January 23, 2023 – Tomer Shaked, an 18-year-old high school student in Florida, started playing games around the age of 9. “I started spending more and more time playing video games, and I now know it’s a gaming addiction,” he said in an interview.
“In the beginning, I didn’t play much, and I still put my studies and homework first. When I was 10, I still only played on weekends,” he said. “But screen time increased. My parents set some limits, but I eventually learned to work around my parents’ rules to ‘fix’ the game.”
By the age of 12, gaming took up all his free time and was the only thing on his mind. He started lying to his parents about how much he played video games, which damaged his relationship with them. “I just want to make games, games, games.”
Soon, “games are more than just one Activities I love.it has become if only Activities I love. “
The majority of young people who play video games “use it as entertainment, which is what they should, but about 5% to 6% of video game users play games to the point where they interfere with their lives and use them as an addiction,” said Dr. David Greenfield, founder and clinical director of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction in Connecticut.
Considering that there are approximately 2.7 billion gamers worldwide, 75% of American households At least one gamer, even 5% to 6% is a staggering number.
Shaked wrote a memoir, game over, He hopes this will “highlight important topics related to gaming addiction that can be talked to teens and their parents who are going through this conflict in their own lives.”
He hopes other teens “will realize that they, too, can live full and productive lives away from video screens.”
The problem of astonishing size
Video games have been around since the mid to late 1970s, but not current level.
“When video games met the Internet, it was like mixing peanut butter and chocolate. As the Internet boomed in the late 1980s and 1990s, that’s when it got out of hand,” Greenfield said. His clinic treats people addicted to Internet content, “by far the most common area we see is video games.”
What makes video games so addictive?
The brain mechanisms involved in video game addiction are similar to those involved in other addictions, Greenfield said.
“The brain doesn’t know the difference between drugs and video games because gaming activates the same receptors responsible for all other addictions, including substances and gambling.”
The key brain chemical involved is dopamine — a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward, Greenfield said. From an evolutionary perspective, dopamine makes mating and eating, two of the most important survival activities, enjoyable and “increases the likelihood that we will continue to engage in these activities.”
With an addiction, “you’re tapping into these ancient neural pathways and hijacking the reward mechanisms that dopamine is responsible for,” he says. “On some weird level, your brain acts as if this activity improves survival, when in fact it’s the opposite.”
Soon, people with this addiction feel like they have no other source of joy in their lives, as they focus almost exclusively on the game and let other parts of their lives fall by the wayside.
Shaked is just that.
“I think the appeal of the game is the ongoing reward system,” he said. “These are virtual worlds that allow you to win battles in real time that you can’t fight in the ‘real world’, allow you to win football and basketball games, and make you very popular in the ‘virtual’ world.”
You get to “you know the game and how to play it, and you get attention and admiration online, which is worthless in the real world, but very addictive in the virtual world.”
Time is passing seamlessly. “Anyone who’s ever played a video game — even someone who isn’t addicted — can attest that time is just wasted,” Shaked said.
red flags for parents
What might have started as a parental break—the kids are busy playing video games while the parents have a few minutes to themselves—became something much bigger. But progress doesn’t happen overnight, and parents can miss clues.
- Don’t want to leave the house unless needed
- Don’t want to go on vacation without a gaming device
- refuse to go out
- Rushing through normal activities, such as eating, to return to the game
Greenfield said parents should pay attention to changes in their daily routines — less social interaction, changes in hygiene practices, less physical activity, less eating, and poorer academic performance.
“Most of the people who come to our center for treatment are brought in by parents or other family members. Many have stopped bathing and caring for themselves, they have become more isolated, their friendships are only related to games, or through the apps to communicate while gaming,” said Greenfield, author of the book Overcoming Internet Addiction For Dummies.
addictive video game cause physical harm, and even (in extreme cases) blood clots caused by prolonged sitting, electrolyte imbalances caused by not eating for days, and other problems associated with a sedentary life (such as obesity). Being in front of a computer can cause neck and back problems, headaches, and vision problems, among other things.
kick the gaming habit
Shaked’s journey was unusual: At 17, he had an epiphany on his way home from school. “I looked at myself and asked myself how I spent my childhood. I spent more time in front of a computer screen than I did my parents. You never want to say you are more in front of a computer screen than people because that’s sad .”
He realizes that he has “lost” himself. “I got so lost in a fake video game world that I lost my identity and became a video game character instead of a real person.” He decided to stop playing video games entirely.
But most people don’t have these types of epiphanies and need family intervention or even professional help to quit gaming, Shaked points out. He doesn’t advise others to “go cold turkey,” even though that’s what he does. Doing so creates a huge void because the person has no activity yet to fill the time.
Greenfield, who is also the author of the book virtual addiction, agree. His center helps teens gradually reduce screen time by helping parents install software that limits how much time teens spend on screen. “Kids have to get used to living in real time because the brain gets used to the dopamine levels that come from play. They need to relearn how to experience normal pleasure in other areas of their lives.”
Some parents and children may just need education about gaming addiction, but others need treatment, too. Some may even require hospitalization. “The needs of game addicts cut across the spectrum.”
Finding a therapist who is familiar with video game addiction is important, warns Greenfield. Because of the ubiquity of video, less knowledgeable therapists may view gaming addiction as a harmless pleasure. But gaming addiction should be taken as seriously as any other addiction.
Today, Shaked lives a full and meaningful life. He participated in rowing and won the Varsity Award. He completed a law scholarship as a junior in high school, joined the beach cleanup crew, and won first prize at a state Spanish competition.He also volunteered Jack and Jill Foundation of America And plans to donate proceeds from his book sales to a foundation that helps children in impoverished communities access educational programs.
“This organization really touched my heart, which is why I dedicate this book to them,” he said.