Internet & Video Game Addiction
Although some people may question whether an internet & video game addiction is as serious as an addiction to alcohol or drugs, there is little doubt that it is possible for some individuals to develop a compulsive internet and gaming habit. Some of these people will undergo behavioral and physiological effects similar to those experienced by someone who is addicted to substances.
When an individual surfs the internet or plays video games, the area of the brain associated with pleasure and reward is stimulated. The mood regulating hormone dopamine is released triggering feelings of enjoyment and gratification.
Video games reinforce the dopamine cycle
It is interesting to note that video games are actually designed to reinforce this cycle in order to keep people playing for a longer period of time. Gamers are periodically rewarded for their efforts either by the thrill of a high score, or the accomplishment of "taking on a new level" and "beating the game". This is somewhat similar to the way in which casinos reward gamblers by offering them small wins to keep them betting. Individuals who play video games are also transported into a make-believe world in which it is easy to become emotionally attached to the role being played. Gamers are also encouraged to create their own characters and build relationships with other online players; activities that promote a deeper level of involvement with the game itself.
When Does Playing Video Games or Surfing the Net Become a Problem?
While most people do not suffer any ill effects from their time spent playing video games or surfing the net, others may discover that their enjoyable pastime is starting to take over their life. An internet & video game addiction may begin as nothing more than simple escapism, but later on can develop into an obsession that disrupts important aspects of a person's real life.
For example, the computer (and internet) are used by millions of people everyday at work and at school. Even though a person may spend many hours using a computer, this is generally not considered to be a problem. Social networking is a common and popular form of communication, and allows people to easily keep in touch. It is not the quantity of time spent online that causes a problem as much as the resulting negative impact it has upon a person's life.
Some people use the internet and video games as a means to manage difficult emotions and relieve stress. Unfortunately, surfing the net and gaming usually do little to solve the underlying issues that caused the problems in the first place, and may contribute to additional difficulties in the person's life such as neglecting social relationships, increasing isolation, contributing to a lack of productivity, and/or difficulty sleeping.
A person may be suffering from an internet and video game addiction if their gaming and internet activities take over their life to such an extent that they experience negative consequences at work and school, in their personal relationships, and with their life in general. If that person continues with their compulsive internet and video game habit despite obvious signs that there is a problem, then further addictive behaviors may occur such as irritability and defensiveness around family and friends, secrecy about gaming and internet activities, losing track of time online, and a sense of euphoria while gaming and using the internet.
Although some may question whether or not an internet and video game compulsion is a type of addiction or even a diagnosable illness, there is professional assistance and therapy available for those individuals who need help.