Addiction to video games differs from substance abuse addiction in a few key ways, and this influences treatment. There is no physical withdrawal as there might be from meth addiction or heroin addiction, so the detox period isn’t needed. That makes the treatment easier.
On the other hand, video and online gaming is a legal activity (even for minors) so preventing access is more difficult than with controlled drugs. There is no online gaming police force to arrest gamers (at least not yet). This means abstinence has to be enforced by a responsible adult. The popularity of video games makes this tough, when a problem player can just get their ‘fix’ at a friend’s house. And since online gaming is moving into the portable market, even a cell phone or blackberry can provide the opportunity.
Treatment strategies for video game addiction
Because video game addiction is thought to be evidence of some other underlying problem, treatment has two elements. The first is to get the addict to accept the harm that excessive game playing is causing. The second is to try to diagnose and treat the underlying problem.
Socially maladjusted teenagers find that playing video games gives them an escape. In the video realm, we are demi-gods, or heroes, and masters of our own fictional world. When this becomes more intoxicating that the real world, problems arise.
Treatment is made more difficult, not just because the reward of the video game (escape) is gone, but by not being able to play, gamers lose their social network. Sometimes, they have worked long hours to gain status in the online gaming world.
An important element in treatment then becomes finding another activity that will provide some escape, allow the gamer to accomplish a goal, and fill the free time that abstinence creates.
If therapy seems like the best option, seek a therapist experienced with adolescents who understands the issues with video game addiction. They will focus on building the child’s self-esteem along with just getting them to quit video games.
photo by Michal Zacharzewski