Picture a dimly lit room. The computer or television flickering on the face of a teenager completely engrossed in a video game. This individual has a glazed over face, is surrounded by junk food trash and looks like they needed a shower yesterday. Teenagers such as this are addicted to video games. This serious issue is not recognized as a diagnosable condition. However, it is just as serious as other addictions resulting in lowered social interaction, physical health and mental age.
The physical detriments for video game addicts most likely come in the form of malnutrition and body aches and pains. Obsession over the game will override the feelings of hunger or the desire to eat entirely. While on the other hand the game will be so important that any time away from it is considered a loss. Thus, preparing nutritious food would be wasting playtime. Lack of exercise will lead to overweight teenagers and other health issues as well. Back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome have both been diagnosed in addicted gamers. Sleep patterns will be disturbed due to lack of time management. The game is all consuming and thinking about it may prevent sleep. In addition, video game addicts will begin to care more about the game than personal hygiene. This could lead to rampant acne, body odor and general poor health.
Due in some part to the physical deterioration of video game addicts, their social lives suffer as well. Others may avoid them because of body odor or general discomfort with their soiled appearance. Then the irritable and defensive attitude, coupled with a one track mind, will also drive people away. One aspect of substance abuse is the mental capacity of a person to mature. A cocaine addict maintains the maturity level of the age when they started using drugs. The same is sometimes true for video game addicts. A 19 year old could have the mental and social capacity of a 15 year old due video game addiction. All of these factors lead to a severely depleted social life.
Treating video game addiction will have many of the same issues as other substance abuse treatments. The key is patience on the part of those helping the addict. A first step is obviously to remove the availability of gaming entirely. This could pose many issues due to a societal dependency on computers for communication and education. Blocking certain websites and removing video game systems from reach will encourage an addict to form new habits and friendships. Encourage outdoor activities and social events that do not involve video games. Perhaps completely removing the teenager from a social environment dependent on video games, such as a summer camp or wilderness program, will help.
Regardless the reasons or treatment plan, video game addiction is real. Parents and peers are the first defense to this little acknowledged predator. The process will be difficult but worth it in the long run. Video games are not worth the cost of a teenager’s future.