Video Game/Electronics Dependence
Everybody has a reward system in their brain; when you do something exciting, you get a blast of dopamine. This system is important as it helps motivate you to do things that you enjoy over and over again. It can also help with coping skills. However, if you overuse it, then your brain starts thinking that it is normal to have high concentrations of dopamine and does whatever it takes to get it, resulting in what is effectively substance abuse.
What is Video Game/Electronic Dependence, and How Does it Develop?
I found that people who exceed two hours on video games per day start developing a dependency. It goes beyond addictive behavior or behavior in general—it becomes a neurological dependency. The overuse of electronics also triggers the same pathway found in substance abuse.
The key part of video game/electronic dependent behavior is that it moves past thinking, “I really enjoy this, I want to continue playing” to “I need to do this to be happy.” It becomes a neurochemical issue, where your brain is engaged, feels like it needs the dopamine release, and will do everything it can to get it. This behavior mostly develops in children and teenagers, though it can affect adults as well.
Children or teenagers who have parents who allow them to play video games unrestricted, even up to six hours a day, may end up exhibiting unanticipated video game dependent behavior. A typical profile for a child who is video game/electronic dependent is someone who is docile most of the time, follows the rules very well, is intelligent, and tends to get good grades. Therefore, it is often surprising to the parents when their child, all of a sudden, becomes difficult and throws the controller across the room when they are told to turn the game off. It is because they have developed a neurological dependence on the video game.
Situations in which an adult may develop a video game dependency typically include problems in their romantic relationships or immature, child-like adults who still live with their parents and lack accountability.
Impact of Video Game/Electronic Dependence:
- Typical withdrawal symptoms when usage is restricted, such as irritability and manipulative behavior.
- Lack of dependability when it comes to responsibilities.
- Problems with holding a job.
- Neurological changes where the brain requires more stimulation to feel normal.
- Poorer academic performance.
- Resistance to doing activities the individual previously enjoyed in order to spend more time on electronics.
- Increased boredom with life.
- Increased sense of depression when not using electronics.
- Loss or a strain in relationships outside of those that are online.
- Feeling closer to online friends than family.
The best way to treat video game/electronic dependency is to find other ways to accomplish the same satisfactions and needs that playing video games give them. For example, let’s say that they are mainly using video games as a way of socializing. We would find an outside hobby that also allows them to socialize, such as a sport.
The complicated part about video game dependency is that it transverses needs. To modern children, video games are the new playground. They enter the game to hang out with each other and have fun. Consequently, forcing a child off a multiplayer game can also result in taking away their social network.
Especially in the case of children, you do not always have to explain what is happening; you just have to get them doing other things. Encourage them to focus on their gifts, talents, and interests that allow them to engage and broaden their focus. When they get positive feedback doing these things, they become more hooked to a positive way of living.