Online Gaming Addiction
As great as games can be, online gaming addiction can be detrimental to your health, even if it doesn’t feel like it.
APA has developed 9 criteria for characterising the proposed internet gaming disorder:
- Pre-occupation. Do you spend a lot of time thinking about games even when you are not playing, or planning when you can play next?
- Withdrawal. Do you feel restless, irritable, moody, angry, anxious or sad when attempting to cut down or stop gaming, or when you are unable to play.
- Tolerance. Do you feel the need to play for increasing amounts of time, play more exciting games, or use more powerful equipment to get the same amount of excitement you used to get?
- Reduce/stop. Do you feel that you should play less, but are unable to cut back on the amount of time you spend playing games?
- Give up other activities. Do you lose interest in or reduce participation in other recreational activities (hobbies, meetings with friends) due to gaming?
- Continue despite problems. Do you continue to play games even though you are aware of negative consequences, such as not getting enough sleep, being late to school/work, spending too much money, having arguments with others, or neglecting important duties?
- Deceive/cover up. Do you lie to family, friends or others about how much you game, or try to keep your family or friends from knowing how much you game?
- Escape adverse moods. Do you game to escape from or forget about personal problems, or to relieve uncomfortable feelings such as guilt, anxiety, helplessness or depression?
- Risk/lose relationships/opportunities. Do you risk or lose significant relationships, or job, educational or career opportunities because of gaming?
Help is available. Take the control of your life back from the controller. We recommend these excellent resources at videogames.org.au.
Drugs and Alcohol
Drugs and Alcohol cause a change in the body’s chemicals to produce a certain feeling or experience. It is more of a physiological change which can be measured, than other forms of addiction which are psychological. Drugs can be legal or illegal.
When a drug changes the way that your body works, it leaves a lasting effect in lots of ways. In the long run this can change the way that the body actually functions.
For example, people who smoke over time get more nicotine receptors in their brain. They begin to crave nicotine to feel “normal”. They gradually need more and more cigarettes to stop cravings, and these happen earlier in the day.
Physiological addiction also comes with issues for treatment. Most addictive drugs (and alcohol) have withdrawal symptoms. These range from sweats, shakes, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, headaches, confusion and agitation, to serious life threatening events such as seizures and coma. Sobering up must be done in a controlled environment with the help of a healthcare professional.
Common drugs of misuse, “street drugs”, are cannabis, MDMA/ecstasy, speed, GHB, methamphetamine “ice”, ketamine, and heroin. They all have different effects, side-effects, and withdrawals.
Many people use alcohol recreationally and it is harmless when used responsibly and in moderation.
But alcohol can be very easily misused, and this comes in many forms you may not be familiar with. Often people misuse alcohol without being physically addicted to it. For example, someone who goes out at the weekend and drinks excessively, and then behaves in a way that is excessively out of character, damaging their own reputation or even endangering their safety.
Ask yourself these questions:
Do you ever feel guilty about how much you drink?
Do you get angry or upset if loved ones approach you about your drinking behaviour?
Do you ever need a drink in the morning to get you going? “Eye-opener”
Do you ever feel like you should cut down on your drinking?
AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) is an excellent facility online and off for people who are concerned about their alcohol use. There are similar groups for most drugs in most places. If you are worried, please access help as soon as possible.
All sorts of things can become addictive. Of course, most things are well used in moderation, but if you become dependent on them, to the detriment of other important aspects of your life, this could be classed as an addiction. This can be to a substance, activity, hobby, or otherwise. At first it may be something that you find pleasurable, even therapeutic or psychologically beneficial – in fact most non-chemical addictions begin as a coping mechanism for stress. However, addictions can begin to control your life, and you may find it very difficult to break away from it.
The questions are pretty much the same – is it interfering with your day to day life? ie, sleep, work, school? Is it a psychologically distressing dependence? Is it (or your behaviour surrounding it, such as anger, guilt or defensiveness) damaging your relationships? Are your finances struggling? Is your behaviour compulsive, meaning that you cannot stop doing it even if you would like to?
You may not even realise you have an addiction. Here are some of the more common things people can find themselves addicted to.
- Sex or sexual activity
- Non-prescription medication
- The Internet
Help is out there.
This will be very specific to the region you live in. Your GP or family doctor will be able to point you in the right direction. Most countries have drop-in centres for addictions of all sorts and there are of course support groups. Psychology Today has a wonderful range of information pertaining to the nature of addiction, including the biology of dopamine and various other mechanisms, and some self-help and services you can check out.