You can probably hear the pitch of your kids’ groan: “I’m bored.” Is boredom a symptom of our age of excess, access to technology, or laziness? I think it’s a combination of all three, and understanding its physiological and societal roots can help us guide our teens in rising above boredom to accomplish great things for Christ.
Understanding Adrenaline Addictions
Also called “process addictions,” common adrenaline addictions include shopping, thrill-seeking, pornography-viewing, movie-watching, and gaming. This natural hormonal high offers an inflated sense of well-being, feelings of “exquisite pleasure” within the adrenal cortex of the brain, and intense passion.
This intense chemical reaction can help the body through dangerous situations, but overstimulation can be unhealthy, contributing to many health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep deprivation, and major depression. While adults in their forties were typically those most commonly experiencing the onset of major depression, now the typical age for such symptoms is 14.
Exploring Game Design
Typically, adrenaline addictions are promoted by boredom or feeling estranged from others. Game designers realize this and help those who are lacking real-life relationships and achievements to feel the sense of accomplishment they crave. Like small wins during gambling, games hook players into coming back for more: achieving high scores, beating the next level, discovering new “worlds,” building on-line relationships, and role-playing ideal characters all help fill voids from real life.
The impact of gaming or other adrenaline addictions on real-life relationships and responsibilities can be devastating. For instance, addiction to porn can curb a man’s desire for sexual intimacy in marriage. The relative ease and avoidance of real risks involved in beating video game levels can make real-life conquests and achievements seem less appealing; however, in the end, such artificial stimulations are far less rewarding.
Facing Chemical Cravings
Since at its root, adrenaline addictions are cravings for chemical highs, the antidote is similar to that of reliance on drugs or alcohol. At the same time, we need to understand that it is different in that with adrenaline addictions, the addict desires different stimulation rather than more of the same (as is the case with drugs). These addictions can lead to post-adrenaline depression, restless or nervous habits, compulsive or obsessive behavior.
Changing sleep and nutritional habits as well as dealing with personality tendencies may help, but we also need to realize that like any idol of our hearts, chemical addictions are cheap imitations for the beneficial and relationship-building endeavors for which God created us. Instead of a selfish activity that provides stimulation, we can train ourselves and our kids to evaluate our feelings of boredom and determine whether they may be symptoms of needing rest or re-training ourselves to see them as triggers for “doing good” to others (Gal. 6:10). We also need to consider the main purpose for which God created us. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”