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Video Game Addiction Columbus, Ohio

In today’s digitally-driven world, technology has become an integral part of our daily lives, offering endless opportunities for entertainment, communication, and productivity. From immersive video games to social media platforms and streaming services, the allure of digital technology is undeniable.

However, amidst the convenience and excitement lies a growing concern: addiction.

At Directions Counseling and Coaching, we understand the complexities of video game and technology addiction and the profound impact it can have on individuals, families, and communities. As experts, we are committed to providing comprehensive support and guidance to those struggling with excessive gaming and technology use.

Technology & Gaming Therapists

Is video game addiction real?

One of the most common questions about video game addiction is whether it’s a real problem. The answer is a resounding “Yes.” Video game addiction, also known as gaming disorder, is recognized as a genuine mental health condition by leading medical and psychological authorities.

In 2018, gaming disorder was officially included in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). This means that it’s identified as a pattern of behavior where someone struggles to control their gaming, prioritizes gaming over other activities, and keeps gaming even when it causes problems. This recognition has shed light on the issue and opened doors for better understanding gaming addiction.

Why are video games addictive?

Video games are designed to be engaging and immersive experiences, often incorporating elements such as rewards, challenges, and social interaction. These features can trigger the brain’s reward system, leading to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. For children, the allure of exploration and fantasy worlds can be particularly captivating, while adults may find solace and escape from real-life stressors in the virtual realm.

Furthermore, online multiplayer games offer social interaction and a sense of belonging, which can be appealing to individuals who may struggle with social anxiety or have difficulty forming connections in real life.

What are the neurological effects of technology and gaming?

The increasing prevalence of technology and video games in modern society has raised questions about their impact on brain health and development. While technology can offer numerous benefits, excessive use has been associated with various neurological effects.

Excessive dopamine release and desensitization

Video games trigger the release of dopamine in the brain, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. This surge in dopamine creates feelings of enjoyment and satisfaction, especially in response to challenges or achievements within the game.

The problem is that with excessive gaming, the brain’s reward system can become desensitized to dopamine, requiring higher levels of stimulation to elicit the same pleasurable response. This desensitization can drive compulsive gaming behavior and contribute to the development of a gaming addiction.

Dysregulation of serotonin system, contributing to depression and anxiety

In addition to dopamine, the serotonin system in the brain may also be impacted by excessive gaming. Serotonin plays a crucial role in regulating mood, and disruptions to its function can lead to mood disturbances such as depression and anxiety. Research suggests that prolonged gaming may dysregulate serotonin levels, increasing susceptibility to mood disorders and worsening current mental health issues.

Disruption to melatonin production and sleep quality

Extended exposure to artificial light emitted from gaming and technology devices can significantly disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythm and melatonin production. Melatonin, a hormone crucial for regulating sleep patterns, is particularly susceptible to suppression by artificial light, especially when encountered during the evening hours. Consequently, this suppression can result in compromised sleep quality.

Moreover, the intense stimulation from gaming can trigger the release of adrenaline and increase heart rate, making it difficult for individuals to fall asleep even after they’ve stopped playing. This heightened arousal state can further exacerbate sleep disturbances, leading to prolonged periods of sleep deprivation.

Simply put, engaging in excessive gaming before bedtime frequently results in sleep deprivation, which, in turn, worsens cognitive function and mood regulation.

Physical changes to the structure of the brain

When you spend too much time playing video games, it can actually change the structure of your brain. Studies using brain scans have found that prolonged gaming can affect the amount of gray matter in certain parts of the brain. These areas are important for things like making decisions, paying attention, and controlling impulses.

For example, changes have been seen in the prefrontal cortex, which helps with decision-making, and the striatum, which is involved in processing rewards and forming habits. These changes may contribute to problems with thinking and decision-making that are often seen in people with gaming addiction.

Effects on cognitive functioning in children and teens

Additionally, spending too much time gaming can also impact how well your brain functions. Research suggests that excessive screen time, especially in kids and teens, can lead to issues with attention, flexible thinking, and memory.

Video games can overwhelm your brain with too much information, requiring rapid decision-making, multitasking, and processing complex information. While individuals may excel at remembering intricate details within the game, they may struggle to recall essential information pertinent to academic or everyday tasks.

Signs and symptoms of a gaming addiction

While gaming can start as a harmless hobby, it has the potential to develop into addiction for both children and adults, impacting their overall health. Excessive gaming often leads to a sedentary lifestyle, which can result in musculoskeletal issues and poor posture. Additionally, the tendency to opt for convenient, unhealthy snacks while gaming is common. These poor dietary habits, coupled with a lack of physical activity, can negatively impact metabolism, leading to weight gain and nutritional deficiencies.
Since excessive gaming can have adverse effects on health, it’s essential to recognize signs and symptoms of gaming addiction.

Preoccupation with gaming

Children may constantly talk about their favorite games or become restless when unable to play, while adults may find themselves thinking about gaming even during work or social activities. This preoccupation with gaming can interfere with daily responsibilities and lead to neglect of other important activities.

Loss of interest in other activities

Children may neglect homework or socializing with friends in favor of gaming, while adults may abandon hobbies or neglect household responsibilities. Individuals may find themselves spending increasing amounts of time gaming while losing interest in activities they once enjoyed. This can lead to feelings of isolation and withdrawal from real-life interactions.

Withdrawal symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, restlessness, or mood swings, may occur when unable to play video games. Pay attention to their immediate reactions after gaming sessions—are they visibly upset or agitated when forced to stop playing? Similar to withdrawal from other addictive substances, individuals may experience physical and emotional distress, fueling their cravings to return to gaming. These reactions can provide further insight into the severity of their addiction.

Continued gaming despite negative consequences

Despite experiencing negative consequences in various areas of life, such as academic or work performance, relationships, or physical health. This can result in conflicts with family members, deteriorating social relationships, and declining mental and physical well-being.

Therapy for gaming addiction

Therapy can be an effective treatment option for individuals struggling with video game addiction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to address the underlying thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with gaming addiction. During CBT sessions, individuals learn to identify triggers for gaming, develop coping strategies to manage cravings and urges, and challenge negative thought patterns related to gaming.

In addition to CBT, some therapists may also incorporate mindfulness-based techniques or relaxation exercises to help individuals manage stress and anxiety without resorting to gaming as a coping mechanism. These techniques can promote self-awareness, emotional regulation, and overall well-being.

Find gaming addiction help

Video game addiction is a growing concern in today’s society, affecting individuals of all ages. Understanding the reasons behind gaming addiction, recognizing the signs and symptoms, and seeking help are crucial steps towards recovery. By taking proactive measures and seeking support, individuals can regain control over their gaming habits and lead a healthier, more balanced life. If you or someone you know is struggling with gaming addiction, we’re here to help.

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