Another explanation offered is at just like in operand conditioning, videogames reward us at every level we achieve making us getting hooked on to them. During times of stress, we tend to get hooked on to videogames because they provide us with a way to release our pent-up frustrations and desires. Achieving a goal in the game reassures us of our abilities to achieve it in real life.
Most of the common perceptions regarding virtual games are negative and focus on the harm related to aggression, addiction, lowering performance and increase in sedentary lifestyles. However videogames serve a wide range of emotional and social needs which we don’t realize at a superficial level. A reverse theory in the role of videogames promoting violence states that engaging in online violence is a form of catharsis which helps in releasing our aggressive tendencies and actually decreases violence.
Playing of videogames stimulates the nervous system and therefore increases dopamine levels in the body. This facilitates our addiction. However extreme levels of addiction prove to be harmful. It is like being hooked on to a substance. It jeopardizes the social life of the person affected and diminishes the ability to think about immediate and important goals.
People drop out from the activities that they earlier used to love, limit their social interactions and cannot move comfortably in the real world. There is a case of a 30 year old man who played for 50 hours straight ignoring food, water and sleep and ended up in the hospital emergency room.
Such severe cases of addiction do exist however far-fetched they may sound. Children who get addicted at a young age may not have a normal social development. It is difficult to treat video-gaming addiction because it is difficult to make people realize that they are in trouble. Nobody is put in jail for excessive gaming so it is difficult to cure this affliction.
Also because computers and mobile phones are needed for our daily work, it becomes very difficult to stop people from getting back to their addiction. It was proposed to categorize videogame addiction as a mental disorder by the American Psychological Association which however did not happen. But this conveys the seriousness of this addiction. It is not something that you can eventually outgrow or stop doing.
Shy or socially inactive people are more at risk of this addiction. However it is possible to undo this addiction. If you observe excessive withdrawal symptoms in your child when forbidden from playing virtual games, seek the help of a counselor. If you feel that your compulsive habit is taking a toll on you, enroll in some physical activity or any hobby. You will be forced to go there and indulge in something apart from virtual gaming.
Though most people can help themselves come out of this addiction, there may be extreme cases that need actual psychological help. Extend your help if you know such people. If you feel that you are being addicted, stop yourself before things go out of hand. There is no end to this game.
The article is authored by Anu Goel (Counseling Psychologist) & Aastha Sethi