attractive, and show the world, we have unlimited picture and editing power.
Indian Medical Association President, Dr. KK Aggarwal, issued the following warning:
A lot of us have become slaves to devised that were really meant to free us and give us more time to experience life and be with people. Unless precautionary measures are taken at the earliest, this addiction can prove detrimental to one’s health in the longer term.
What precautionary measures can be taken?
When any obsession starts setting in, will power must be utilized and boundaries set. However, when this fails, friends and family members need to be recruited. Assign one person to be your “selfie police” who only allows you one selfie a day. You and he/she can pick the selfie, dress it up, crop it, spending as much time as you need on this one selfie. Posting will only be allowed once a day. After exhaustively creating your one selfie, hopefully you realize the futility of your efforts, and maybe you’ll skip a day, and then two.
Remember, “less is more” and your friends will be more excited to see you or your pic if they weren’t supersaturated with you all day long on their social media feed.
Let me know how it works for you, since I’m not ready to detox yet…..
Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio and Board Certified Family Physician