This week, the World Health Organisation officially classified gaming addiction as a mental disorder. But what is a gaming addiction?
“Gaming disorder is characterised by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline, manifested by: 1) impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context); 2) increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and 3) continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences. (1)
With more and more games engineered specifically to tap in to the brain’s reward centre it’s not hard to see why games such as Minecraft and Fortnite are captivating our children. Video games often employ a reward system based on the ‘Skinner box’(2), a laboratory apparatus used to study animal behaviour. This permits experimenters to study behaviour conditioning (training) by teaching a subject animal to perform certain actions (like pressing a lever) in response to specific stimuli, such as a light or sound signal. When the subject correctly performs the behaviour, the chamber mechanism delivers food or another reward.3 These games are operating in the same manner, offering little rewards along the journey to keep the gamer entranced.
How do we become addicted?
The word ‘addiction’ comes from the Latin for ‘enslaved to’. A fitting description for someone in the thrall of gaming or other addictive substances /activities. We become addicted to something when exposure to an additive substance, or in this case, a game, becomes a dependency. What causes that dependency is dopamine.
The brain registers all pleasures in the same way, whether they originate with a psychoactive drug, a monetary reward, a sexual encounter, or a satisfying meal. In the brain, pleasure has a distinct signature: the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, a cluster of nerve cells lying underneath the cerebral cortex. Dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens is so consistently tied with pleasure that neuroscientists refer to the region as the brain’s pleasure center.(4)
But like everything, after a time, the body develops a tolerance to the activity and therefore the game must be played more and more to experience the same levels of dopamine. This is where we pass the tipping point from enjoyment into compulsion.
How can you spot a gaming addiction?
According to the Center for On-Line Addiction, warning signs for video game addiction include:
What are the next steps?
Tech Addiction, a website that helps people deal with tech and video game addiction has some useful advice for parents dealing with this issue (Tech Addiction).
Homeopathy can also offer help and support to families working through this issue. Your homeopath will discuss this issue with you and will help you to uncover what it is that you feel the video games are fulfilling within you. We will observe the patterns of behaviour that are displayed before, during and after playing and how this differs from the time before gaming was an issue. From this information we will be better able to prescribe remedies to support your child through the transition from obsessive gaming to a more sustainable and manageable relationship with electronic devices.
If you would like to discuss the issues touched on above or to make an appointment, get in touch Contact Solas Homeopathy