Throughout the planet, many young people have made video games one of their main hobbies, in the same way that other cases are soccer or skating, which occupy a good part of the time dedicated to leisure. Today it has become so normalized that there is a whole subculture that openly claims this kind of entertainment, and there are even tournaments, and world championships focused on specific video games (esports). However, the fact that many people value the daily use of this form of entertainment very positively does not make the addiction to video games cease to exist. Addiction to video games is what happens when dependence on video game games becomes so intense that at least four hours a day are dedicated to this activity, assuming this neglect of all kinds of obligations and responsibilities.
So much so, that in 2018, due to this growing problem, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified addiction to video games as a mental health disorder, including it within the section related to addictive disorders of the International Classification of Diseases.
Advantages of Video Games
There are many important advantages to video game abuse and dependence prevention programs. Among these, the following stand out:
- They are a fun form of entertainment that should not be incompatible with doing other activities, even outdoors.
- They favor concentration, selective attention, mental agility, and visuospatial aptitude.
- They develop eye-hand coordination and reflexes as well as reaction time.
- They present a good environment for learning as they develop curiosity and creativity and can favor creative applications.
- They promote self-esteem.
- Many video games are educational and decrease the likelihood of problem behaviors.
- They favor socialization by being part of a “community” of players.
- They can mitigate stress.
Disadvantages of Video Games
However, there are also risks that are important to know:
- It can cause addiction, anxiety, and stress.
- This dependency will also make you stop interacting with your friends and paying attention to your surroundings.
- Children and teenagers can be exposed to content that is not suitable for their age
- There is a risk of being overweight or obese due to the sedentary lifestyle that most video games require
- Video games on nearby screens such as handheld game consoles can affect vision
- Abusing screen video games, whether on computers, televisions, or game consoles, can cause emotional problems in children between two and six years old.
- They could reduce the gray matter of the brain, which is responsible for memory, spatial vision, stress regulation, and memory, which would increase the risk of neurological diseases such as schizophrenia or Alzheimer’s.
- By connecting with other players over the Internet, they can meet unwanted people or provide information they shouldn’t.
Signs of Addiction to Video Games
A person can be said to have an addiction to video games if they have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Social isolation
- Worsening academic performance
- Use of video games to channel stress and anxiety
- Loss of notion of time
- Pain and illness due to posture
- Outbursts of anger at limitations in playing video games
What Causes Addiction to Video Games?
Neurochemical and psychological responses are equivalent to other types of behaviors that end up transforming into addictions. The pleasant sensation due to the release of dopamine in the brain and the reduction of anxiety before the possibility of playing is proven. Both responses are present in all addictions.
There is a psychological profile of the addict himself: personal differences are evidenced in the choice of the game. Some, in which it is basically a matter of killing and killing, will find an environment conducive to the vehiculation of anxieties related to their struggles in handling aggression. In games of strategy and construction of parallel worlds, the build-up of wealth, magic tools, or prestige traits reinforce personal defenses generating an illusory improvement in self-esteem. From now on, dissociative pathologies of the schizoid or autistic spectrum are at greater risk.
Some of the causes of this addiction are:
- Dependent personality: which allows a greater influence due to their personality, thus creating greater tendencies to addictions.
- Family problems: due to issues within the family nucleus, young people take refuge in video games to avoid the problems around them.
- School / social problems: another cause is integration with others since if he and the child are rejected by others, as before, they take refuge in video games as an escape valve.
How to Treat Addiction to Video Games?
The best practice to treat cases of behavioral addictions is to have the help of cognitive-behavioral therapy professionals. This type of psychological intervention focuses on helping the person to control their actions and thoughts, to ensure in this case that they do not go towards the abuse of video games.
Thus, psychologists use techniques such as cognitive restructuring so that patients question beliefs that maintain dependence on video games, work to improve self-esteem and self-confidence so as not to give up the possibility of adopting a lifestyle healthier, help patients structure their day to day by staying away from video games, create an incentive system to see the progress made, etc.
Similarly, in psychotherapy against addiction to video games, patients are trained to learn other ways of relating to their environment; staying away from video games (at least during the recovery process), finding new satisfying and meaningful hobbies, socializing more and with other environments that are not necessarily linked to constant games, etc.