Early in September last year, in Bangalore – India’s Silicon Valley, a “Technological de-addiction clinic” opened up in the city’s premier mental hospital. This, being a most recent trend in de-addiction services shows that people are concerned with getting treatment from behavioural attachments to their latest electronic marvels such as the latest smartphones and computers. A subset of technological addiction, comes a behavioural addiction spurned with controversy since the inception of electronic entertainment – gaming addiction! There are forums online devoted to this debate: Is it a legitimate illness deserving of proper treatment or is it simply an act of irresponsibility and laziness on individuals who should know better how to organise and prioritise their day?
Gaming addiction is a legitimate illness as it contains within it the neurochemistry of addiction. The gains in gaming releases dopamine into the Nucleus Accumbens, setting off a cycle of craving, which is controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system and hence once an addict is hooked on the activity, there is no stopping it. This process can be duplicated for all addictions, but in gaming addiction, like fellow process addictions; does not require external chemicals to trigger the dopamine cycle. Like compulsive gambling; which is the closest addiction to gaming; it requires a process of activity and reward to offset this most seductive never-ending cycle of pleasure and destruction. Hence, for genuine gaming addicts, rest assured that the pain and powerlessness in the illness is a real and genuine problem.
Besides the science of addiction to back up this proposition, let’s look at the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) view on addiction and why gaming has most recently been added in the latest edition of their content of mental illnesses – the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-V/DSM-5)”, which is used by mental health professionals worldwide.
According to APA, there are 9 criteria for characterising Gaming Addiction as a legitimate mental disorder. They are as follows:
Addicts suffer from constant obsession of their addiction. If the gamer thinks of gaming at all times of the day, even while performing activities that bare no relevance to gaming, then he/she can be deemed to be suffering from addiction. It’s almost that all of life is based on gaming or that the ultimate purpose of existence is to fulfill the demands of gaming.
Addicts suffer from negative mental, emotional, and physical effects of not participating in the addiction. If not gaming is followed by depression, anger, resentment, irritability, and restlessness; then it is no different from a drug addict who is deprived from drugs, hence it is an addiction.
With time, the pleasure of the addiction demands more in order to be as satisfying as the first high. Addict gamers will find themselves buying more equipment or upgrading the game to suit a particular goal, spending far more time and money on the game, as well as being unsatisfied with mediocre results.
Addicts keep using not out of pleasure but out of the genuine inability to stop regardless of sincere attempts at quitting. If you find yourself planning to stop but never actually being able to do so, then you are a gaming addict.
The only activity in active addiction is the addiction itself. Addicts lose interest in everything bar the addiction. So if gaming becomes life and limb then you are sure to be only one thing: a gaming addict.
Addiction persists regardless of negative consequences. If you find yourself persisting and continuing the gaming in spite of being aware that grades at school are falling; of being deprived of sleep, food, and even personal hygiene and health; then, that is a sure sign there is an illness at play.
Addicts will cheat, lie, and steal just to remain in active addiction. If you have found yourself doing any or all of these with the intent of hiding the fact that you are gaming, then the activity pushes some shame buttons internally. If that is so; you are different from the avid gamer who is not addicted to it.
Addicts engage with addiction to escape life. If you find yourself gaming just to escape feelings of anxiety, hurt, depression, anger, joy, guilt, and shame to name a few, then you are an addict. Addiction is the ultimate act of avoiding life. So playing games to avoid life, makes you a gaming addict.
As addiction increases, unmanageability increases with it causing havoc and damages in one’s life. If you experience the loss of relationships, friendships, family, money, health, career opportunities, etc., then it is no different from the alcoholic who has lost all due to his/her drinking. If that makes a drinker of alcohol, alcoholic – it is just so with the gaming addict.
First the good news: as it is a disease or illness, do not feel guilty or ashamed of it for in active addiction, the addict is not responsible for his/her actions just as the diabetic is not responsible for low blood sugar. This means you are not at fault for your addiction as you had no control over it. It is also a treatable illness and at Solace Sabah, we can offer you a way out of it forever.
Now the bad news: as gaming is bad for you due to addiction, that means no more gaming. This may sound cruel and it wasn’t put in the bad news section because it is a delight to read, quite the contrary. Nevertheless, it is what is needed for a new life, free from bondage to take shape.
As difficult as a permanent divorce from gaming will be, here at Solace Sabah, the addict will get all the help he/she needs to move on from this dark chapter in their life. We will show you or a loved one what life has to offer and how you or a loved one can find serenity living the life you were meant to live. With the opportunities and joy of life waiting on the other side, you or a loved one will come to realize how small a price giving up gaming will be to attain these far greater treasures of living!